A drop in UK prison funding is leading to cuts in crucial services that aim to stop prisoners reoffending, a watchdog has claimed.
The warning comes from the National Council of Independent Monitoring Boards, which claims that less money available for Britain's prisons leads to a reduction in the respect and decency with which prisoners are treated.
Dr Peter Selby, former Bishop of Worcester and bishop for prisons and now president of the board's national council, said: "What we are seeing in the prison service is that there are certain areas that understandably cannot be cut, such as security. But what this means is that the savings are found elsewhere and these areas are often just as crucial
"The most imaginative, forward-thinking programmes, which also have some of the best impact when it comes to reoffending, are the areas that get least.
"IMBs nationwide are expressing in their annual reports concern about the salami-slicing and abandonment of provisions aimed at reducing reoffending. Furthermore, the general inadequacy of provision for the mentally ill is a serious and long-standing issue.
"This is not an exercise in passing blame. Prisons have to prioritise their budgets. To the world outside, prisons are seen as a soft touch, but reoffending is the concern."
The board's report, Issues of Concern, points out other long-term faults such as a lack of accommodation and space. Some. prisoners have to sit on their toilet to eat in their cell.
"Prison is about the worst place you can be and people who think it's too easy for our prisoners really need to take a look," Selby added.
Initiatives, such as meetings between criminal and victim, can have a profound effect on a prisoner's perspective but can be expensive and time-consuming to organise and are typically being cut, Selby said.
"The decent treatment of all prisoners is essential to their successful resettlement. Independent monitoring boards strongly support the focus on rehabilitiation - it's fundamental to a human and civilised society."