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Commenting on the urgent notification issued today (20 August 2018) by HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) over safety concerns at HMP Birmingham, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“This is a dramatic intervention following yet another deeply disturbing report about an overcrowded local prison. The depressing truth is that it puts Birmingham in the same category as a succession of other prisons doing the same job - trying to look after far too many people, most spending just a few weeks in custody.

“It shows a system as well as a prison in crisis, and it’s not getting better. The responsibility lies with the government to change who goes to prison in the first place. Ministers have rightly spoken about the need to use community sentences in place of short prison terms – but they must now take urgent action to turn that wish into reality. The time has come for a presumption against short sentences and a statutory ban on overcrowding.”

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Commenting on today’s announcement (17 August) by the Ministry of Justice to invest £10m into 10 of the most challenging prisons, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“The Governors of the 10 prisons will be pleased to have a little more money, wherever it comes from. But we have been here before. In 2016 Michael Gove set up six reform prisons that would pave the way for others to follow. That idea was quietly shelved by his successors with neither explanation nor evaluation. We are now promised ‘tangible’ results from a new version, so we need to be told what those results are, and who will be held to account for delivering them.

“If Rory Stewart makes good on his wish to see fewer people go to prison on short sentences he will achieve something fundamental on prison reform. But he must concentrate on the job only he can do—matching the demands on the system to the resource Parliament is prepared to make available for it. It was a catastrophic failure to provide that balance which caused the collapse of prison safety after 2012—trying to tell Governors how to run prisons is not going to put it right.”

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Efforts to reduce the number of women in prison for non-violent offences have received a significant boost, with £520,000 of National Lottery funding. Announced today (16 August), the funding will extend the Prison Reform Trust's Transforming Lives Programme.

This continuation funding from the Big Lottery Fund, the UK’s largest funder of community activity in the UK, will extend the programme for a further two years, allowing PRT to maximise its impact and build on its successes to date.

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The government should follow Scotland’s lead and introduce a presumption against short prison sentences as part of their efforts to restore safety and stability to our struggling jails according to a new briefing, Prison: the facts, published today by the Prison Reform Trust.

The briefing reveals the current scale of the challenge facing the government, with hundreds of people flowing in and out of the prison system on short sentences every week, placing pressure on an already overstretched and overcrowded prison system.

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Commenting on today's Annual Report, published by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“The findings of this report put Britain to shame. We should not tolerate a situation in a civilised society where thousands of prisoners are forced to share cells designed for one, eating their meals next to an unscreened toilet; where violence and self-harm have risen exponentially ; and where a fifth of prisoners spend less than two hours a day out of their cell.

“The heart of the problem is that we use prison too much. Solving that means reserving custody for only the most serious and violent offenders. Ministers have rightly said they want to follow the evidence and stop the pointless use of futile short prison sentences for less serious crime. They now need to back that up with statutory and operational measures that will deliver the change they want to see.”

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