Too many women in the UK are still being sent to prison instead of receiving community sanctions and targeted support to address the causes of their offending, according to a leading women’s voluntary organisation.
The women’s prison population doubled between 1995 and 2010. Most women in prison serve short prison sentences for non-violent offences and many have themselves been victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse. In 2011 the Soroptimist UK Programme Action Committee resolved to work with the Prison Reform Trust to reduce women’s imprisonment.
Now a wealth of information gathered by 139 Soroptimists clubs across the UK has been distilled into a report that is intended to spur national and local governments into action. The report recommends the development in England and Wales of a cross-government strategy for women’s justice, led by the Minister for Female Offenders. Recommendations for improvements to the oversight of women’s justice in Scotland and Northern Ireland are also highlighted.
Download the report by clicking here.
Read the full story by clicking 'read more'.
Government plans to hold young children and girls with older teenage boy in a proposed new 320-place secure college in Leicester suffered a defeat in the House of Lords on Tuesday 9 December. Peers voted by a majority of 64 to insist on an amendment, introduced in the report stage of the bill, preventing girls and boys under the age of 15 being housed in secure colleges for young offenders. Read of copy of PRT’s joint briefing with the Standing Committee for Youth Justice, the Children’s Rights Alliance and the Howard League for Penal Reform by clicking here.
You can also read the debate by clicking here.
The high court has overturned the restrictions on prisoners receiving book under the Incentives and Earned Privileges (IEP) scheme. Changes to the IEP scheme introduced in November 2013 included a ban on prisoners receiving parcels, including books, writing materials and other basic items. The policy must now be amended so that it excludes prisoners receiving books from friends and family. In his judgement, Mr Justice Collins said that as far as books are concerned, "to refer to them as a privilege is strange".
Earlier this year the Prison Reform Trust published a briefing, Punishment without purpose, highlighting the impact of the changes to the IEP scheme on rehabilitation, fairness and decency behind bars. Commenting on the briefing in his judgment, Mr Collins said:
“A report from the Prison Reform Trust has highlighted the hostility to the new PSI and has set out concerns that it is undermining the rehabilitative purpose of prisoners. It is what is seen to be the ban on receipt of parcels or items from visitors which has provided the greatest concern. The inclusion of books in the scheme is seen as a ban. Overall, the IEP as now operated seems to fail to recognise that it is deprivation of liberty that is the penalty imposed and that any further restrictions must be fully justified.”
Read a copy of the briefing by clicking here.
This year's Longford Lecture, was held in association with PRT on Thursday 27 November at Church House, Westminster. Nils Öberg, Head of Sweden’s prison and probation service spoke about how Sweden is closing prisons and reducing the prison population.
Since 2004, Swedish prisoner numbers have fallen from 5,722 to 4,500 out of a population of 9.5 million, and last year four of the country’s 56 prisons were closed and parts of other jails mothballed. In contrast, the prison population in England and Wales is now 84,691 out of a population of 57 million.
Read the speech Read his interview with PRT Trustee Erwin James in the Guardian by clicking the 'read more' link below