INFORMATION: COVID-19 IN PRISONS

HM Prison Service has announced that prisons in England and Wales are beginning the process of opening for visitors. Some prisons will be able to resume visits more quickly than others, and the government has cautioned that individual prisons will suspend visits if it is unsafe or if they are located in an area with enhanced community restrictions.

Read the full government guidance and how you can keep in touch with loved ones during the coronavirus pandemic by clicking here.

Find out what we're doing to help ensure that the lives of prisoners, staff and our community are protected during the pandemic by clicking here.

We have established an urgent new project—CAPPTIVE (The Covid Action Prison Project: Tracking Innovation, Valuing Experience). We want to hear from people in prison, and the people who care about them, about their own experience of the pandemic so far. Click here to find out how you can get involved. 

If you know of someone in prison in need of advice and information then click here for details on how they can get in contact with us.

The Ministry of Justice has also posted a Q&A for friends and family of people in prison which you can read by clicking here.

If you are concerned about a person in prison and would like support yourself, click here for details on how to contact the Prisoners' Families Helpline.

The prison service has published guidance about prison releases in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, which you can read by clicking here. We have produced a summary of some of the key points, which you can read by clicking here.

The Independent Advisory Panel on Deaths in Custody (IAP) has created a Coronavirus Information Hub. This brings together the latest information and responses from the IAP and other national and international sources, on protecting the lives of people in state custody during this unprecedented pandemic.



NEWS

We were pleased to receive a response from the Lord Chancellor, Robert Buckland this week to our joint letter with the Howard League of 13 October.

His response is full and quite detailed. It shows that the prison service has made a thorough and genuine attempt to quickly learn the lessons from its initial response to the pandemic in the spring. It has done so not just through its own research but by taking on board what we in our CAPPTIVE reports(1)(2), and many other organisations, have been telling it. No-one is pretending that everything is as we would want it, and the adjusted approach the prison service wants to take now is dependent on staffing and on how the virus progresses in individual prisons and in  the community. But we can point to some significant improvements at least in what the prison service is trying to deliver.

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Commenting on the publication of today’s (28 October) report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons on the experiences of rehabilitation and release planning amongst minority ethnic prisoners, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

“This is a very thorough, scrupulously evidenced, authoritative report. It shows yet again that you get a worse deal from our criminal justice system if you’re from an ethnic minority. The inspectorate’s main finding is that people from BME groups experience discrimination, but most prison staff do not see it. As the report rightly highlights, practical solutions begin with first, acknowledging the problem; and secondly, involving the people most affected in putting it right, learning from their experience rather than dismissing it.

“The contrast between this devastatingly honest report and the government’s approach to reform couldn’t be more stark. Over and over again, the government’s equality assessments show that its proposals for criminal justice reform are likely to have discriminatory impacts—notably in the recent White Paper on sentencing. But these are always accepted as a price worth paying for some other objective. It’s hardly surprising that trust in the system amongst minority communities is so low.”

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Commenting on the findings of today’s report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

“The Chief Inspector has issued a stark reminder about the reality of life in our prisons, before as well as during the pandemic. No civilised country should sentence people to imprisonment served largely behind a cell door, with all the damage enforced idleness will do to a person’s mental health and to their prospects of a better life after release. The idea that prisons run better in those circumstances is facile and the Chief Inspector is right to dismiss it.

“Good management can certainly mitigate some of the problems our prison system faces, but it will never solve the fundamental problem of a system coping with too many prisoners. Yet the government seems oblivious to the fact that overcrowding puts lives at risk and undermines every one of its ambitions for a better prison system. It will continue to receive damning reports like this for as long as that inertia continues.”

Click here to download a copy of the report.

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Commenting on the findings of today's report, The Case for Sustainable Funding for Women’s Centres, published by the Women’s Budget Group in collaboration with Women in Prison, Nelson Trust, Together Women, Anawim and Brighton Women’s Centre, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

"For some time there has been broad agreement on the right policy solutions for women at risk of needless imprisonment. The government itself has signed up to a strategy that describes most of what needs to be done. But it hasn’t turned words into reality. This detailed and immensely practical report removes any last excuse for not doing so. At a time when the money available to build new prisons and employ more prison staff to run them appears to be without limit, this report doesn’t just make the case for a very modest investment in women’s centres, it describes in detail how to go about it. But time is short—if the government dithers, the organisations it needs to deliver the change it wants may no longer exist."

Click here to download a copy of the report

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A new report from the Safe Homes for Women Leaving Prison initiative exposes a failing system that leaves thousands of women released from UK prisons with just £46, a plastic bag, nowhere to live and the threat of a return to custody if they miss their probation appointment.

The initiative is a unique collaboration of London Prisons Mission, Prison Reform Trust, the Church of St Martins in the Fields and HMP & YOI Bronzefield. It is calling for urgent action by actors across the criminal justice system to combat failings that result in 6 in 10 women released from prison, many of them suffering from multiple vulnerabilities, without access to safe and secure housing.

The Bishop of Gloucester & Anglican Bishop for HM Prisons, The Rt Revd Rachel Treweek, has written to the Secretary of State for Justice, Robert Buckland and the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick to share the findings of the report and to encourage efforts to improve accommodation support for women leaving prison. You can read a copy of the letter by clicking here

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