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The number of women in prison is in danger of rising as new threats place further pressure on an already beleaguered prison system, according to a new briefing published today (9 February) by the Prison Reform Trust.

A sharp rise in the number of recalls to custody; increasing use of suspended sentence orders; and the continued decline in the number of community orders risk more women ending up behind bars.

Nearly 10 years after the publication of Baroness Corston’s seminal review on women in the criminal justice system, Why Women?, has uncovered new figures showing that the number of women recalled to custody following their release has increased by over two-thirds (68%) since the end of 2014. Women recalled to custody now account for 8% of the total women’s prison population.

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The Prison Reform Trust has today (6 February) published a briefing and written to Liz Truss outlining our position following the government's response to Charlie Taylor's review of the youth justice system.

Whilst there are some positive commitments in the government's response, some of Taylor's key recommendations have been abandoned. Devolution of youth custody budgets; the national roll out of schemes to divert children away from the criminal justice system; reducing the disproportionate numbers of children in care in trouble with the law; and the introduction of Children's Panels all require reconsideration by the government to ensure that the welcome reduction in the needless imprisonment of children continues.

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Commenting on today's publication of Safety in Custody statistics by the Ministry of Justice, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

"Another record low in standards of safety should leave no one in any doubt of the need to relieve the pressure on our failing prison system. We know that the worst outcomes happen in overcrowded prisons. Reducing the population can no longer be an afterthought—it is the only realistic way to make our prisons safe in the foreseeable future."

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The House of Commons Justice Committee was today (18 January) taking oral evidence for its inquiry into prison reform. Prison Reform Trust Director, Peter Dawson, was alongside Andrea Albutt of the Prison Governors' Association and Ralph Valerio of the Prison Officers' Association, to outline his views on the government's proposals so far for improving prison performance and governor empowerment.

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