INFORMATION: COVID-19 IN PRISONS

HM Prison Service has announced that prisons in England and Wales are temporarily closed to visitors following government instructions for people to stay at home.

Read the full guidance and how you can keep in touch with loved ones during the coronavirus pandemic by clicking here.

Find out what we're doing to help ensure that the lives of prisoners, staff and our community are protected during the pandemic by clicking here.

We have established an urgent new project—CAPPTIVE (The Covid Action Prison Project: Tracking Innovation, Valuing Experience). We want to hear from people in prison, and the people who care about them, about their own experience of the pandemic so far. Click here to find out how you can get involved. 

If you know of someone in prison in need of advice and information then click here for details on how they can get in contact with us.

The Ministry of Justice has also posted a Q&A for friends and family of people in prison which you can read by clicking here.

If you are concerned about a person in prison and would like support yourself, click here for details on how to contact the Prisoners' Families Helpline.

The prison service has published guidance about prison releases in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, which you can read by clicking here. We have produced a summary of some of the key points, which you can read by clicking here.

The Independent Advisory Panel on Deaths in Custody (IAP) has created a Coronavirus Information Hub. This brings together the latest information and responses from the IAP and other national and international sources, on protecting the lives of people in state custody during this unprecedented pandemic.



NEWS

Commenting on the findings of today’s report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

“This report shows just how self-defeating the government’s obstinate refusal to contemplate early release for some prisoners has become. Open prisons hold many people who had been working in the community before the pandemic struck—contributing to the economy and re-establishing the links that lead to a crime free life. But rather than release these people, the government has kept them cooped up doing nothing. Incredibly, ministers are paying for new temporary accommodation as well, all for people who could quite safely not be there at all.”

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The Prison Reform Trust is delighted to be one of two charities that Uber has chosen to support for their work in promoting equality and social justice. We are pleased to be receiving this recognition from Uber alongside the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust. The award of £20,000 will support our work on the Prisoner Policy Network, with a specific focus on helping develop the skills of people within BAME communities in prisons to contribute to policy development and advocacy. Uber has written a blog about the award on its website which you can read by clicking here.

Commenting, Peter Dawson, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“We’re delighted to have this new relationship with Uber. For many people, prisoners are out of sight and out of mind. They may not feel much sympathy for them. But something is seriously wrong when our prisons are disproportionately filled by people of colour, people denied an education and people suffering mental ill health. We all have an interest in prisons becoming places where people start to build themselves a better future. This support will help us to help prisoners themselves make the case for reform, and to change prisons from within.”

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Commenting on the announcement by Robert Buckland that probation services will return to public control, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

“The new structure announced for probation has the advantage of simplicity, at least relative to the byzantine arrangements it replaces. But anyone expecting a significant impact on reoffending as a result should contain their optimism. Mandatory supervision for everyone released from prison, no matter how short their sentence, has resulted principally in an explosion in recalls to prison. As our report “Broken Trust” revealed, people often conceal their needs from probation staff for fear of being recalled. It matters little to the person needing help whether their supervising officer is a civil servant or the employee of a private company if that help isn’t forthcoming. Far from being slowed down, the revolving door has been given an extra shove.

"For probation to work, local partnerships are essential. That will be with the voluntary sector organisations that command the personal trust that statutory bodies often do not. It will be with housing providers, local authorities and local employers. It will be with the police and health services. None of those relationships can be created in a central government department. They all require confidence that organisations will be stable and their leadership sufficiently autonomous to offer the sharing of resources that underpin effective multi agency work.

"The role of central government in probation in recent years has been entirely destructive. Whether that continues to be the case will depend on whether the ministry has the humility and good sense to devolve power to a local level. That rarely comes naturally to central governments of any persuasion. It’s too early to tell how this one will behave.”

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The Prison Reform Trust and Howard League for Penal Reform have written to Secretary of State for Justice, Robert Buckland, following his response on 1 June.

The letter warns that whilst things have moved on considerably in the community since we last wrote, for the 80,000 men, women and children in prison, life has not changed significantly since the lockdown regime was introduced on 24 March 2020, some 80 days ago.

Commenting, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

“The combined efforts of the people who live and work in our prisons have so far contained outbreaks of Covid 19. But the price has been 3 months of unregulated solitary confinement for two thirds of prisoners. That can’t continue, especially as restrictions outside prisons are eased. Ministers must set a new and more humane minimum standard below which the treatment of a fellow human being cannot fall.”

Click here to read a copy of the letter

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Trust highlights urgent concerns over impact of PAVA spray on BAME prisoners and potential spread of Covid-19

The Prison Reform Trust has issued an urgent call for the government to reverse its decision to roll out PAVA spray to all staff trained in its use in prisons on the adult male closed estate.

The government’s unexpected decision, which was made public in a letter to stakeholders on 18 May, goes against a previous commitment made in April to pause the roll out of the controversial weapon in prisons for three months as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a letter to the prisons minister Lucy Frazer published today (Saturday 13 June), the Trust highlights concerns regarding the disproportionate impact of the roll out on the 27% of prisoners from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, and the potential risk of contributing to the spread of Covid-19 in prisons.

Click 'read more' for the full story

You can also find out more about our work on PAVA over the last two years by clicking here.

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