David Cameron acknowledges that "current levels of prison violence, drug-taking and self-harm should shame us all".
19:49, UK, Monday 08 February 2016
David Cameron has promised "wholesale reform" of the British prison system after years of "scandalous failure".
The Prime Minister rejected "lazy" claims that prison was a "holiday camp", insisting they were "often miserable, painful environments: isolation; mental anguish; idleness; bullying, self-harm; violence; suicide".
He said: "Is it a sensible strategy to allow these environments to become twisted into places that just compound the damage and make people worse or should we be making sure prisons are demanding places of positivity and reform so that we can maximise the chances of people going straight when they come up?"
Mr Cameron announced the establishment of six so-called 'reform prisons' by the end of the year, where governors will be able to manage their own budgets and have 'complete control' over the way they run the jails.
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Mr Cameron believes improving the system should be "a great progressive cause" in British politics, because the current system is failing.
He said: "Forty-six percent of all prisoners will re-offend within a year of release. Sixty percent of short-sentenced prisoners will reoffend within the same period.
"In a typical week, there will be almost 600 incidents of self-harm, at least one suicide - and 350 assaults, including 90 on staff."
He also announced his intention to implement in full recommendations made by Dame Sally Coates following a review of prison education, and increase oversight of prison management.
Last week, the director of the Prison Reforms Trust called British jails our "most beleaguered public service", beset by overcrowding and demoralised staff.
The Prime Minister also announced the nationwide roll-out of new satellite tracking tags.
The move could allow more non-violent prisoners to be released into the community towards the end of their sentence, in particular women with young children.
Plans are also in the pipeline to block mobile signals to jails to stop inmates from making calls on mobile phones.
Police are also to be given new powers to require foreign nationals to hand over their passports and make them declare their nationality in court to speed up the deportation of foreign criminals.