The former Home Secretary David Blunkett’s welcome admission that the plight of some people affected by the introduction of the Kafkaesque Indeterminate Sentence for Public Protection (IPP) was on his conscience will be of little comfort to the 3,561 people in prison serving an IPP sentence held beyond their tariff expiry date.
The Criminal Justice and Courts Bill is the fourth Ministry of Justice-led criminal justice bill introduced by the Coalition Government. The Prison Reform Trust is concerned that many of the provisions of the Bill are unnecessary and will increase the size of the prison population. They will raise public costs and add significantly to the work of criminal justice agencies in general, and the Parole Board in particular, at a time when resources and budgets are already overstretched. Many of the provisions involve significant transfers of powers to the Secretary of State, limiting the discretion of operational managers and reducing scope for effective Parliamentary scrutiny.
Plans for secure colleges could drive up the numbers of children in custody following a welcome period of decline both in youth imprisonment and youth crime. While education is vital, provision for children must take account of mental health needs, learning disabilities and difficulties, addictions and childhood abuse or neglect. This requires cooperation across government and not just another criminal justice-led response to tackling entrenched social problems.
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Commenting on HM Inspectorate of Prisons report on HMP Pentonville, Juliet Lyon, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:
"Despite some welcome improvements, this report is one in a long line of inspectorate reports into large, local Victorian jails which show that the pressures of coping with shrinking budgets and rising prison numbers are turning parts of our prison estate into human warehouses, with staff who are hard pressed to provide purposeful activity, education and employment or meet even the basic needs of such a vulnerable and needy population."
Commenting on the government’s announcement today of an independent review into the deaths of young people in custody, Juliet Lyon, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:
“We welcome the government’s commitment to establish an independent review into the deaths of young people in custody. In preparation for and during the review, it will be vital that proper account is taken of the views and experiences of bereaved families. The scope of the review should extend well beyond the short journey from the court to prison. The review has the potential to go further than coroners are able, and many would like, to take account of how a young person first got into trouble, underlying vulnerability or history of abuse or neglect and the sentencing decisions that led to imprisonment.
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