Prisons could become independent legal entities under proposals outlined by the government today.

The Queen's speech announced legislation to reform prisons and courts ‘to give individuals a second chance’.

The Prison and Courts Reform Bill will take advantage of new technology ‘to make our court system fit for purpose in the 21st century, speeding up cases for litigants and reducing costs’, background notes to the speech state.

The bill will include measures to meet the government’s manifesto commitment to modernise the courts and tribunals service. No further details were given on how the government plans to reduce ‘delay and frustration for the public’.

The speech said action would be taken to ensure better mental health provision for individuals in the criminal justice system.

The bill will also reform prisons to make them ‘places of rehabilitation’ as part of what the government describes as the biggest shakeup of prisons since Victorian times.

More than 5,000 offenders will be housed in ‘reform’ prisons. Six ‘trailblazer’ sites will be located in London, the East Midlands and the north-east.

The other ‘reform’ prisons will be HMP Holme House, HMP Kirklevington Grange, HMP Coldingley, HMP High Down and HMP Ranby.

Governors at these prisons will be given ‘unprecedented’ freedoms, including financial and legal freedoms, such as those on how the prison budget is spent, whether to opt out of national contracts, and operational freedoms over education, the prison regime, family visits, and partnerships to provide prison work and rehabilitation services.

The government says it will use legislation to extend these freedoms further, by enabling prisons to be established as independent legal entities with the power to enter into contracts, generate and retain income, and establish their own boards.

Satellite tracking of offenders’ movements will be piloted in Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, West Midlands, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northampton, the government has also announced.