As we begin Prisons Week (15–21 November) Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, has written an article in this month's edition of The Friend magazine. You can read the full article by clicking 'read more'.
“Prison is a place where people are sent as a punishment, not for further punishments...Human beings whose lives have been reckoned so far in costs—to society, to the criminal justice system, to victims and to themselves—can become assets—citizens who can contribute and demonstrate the human capacity for redemption.”
These were the words of the incoming Secretary of State for Justice, Michael Gove, in July this year. For Friends, and others with a longstanding commitment to prison reform, this was a welcome reassertion of the principles which should underpin any civilised penal system. So far so good. However, the Justice Secretary has inherited a system that is deteriorating both on internal and external measures, and a requirement to carve anything from 25% to 40% out of its budget over the next five years.
Commenting on today’s (9 November 2015) announcement that the Ministry of Justice will build nine new prisons, Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:
“The Justice Secretary’s commitment to better conditions and more effective rehabilitation are welcome. Many of our prisons need to be shut down.
"But prison reform is about more than replacing old buildings. The crisis he faces now is with prisons that have deteriorated sharply as budgets have been slashed and staff numbers cut. Pressure on the system has to be relieved by revising the sentencing framework and curbing ever lengthening sentence lengths , investing now in diverting addicts and people with mental health needs into treatment and dealing with the forgotten thousands of prisoners still held long beyond terms set by courts.
"To live within his means, Michael Gove needs to close many more prisons than he builds. He can do that safely and the time has come to set out how.”
You can also read our response to the Spending Review by clicking here.
In July this year, the Harris Review published its report into self-inflicted deaths of 18–24 year olds in custody. Ahead of the publication of the government's response, the House of Lords will debate the review's findings for the first time today (29 October).
The Prison Reform Trust has produced a briefing for peers and interested parties which can be downloaded by clicking here. The briefing highlights the need for early diversion into treatment and support; the importance of considering maturity, rather than age; the role of specialist training for staff working with young adults; and building on the successful reduction in youth custody numbers and crime over the last seven years.
You can watch the debate live on the Parliament website by clicking here, it should begin in the late afternoon on 29 October.