Over the past few years it has been widely publicised that imprisonment for women should be the last resort and the criminal justice system is not the place to support women who have complex health, social and welfare needs. What will the New Year, new inspector and new era for women in prison mean?
HMP Bronzefield and HMP Peterborough were purpose built private prisons and have run according to PFI contracts since 2005. In general PFI contracts have been criticised for not ensuring value for money and in prisons there have been problems such as a high turnover of staff, low pay and in-experienced staff (Prison Reform Trust, 2005).
If the Chancellor remains committed to getting "the best value for money for taxpayers", he must measure public organisations on their ability to deliver the right sort of outcomes at the right price. Only then will Departments be able to meet the demands of the current Parliament and the upcoming Spending Review.
George Osborne and Michael Gove have shown that they are not averse to adopting Labour's policies where it suits their image as one nation conservatives. We are more than prepared to work cross-party to achieve change, if that is their genuine intent. But as is too often true with this Government, this seems another case of rhetoric not being reflected in reality.
You should also ask some of your long serving prison guards what they think of a ban - but don't do it when they might suffer retaliation from their political masters, or you won't get the truth. I've no doubt they would unanimously oppose a ban, they know what the real effects of a ban will be - listen to them.
The churches, Christian charities and countless Christian people already involved in many ways look forward to a healthy and robust engagement with Gove and his colleagues. As he knows well, we are already significantly involved and we continue to stand ready to play our part to the full. I hear the genuineness of his intent, and I hold him in my prayers.