In a climate of concern about law and order, our prisons are high on the media and political agenda. Coping with an expanding prison population - there are now more than 79,000 in custody, a rise of nearly 40% in the past 10 years - is a significant management challenge in its own right.
At the same time, we have been driving real performance improvements in Her Majesty's Prison Service. We have reduced escapes from secure prisons by 91%; driven down absconds from open prisons by 36%; and at the same time reduced the rate of suicide.
Improvements in security and safety have been matched by improvements designed to reduce the risk of re-offending. We have increased by a factor of 10 over the past decade the number of well-targeted offending-behaviour and drug treatment programmes. We've also increased and expanded basic skills education and provision of employment skills to help prisoners - many of whom failed or dropped out of final education - to become useful members of society.