Prison: the facts

Want to see what life is like for the people who live and work in the UK's overcrowded prison system?

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One to One

juliet lyon'One to One'  is a series of interviews broadcast on Radio 4 in which journalist Anita Anand discovers what drives people to pursue certain careers. 

Her first guest was PRT director, Juliet Lyon. In her early 20s Juliet fostered children, and went on to work in a school at the adolescent-unit of a psychiatric hospital. One patient was due to enter a young offenders' institution, so she went to see what it was like. Shocked by what she found, she knew she wanted to try and improve conditions within prisons.

Click this link to listen to the interview

 

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Christmas can be a particularly difficult time for children and parents separated by imprisonment.
 
Approximately 200,000 children in England and Wales have a parent in prison. This is over three times the number of children in care and over five times the number of children on the Child Protection Register. Figures reveal that, in 2009, more than double the number of children were affected by the imprisonment of a parent than by divorce in the family.
 
Each year over 17,000 children are separated from their mothers by imprisonment.
 
Primary care responsibilities are a mitigating factor in sentencing guidelines but many parents, particularly lone mothers, are still being locked up for petty and non-violent offences.
 
No-one routinely monitors the parental status of prisoners in the UK or systematically identifies children of people remanded or sentenced to custody or simply asked who is looking after the children left behind and do they, and the children themselves, have the support they need. Justice ministers can and should put this right.
 

Read more about mothers and fathers in custody and prisoners’ children in the latest edition of the Bromley briefing prison factfile (page 32)

You can read the BBC Newsbeat story on prisoners' children by clicking here

 


Too many women in the UK are still being sent to prison instead of receiving community sanctions and targeted support to address the causes of their offending, according to a leading women’s voluntary organisation.

The women’s prison population doubled between 1995 and 2010. Most women in prison serve short prison sentences for non-violent offences and many have themselves been victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse. In 2011 the Soroptimist UK Programme Action Committee resolved to work with the Prison Reform Trust to reduce women’s imprisonment.

Now a wealth of information gathered by 139 Soroptimists clubs across the UK has been distilled into a report that is intended to spur national and local governments into action. The report recommends the development in England and Wales of a cross-government strategy for women’s justice, led by the Minister for Female Offenders. Recommendations for improvements to the oversight of women’s justice in Scotland and Northern Ireland are also highlighted.

Download the report by clicking here.

Read the full story by clicking 'read more'.

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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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