Measures which seek to increase the automatic release point from halfway to the two-thirds point for adults convicted of certain offences should be paused to allow proper public scrutiny according to a new analysis of the government's Impact Assessment published by the Prison Reform Trust today.

The briefing, published on the same day that The Release of Prisoners (Alteration of Relevant Proportion of Sentence) Order 2019 is due to be debated in the House of Lords, will profoundly change the sentencing framework for serious offences, but has been subject to almost no meaningful scrutiny.

Government forecasts reveal that an additional 2,000 prison places will be needed, with a one-off capital cost of £440m and a permanent recurring annual cost of £70m at today’s prices—with no evidence that the measures will reduce better protect the public; provide greater public confidence; or improve understanding of increasingly complicated sentencing legislation.

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At the end of a tumultuous year, PRT’s thoughts are inevitably with the people most closely affected by the events at Fishmongers’ Hall earlier this month—the families of all those who died, our colleagues and many other friends who were present.

In this post Prison Reform Trust director, Peter Dawson's reflects on this Christmas and the year ahead.

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Below is a statement from the director of the Prison Reform Trust Peter Dawson on the tragic events of last Friday at London Bridge. We have decided not to engage in further public debate so soon after this terrible incident.

“On Friday last week two of our colleagues at the Prison Reform Trust were attending the meeting at Fishmongers' Hall where two young lives were tragically lost. We understand the public interest in these events but our first concern is for the well-being of our workmates, which will be best served if their privacy is respected and they are given the time and space to come to terms with the traumatic events of last Friday.

“It is right that there should be a profound questioning of how the terrible events at London Bridge came about. But that will take time and detailed, dispassionate enquiry. All our experience shows us that policy decisions taken in the immediate aftermath of shocking events are likely to lead to unforeseen and unintended consequences. In criminal justice, those damaging consequences have sometimes lasted for many years, and done incalculable harm.

“At this early stage, we do not know all of the facts about Friday’s events and what led up to them. Attempting to draw conclusions in haste risks not only grave policy error, but also shows a lack of respect for those who have suffered most.

“We will continue to work with any government, as we have always done, to identify ways in which the criminal justice system can better meet all of its objectives. Those objectives include both the protection of the public and a just and proportionate response to those who cause harm, sometimes of the most terrible kind. But it is too soon to draw conclusions from the tragedy which unfolded last Friday, and we urge restraint on all those who seek to do so.”

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The Prison Reform Trust, along with 15 other criminal justice organisations, has co-signed a letter to the leaders of the Brexit Party, Conservative Party, Democratic Unionist Party, Green Party, Labour Party, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, and Scottish National Party.

The letter, calls on all party leaders to temper their language in regard to law and order so that sensitive issues of intense public concern are not exploited but are used to contribute to a reasoned and constructive public debate.

You can read a copy of the full letter by clicking 'read more'

Photo credit: Andy Aitchison

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