Following the Prime Minister’s announcements about prisons in mid-August, the Prison Reform Trust wrote three letters seeking clarification:
- to the Permanent Secretary, Richard Heaton, about the sentencing review
- to the Secretary of State, Robert Buckland, about the £2.5bn for new prisons, and
- to the CEO of HMPPS, Jo Farrar, about the extra £100m for prison security
To their collective credit, they have replied only three weeks later, and with some detail. Their replies can be found at these links:
Inevitably, only some of our questions have been answered, and it pays to look closely.
Commenting on the findings of HM Inspectorate of Prisons’ Independent Review of Progress report on HMP Bedford published today (12 September 2019), Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:
“It is no surprise that the prisons which most consistently fail to deliver decent, safe conditions are overcrowded, very often with prisoners on remand or serving pointless short sentences. Bedford, a 200 year old pre-Victorian prison, is just one of many examples. If it is serious about ending this scandal, the government must start by quitting its addiction to imprisonment.”
Commenting on the findings of the HM Inspectorate of Prisons report on HMP/YOI Swinfen Hall, Alex Hewson, Senior Policy and Communications Officer at the Prison Reform Trust said:
“This report highlights a fundamental challenge for the prison service—that an attempt to improve safety in one establishment simply leads to instability in another. Reducing the pressure on heavily criticised HMYOI Aylesbury by sending young men to Swinfen Hall just led to a predictable spike in violence there instead. With young adults over-represented in incidents of self-harm, segregation and poor behaviour, and many hundreds of young men now routinely sentenced to astonishingly punitive jail terms, the Chief Inspector is right to call for a specific focus on this age group. A young adult strategy, as recommended by the cross-party Justice Committee, is long overdue.”
Commenting on the findings of the HM Inspectorate of Prisons report on HMP Eastwood Park, Dr Jenny Earle, Prison Reform Trust lead for reducing women’s imprisonment said:
“The cause of at least some of Eastwood Park prison’s failings lie outside its walls in the lack of housing and mental health support for women in the community. It is shocking that inspectors found that more than two in five women were being released homeless
The Prison Reform Trust wants to understand what long sentences mean for the people serving them, the families and friends left behind, and the system that is responsible for their care. Then we want to make a difference – to the way of life in prison for people serving very long sentences and to their ability to build a future in the community to which almost all will return.
The Building Futures will be an innovative prisoner-led project. It will give long term prisoners the opportunity and skills to influence the policies and practices that affect them, and to build the bridges between prison and community on which their futures depend.
Prisons need to promote personal growth as an end in itself, not just a means to reduced reoffending, according to a new report published by the Prison Reform Trust today (9 July 2019).
The report, ‘What do you need to make best use of your time in prison?’ is the result of an extensive consultation exercise with over 1,250 people with experience of prison.
The report is the second of the Prison Reform Trust’s Prisoner Policy Network—a group of current serving prisoners, ex-prisoners and connected organisations who want to share their expertise and experience with policy makers.
Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Rt Hon David Gauke MP, has described the Prisoner Policy Network as “a very welcome initiative”. “No-one is likely to understand the issues [in prison] more clearly than the people who live and work in them,” he said.
Commenting on the latest safety in custody statistics published today by the Ministry of Justice, Peter Dawson, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:
“The faint hope that our prison system might have turned a corner has been dashed by these numbers. Prisons are still getting more dangerous as places where people have to live and work. More people than last year chose to take their own life rather than endure it. When an individual prison hits rock bottom, the government reduces the number of prisoners it holds – but it continues to ignore the obvious truth that it is the prison system as a whole that is grossly overcrowded. Ministers talk about having recruited more staff, but the problem will only be solved by having fewer prisoners.”
HM INSPECTORATE OF PRISONS REPORT ON HMP BRIXTON
Commenting on today’s (2 July 2019) publication of the inspection report of HMP Brixton by HM Inspectorate of Prisons, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:
“There is much to praise in what has been achieved at Brixton by the Governor, staff and prisoners working together. But filling almost a third of the prison with men convicted of sexual offences was an expedient measure that did not have the best interest of those men at its heart. As intended, it will have contributed more than this report acknowledges to reductions in drug use and violence.
England and Wales send more people to prison each year than anywhere else in western Europe
There were more than 140,000 admissions into prison in England and Wales in 2017—the highest number in western Europe, according to a new report published today (24 June 2019) by the Prison Reform Trust.
The report Prison: the facts, reveals that, despite the number falling in recent years, England and Wales still have over 40,000 more admissions to prison than Germany, the second-highest—which has a significantly larger national population.
The comparative figures are taken from the latest available Council of Europe Annual Penal Statistics.
Commenting on the government’s announcement today (Thursday 20 June) of the decision to expand the community sentence treatment pilots (CSTPs) to nine additional courts in two new areas, Peter Dawson, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:
“We welcome the decision to expand the CSTPs to nine additional courts on the back of evidence which shows a 250% increase in referrals to mental health treatment and better outcomes in the current pilot areas. As the justice secretary says, this is just the start of a more effective response to offenders with mental health needs and we look forward to a further expansion of services in the near future.”