Prison: the facts

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As you will be aware, we were delighted to announce in January that James Timpson OBE is to chair PRT from tomorrow, 1st April 2016. We are pleased to tell you that our current chair, Lord Woolf, has kindly agreed to become honorary president of the Prison Reform Trust alongside Douglas Hurd.

I am also taking this opportunity to let friends know of my own plan to step down in the summer as director of PRT. In a measured transition for the charity, this will enable our new Chair and the Board of Trustees to choose a new director, the third in its history, to lead our excellent team and make a substantive contribution to the proposed new prison reform bill and forthcoming white paper. There is huge scope to build on recent achievements which we have helped to secure from reducing child imprisonment to developing services to divert people with mental health needs or a learning disability into the treatment and care they need.

I am tremendously grateful to have been given the opportunity, with your support, to lead such a good charity and to champion such a worthwhile cause. In over sixteen years there has been so much to learn from all those involved with and in prisons, about advocacy and the need to take a balanced, strategic approach, about the nature of critical friendship to a valued but beleaguered public service, about how to brook disappointment and how, hopefully without over-claiming, to celebrate the success of PRT with our partners and supporters.

Juliet has written an article for the Guardian about plan to step down, you can read it by clicking this link.

You can listen to a BBC profile of Juliet by clicking here and read her article in the Friend.

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Government plans to hold young children and girls with older teenage boy in a proposed new 320-place secure college in Leicester suffered a defeat in the House of Lords on Tuesday 9 December. Peers voted by a majority of 64 to insist on an amendment, introduced in the report stage of the bill, preventing girls and boys under the age of 15 being housed in secure colleges for young offenders. Read of copy of PRT’s joint briefing with the Standing Committee for Youth Justice, the Children’s Rights Alliance and the Howard League for Penal Reform by clicking here.

You can also read the debate by clicking here.

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The high court has overturned the restrictions on prisoners receiving book under the Incentives and Earned Privileges (IEP) scheme. Changes to the IEP scheme introduced in November 2013 included a ban on prisoners receiving parcels, including books, writing materials and other basic items. The policy must now be amended so that it excludes prisoners receiving books from friends and family. In his judgement, Mr Justice Collins said that as far as books are concerned, "to refer to them as a privilege is strange".

Earlier this year the Prison Reform Trust published a briefing, Punishment without purpose, highlighting the impact of the changes to the IEP scheme on rehabilitation, fairness and decency behind bars. Commenting on the briefing in his judgment, Mr Collins said:

“A report from the Prison Reform Trust has highlighted the hostility to the new PSI and has set out concerns that it is undermining the rehabilitative purpose of prisoners. It is what is seen to be the ban on receipt of parcels or items from visitors which has provided the greatest concern. The inclusion of books in the scheme is seen as a ban. Overall, the IEP as now operated seems to fail to recognise that it is deprivation of liberty that is the penalty imposed and that any further restrictions must be fully justified.”


Read a copy of the briefing by clicking here.

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This year's Longford Lecture, was held in association with PRT  on Thursday 27 November at Church House, Westminster. Nils Öberg, Head of Sweden’s prison and probation service spoke about how Sweden is closing prisons and reducing the prison population.

Since 2004, Swedish prisoner numbers have fallen from 5,722 to 4,500 out of a population of 9.5 million, and last year four of the country’s 56 prisons were closed and parts of other jails mothballed. In contrast, the prison population in England and Wales is now 84,691 out of a population of 57 million.

Read the speech Read his interview with PRT Trustee Erwin James in the Guardian by clicking the 'read more' link below

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The Prison Reform Trust in partnership with leading thinktanks is providing platforms for the three main political parties to outline their justice proposals in the pre-election period. On Tuesday 18 November the Rt Hon Simon Hughes MP, Minister for Justice and Civil Liberties, delivered the keynote address at a meeting jointly hosted by the Prison Reform Trust and Centre Forum at the Mothers’ Union in Westminster.

Click 'read more' to read the speech.

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