Peter Dawson, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, has responded to the Justice Secretary Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss's speech on prison reform to the Centre for Social Justice with a letter published today in The Times newspaper.
Sir, Your leader hits a whole series of nails on their heads. Setting arbitrary limits on the prison population is not the issue. Eliminating overcrowding is. It represents the corrosion at the heart of our prisons, undermining decency, safety and rehabilitation. And no government in living memory has made a dent in it, probably because none has thought it worth having a strategy to do so.
Among all the many aspirations to emerge since the crisis in our prisons was finally acknowledged by Michael Gove and now Liz Truss, there is an echoing void where a timetabled plan to eliminate overcrowding should be. In the short term, the pressure can eased by not sending people to prison who need help not punishment, preventing the recall of people to prison on technical grounds, and by reversing the decline in early release on electronic tags. Longer term, we need to rethink how we punish more serious crime, restoring discretion to the courts and hope to the prisoners whose lives we seek to change.
This week the Prison Reform Trust will be hosting a roundtable event to discuss the learning from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust (WCMT) Prison Reform Fellowships. From 2010–2015, the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust funded Travelling Fellowships with a particular focus on prison reform across the world. The Fellowships are the result of an innovative partnership between WCMT and the Prison Reform Trust. The meeting will focus on the findings of two recently published briefings, authored by Jessica Jacobson and Helen Fair of the Institute for Criminal Policy Research, Birkbeck, University of London, which highlight some of the learning from these Fellowships in maintaining contact between prisoners and their families and problem-solving approaches to criminal justice. Attendees include WCMT fellows, senior policymakers and practitioners. For more information please contact Justin Elder firstname.lastname@example.org
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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