Conservative justice minister Rory Stewart has promised to resign if the level of drug use and violence in prisons has not reduced by this time next year.
He made the vow as he launched a £10m blitz to raise standards in 10 facilities that have been hit by “acute” problems.
Speaking to the BBC on Friday morning, he said: “I will quit if I haven’t succeeded in 12 months in reducing the level of drugs and violence in those prisons. I want to make a measurable difference.
“I believe in the prison service. I believe in our prison officers. I believe this can be turned around. I want you to judge me on those results. And I’ll resign if I don’t succeed.”
Figures published last month showed self-harm incidents and assaults in jails were at record levels, while finds of drugs and mobile phones increased by 23 percent and 15 percent respectively in the year to March.
Stewart added he was not talking about a “minor reduction” in drugs and violence.
“I’d want you to feel that this had been a substantial reduction and that it was going in the right direction,” he said.
Under the new scheme, £6m has been earmarked to bolster physical security with drug-detection dogs, body-scanners and improved perimeter defences.
Three million pounds will be spent on improving the fabric of the chosen jails, including repairs to basic infrastructure such as broken windows.
The third strand of the programme will see £1m spent on bespoke training programmes and interventions for governors, with a staff college model inspired by the military set to be developed.