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The prison population in England and Wales has gone over 85,000 after an increase of more than 1,000 people from the beginning of September, statistics published today (28 October) by the Ministry of Justice reveal. 

The number of people in prison now stands at 85,108. On 2 September the figure was 84,066.

While prison numbers tend to fluctuate during the course of a year, the rapid increase is unusual, and will have placed additional pressure on an already overcrowded and overstretched prison system experiencing record levels of violence, self-harm, and self-inflicted deaths.

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Local authorities have a crucial role to play in helping women get the support they need to stay out of trouble, according to a joint report by the Prison Reform Trust, the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, the Centre for Mental Health, and the Education Policy Institute.

Local councils know and understand their communities. Their leadership can provide strategic oversight, and collaboration and coordination with other agencies to deliver necessary support to women in contact with, or on the edges of the criminal justice system. Existing partnerships bring together local organisations that have the means of transforming the lives of women and their families. This approach has the potential to make financial savings for local councils and improve outcomes for women and the wider community.

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Today (26 October) the House of Commons Justice Committee published its report on the treatment of young adults in the criminal justice system. The committee agreed that there is a strong case for a distinct approach to this group, one which takes account of levels of maturity and brain development at all stages of the criminal justice system, from arrest through to sentencing, community and custodial provision and resettlement.

The Prison Reform Trust is a member of the Transition to Adulthood (T2A) Alliance. You can read PRT’s submission to the committee's inquiry by clicking here.

Commenting on the report, Alex Hewson, policy and communications officer at the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“A justice system which throws young people off a cliff edge on their 18th birthday, and expects them to fend for themselves in the adult system when they are still maturing and often vulnerable, is not one that is set up to deliver for offenders, victims or local communities. This report from the cross-party justice committee offers a clear endorsement of the importance of taking account of maturity at all stages of the criminal justice system and a comprehensive blueprint for reform.”

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From 2010-2015, the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust (WCMT) has 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. 

This briefing overview published today, authored by Jessica Jacobson and Helen Fair of the Institute for Criminal Policy Research, Birkbeck, highlights some of the learning from these Fellowships. This summary of what Fellows saw on their visits, and subsequent more detailed briefings, are being produced to inform the government’s prison reform agenda.

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