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 have today written to the prisons minister requesting an answer to a letter we sent in July last year asking for more information about PAVA use in prisons. As we reported last year, we gave expert evidence in support of litigation brought by an individual prisoner and also supported by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. This produced some important outcomes putting on record commitments from the ministry. Our letter to the minister asks for evidence that those commitments are now being met. But it also repeats the request for other data which will allow for proper external scrutiny, and makes proposals to strengthen the central and local governance of use of force more generally.

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Prison Reform Trust director, Peter Dawson, has written to the Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland following today's article in the Daily Telegraph on the Parole Board.

Click here to read the letter.

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The government did not seek responses to its white paper, A Smarter Approach to Sentencing, published in September 2020. But we understand that a bill implementing some of its proposals may well be tabled early in 2021.

In response we have prepared an analysis of those elements of the paper in which PRT has significant knowledge and interest. We hope this will assist others who share both our concerns and our hopes for different elements of the white paper’s approach, and inform parliamentary scrutiny of any bill that results from it.

While there is plenty in the white paper to welcome, much of it repeats the very worst errors of other governments over the last two decades in relation to sentencing. As the analysis points out, the incoherence and cruelty of proposals concerning those convicted of serious offences cannot be offset or excused by the more considered measures aimed at those convicted of less serious crime.

Given the challenges the country faces, it seems extraordinary that a bill to implement such an unevidenced and confused White Paper should command any priority in the new year. But if it does, parliament must subject it to the detailed scrutiny and challenge it plainly needs and which the absence of consultation in its preparation has prevented.

Click here to download a copy of the briefing.

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Commenting on the publication of today’s (18 December) joint inspection report by Ofsted, HM Inspectorate of Prisons, and the Care Quality Commission, on conditions at Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre (STC), Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

“The new Chief Inspector of Prisons is right to be astonished that management at Rainsbrook STC did not put right the shortcomings laid bare by a highly critical inspection earlier in the year. The challenges posed by the pandemic cannot excuse the prolonged solitary confinement of children, nor the fact that this appeared to need a further inspection to be brought to light.”

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The Prison Reform Trust and Howard League for Penal Reform have received a brief response to our letter to the Secretary of State for Justice, Robert Buckland, requesting details of the ministry’s plans ahead of an expected increase in people being sent to prison as courts start to resume normal business.

For all the billions that have been promised for new prisons, it is clear that there is no plan for a prison estate free of overcrowding, despite the misery people have suffered during  the pandemic in prisons holding too many people too close together.

Click here to read his response.

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Despite its abolition in 2012, the indeterminate sentence of Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) still casts a long shadow over the justice system. Recall is a growing problem: in June 2020 there were 1,359 recalled IPP prisoners. Research documents the negative mental health implications of initial imprisonment under an IPP sentence, however little is known about experiences on licence, or post-recall.

In this article, published in Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health, report authors Dr Mia Harris, Dr Kimmett Edgar and Russell Webster summarise the findings of their latest research No life, no freedom, no future.

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An analysis of local court data published today by the Prison Reform Trust has found a significant north-south divide in rates of women’s imprisonment in England and Wales.

The latest figures for 2019 continue to reveal a postcode lottery in women’s imprisonment rates, with women in the north of England, the Midlands and parts of Wales far more likely to end up behind bars than those in the south of England. For instance, women in South Wales are nearly seven times more likely to be imprisoned than women in Surrey.

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