‘Six "reform prisons" are to be created in England and Wales as part of a pilot to tackle high levels of violence and re-offending, David Cameron has said.
The governors would have autonomy over their operation and budgets, he said.
The PM also announced new powers to speed up the deportation of foreign inmates and plans for all jails to be assessed through league tables.
Penal charities said reforms would not work if prisoners were "crammed into filthy institutions with no staff".
Downing Street said the creation of the "reform prisons" from existing jails would happen by the end of the year, although it did not name any locations.
Mr Cameron said "current levels of prison violence, drug-taking and self-harm should shame us all", with a typical week seeing 600 incidents of self-harm, at least one suicide and 350 assaults including 90 on staff.
In what he described as the "biggest shake-up of prisons since the Victorian era", he said prisoners should be seen as "potential assets to be harnessed" and the "failure of our system today is scandalous".’ (BBC News)
‘Speaking at the Policy Exchange think-tank in London, the prime minister spoke of "resetting the terms of the debate" on prison reform, announcing a raft of initiatives.
But what is the prime minister proposing?
- Adopting the 'academies' model
Mr Cameron spoke of bringing the Conservatives school academies model to the prison system, granting greater decision-making powers to prison governors.
Currently Whitehall sets national limits on the number of sheets of music and pairs of pants that prisoners can have in their cell, he said.
But under the reforms prison governors would have the freedom to manage their own budgets and choose prison suppliers.
Continuing the academies theme, the prime minister announced the creation of six "reform" prions - institutions that would have a "strong role for businesses and charities" in their operation.
A planned Prisons Bill will then spread the reform principles throughout the system, he said.
- Publishing prison league tables
The prime minister said a lack of data on prisons means the government has "no idea" which of them should be considered a success.
He said under his reforms, "meaningful metrics" would be recorded and published in prison league tables, in a bid to encourage greater accountability.
Those metrics would include data on improvements in literacy levels and on employment for released prisoners.
There will also be financial incentive schemes to reward staff in the best performing prisons.
- Building new facilities
Mr Cameron said many prisons in operation today were old and unfit for purpose, and pledged to build nine new prisons, five over the course of this parliament.
- Increased education in prisons
The prime minister announced the formation of a new social enterprise to tackle education in prison, aimed at encourage talented graduates to work with offenders.
The venture will be chaired by David Laws, the Liberal Democrat's former education minister, and advised by charity Teach First.
- Early removal of foreign offenders
In a bid to reduce the number of foreign nationals in British prisons, the prime minister announced plans to speed up deportation of prisoners.
That could see offenders declare their nationality in court.
Currently offenders are often sent to prison before their residential status is established.
- Aiding prisoners on release
Also announced was a plan to follow the US "ban the box" campaign, which calls on employers to remove the tick-box on job application forms that indicates an applicant has criminal convictions.
Mr Cameron said the civil service would lead by example and remove the tick-box on its application forms.’ (ITV News)