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PRT comment: Michael Spurr

20/09/2018 11:01:00

Commenting on today’s announcement that Michael Spurr will be stepping down as Chief Executive of HM Prisons and Probation Service in March 2019, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

"Michael Spurr will be an extraordinarily hard act to follow. He is an exceptionally principled and knowledgeable leader who has selflessly served an endless succession of short term ministers. Whoever takes over will face the same fundamental problems of overcrowded and under resourced prisons. Those are problems which only ministers can address and none of those whom Michael has served so faithfully have delivered. Anyone who thinks the problems in our prisons can be solved by a change of leader is deluding themselves."

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Vulnerable foreign national women in the criminal justice system, including trafficking victims, are facing inappropriate imprisonment and the threat of deportation at the expense of rehabilitation or support, according to a new report published today (17 September) by the Prison Reform Trust and Hibiscus Initiatives.

The report, Still No Way Out, found that foreign national women, many of whom are accused or convicted of non-violent offences and who have in many cases been trafficked or coerced into offending, are receiving inadequate legal representation, poor interpreting services and disproportionate punishment.

Click 'read more' for the full story

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Commenting on the issuing of an Urgent Notification on conditions at HMP Bedford today (13 September) by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, Mark Day, Head of Policy and Communications at the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“This fourth urgent notification issued against a local prison since January this year should be a wake up call to ministers. The Chief Inspector highlights an unchecked decline in standards over the space of nine years and so no one can say that they didn't see this coming. As in many other local establishments, the churn of prisoners entering and leaving the prison has been matched by the high turnover of burntout governors and inexperienced staff. The government cannot allow this to become the new normal. Its response must include concerted measures to take the pressure off these vastly overstretched local establishments, by introducing a presumption against short sentences and a statutory ban on overcrowding.”

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Commenting on the urgent notification issued today (20 August 2018) by HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) over safety concerns at HMP Birmingham, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“This is a dramatic intervention following yet another deeply disturbing report about an overcrowded local prison. The depressing truth is that it puts Birmingham in the same category as a succession of other prisons doing the same job - trying to look after far too many people, most spending just a few weeks in custody.

“It shows a system as well as a prison in crisis, and it’s not getting better. The responsibility lies with the government to change who goes to prison in the first place. Ministers have rightly spoken about the need to use community sentences in place of short prison terms – but they must now take urgent action to turn that wish into reality. The time has come for a presumption against short sentences and a statutory ban on overcrowding.”

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Commenting on today’s announcement (17 August) by the Ministry of Justice to invest £10m into 10 of the most challenging prisons, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“The Governors of the 10 prisons will be pleased to have a little more money, wherever it comes from. But we have been here before. In 2016 Michael Gove set up six reform prisons that would pave the way for others to follow. That idea was quietly shelved by his successors with neither explanation nor evaluation. We are now promised ‘tangible’ results from a new version, so we need to be told what those results are, and who will be held to account for delivering them.

“If Rory Stewart makes good on his wish to see fewer people go to prison on short sentences he will achieve something fundamental on prison reform. But he must concentrate on the job only he can do—matching the demands on the system to the resource Parliament is prepared to make available for it. It was a catastrophic failure to provide that balance which caused the collapse of prison safety after 2012—trying to tell Governors how to run prisons is not going to put it right.”

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