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Commenting on the publication of the final report from The Farmer Review for Women today (18 June 2019), Jenny Earle, Prison Reform Trust’s Transforming Lives Programme Director said:

“Lord Farmer’s report makes many practical, and measurable, proposals that if implemented will reduce the number of children unnecessarily separated from their mother by her imprisonment. The review’s focus on increasing the role of community based women’s services, recognises that many women in prison are there for non-violent crimes. It allows women to take responsibility for their actions, whilst minimising the trauma, stigma and social isolation faced by children when a parent is imprisoned. Our own research found that the views and best interests of children are rarely considered by the criminal justice system and that they face many barriers to getting support. The message couldn’t be clearer, what’s needed now is speedy implementation. Doing so will benefit women, children and society.”

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The report published today (14 June 2019) by the Joint Committee on the Draft Domestic Abuse Bill recommends that the government should consider the proposal made by the Prison Reform Trust and Criminal Bar Association for a statutory defence to be introduced to protect those whose offending is driven by domestic abuse.

Commenting, Dr Jenny Earle, Transforming Lives Programme Director at the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“We are delighted with this important recommendation by the joint committee. Well over half of women in prison report that they are victims of domestic abuse and the true figure is likely to be much higher. The government has acknowledged the mounting evidence of domestic abuse as an underlying factor in many women’s offending, yet the law provides no effective defence for those facing prosecution in these circumstances. The government should seize this opportunity to strengthen protection and deter prosecution of women who may have been victims of more serious offences than those for which they are commonly imprisoned.”

For more information, see the Prison Reform Trust’s report "There’s a reason we’re in trouble": Domestic Abuse as a Driver to Women’s Offending.

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Commenting on today’s announcement (13 June 2019) by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, that an Urgent Notification has been issued to justice secretary David Gauke over conditions at HMP Bristol, Mark Day, head of policy and communications at the Prison Reform Trust said:

“It is shocking that a prison in special measures since 2017 remains in such a state of decline that the chief inspector feels he has no other option but to issue the justice secretary with an urgent notification. This is the fifth notification raised since the provision was introduced—all of them against local establishments such as Bristol which hold some of the most vulnerable prisoners on the estate, often for just days and weeks at a time. Curbing the use of ineffective short sentences, as the justice secretary has promised to do, would go some way to taking the pressure off these overstretched front line establishments.”

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Commenting on today’s announcement (28 May 2019) by the Ministry of Justice on the introduction of new changes to release on temporary licence (ROTL), Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

“This is a welcome step in the right direction. More than three years after it was first promised, the government has finally delivered a significant shift towards the greater use of temporary release (ROTL), recognising its proven benefits in terms of preparing prisoners for a crime free life. Prisoners, employers, families and the public at large will all benefit from these changes, building on an exceptional track record of success. There is much further to go—prisoners are serving longer sentences than ever before, and these changes will mainly benefit only the minority who have managed to get to an open prison towards the very end of their time inside. Ministers should not wait a further three years before taking the next step."

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Commenting on the HM Inspectorate of Probation report on Post-release supervision for short-term prisoners: the work undertaken by Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs), Mark Day, head of policy and communications at the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“The chief inspector could not be clearer in her assessment of the failure of compulsory post-release supervision for short sentenced prisoners. While the reforms appear to have had no discernible impact on reoffending, recall rates have rocketed, disrupting lives and placing unnecessary pressure on an already overcrowded and overstretched prison system. Since its introduction, recall rates for men have increased by 29%, while for women they have risen by a shocking 166%.

“The justice secretary has signalled his willingness to follow the evidence by bringing offender management back into the public sector. He should now follow the advice of his chief inspector by ending the unfair and disproportionate mandatory supervision of short sentenced prisoners. Delivering on his aim of abolishing short prison sentences altogether would be the best and simplest solution. He also needs to persuade his colleagues around the cabinet table to invest in the housing, health and welfare support that could actually make the difference in reoffending rates that has so obviously eluded the government so far.”

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