Strangeways 25 years on

In this lecture, Lord Woolf, Chair of the Prison Reform Trust, reflected on the fundamental principles of fairness and justice in our prisons. He commended progress made over 25 years and emphasized the importance of further reform to the penal system. We are grateful to the Honourable Society of the Inner Temple for hosting this event on 1st April on the 25th anniversary of the onset of the 1990 prison disturbances.

As you will know, there is growing concern about the current state of our prisons and the state of people, prisoners and staff, within them. Together with many others in and outside the criminal justice system, we are saddened and angered by a rising tide of deaths in custody, a marked increase in violence coupled with swingeing budget cuts, continued overcrowding and drastically reduced staffing levels and note with dismay a more punitive climate that threatens to restrict rehabilitation and opportunities for people to take personal responsibility and to help others.

Drawing on the important legacy of the Woolf report, the Prison Reform Trust is launching a major programme of work with the aim of establishing, or re-establishing, the principles of a just, fair and effective penal system. We will use action research to engage and involve reformers in prisons and the wider community in identifying necessary changes in policy and practice. It is a pivotal time to present clear, practical solutions to an incoming government as it comes to grips over the next year with a beleaguered prison service within a destabilised criminal justice system.

You can read our report marking the 25th anniversary of the Woolf report here