Prison: the facts

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As you will be aware, we were delighted to announce in January that James Timpson OBE is to chair PRT from tomorrow, 1st April 2016. We are pleased to tell you that our current chair, Lord Woolf, has kindly agreed to become honorary president of the Prison Reform Trust alongside Douglas Hurd.

I am also taking this opportunity to let friends know of my own plan to step down in the summer as director of PRT. In a measured transition for the charity, this will enable our new Chair and the Board of Trustees to choose a new director, the third in its history, to lead our excellent team and make a substantive contribution to the proposed new prison reform bill and forthcoming white paper. There is huge scope to build on recent achievements which we have helped to secure from reducing child imprisonment to developing services to divert people with mental health needs or a learning disability into the treatment and care they need.

I am tremendously grateful to have been given the opportunity, with your support, to lead such a good charity and to champion such a worthwhile cause. In over sixteen years there has been so much to learn from all those involved with and in prisons, about advocacy and the need to take a balanced, strategic approach, about the nature of critical friendship to a valued but beleaguered public service, about how to brook disappointment and how, hopefully without over-claiming, to celebrate the success of PRT with our partners and supporters.

Juliet has written an article for the Guardian about plan to step down, you can read it by clicking this link.

You can listen to a BBC profile of Juliet by clicking here and read her article in the Friend.

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Lord Laming chairs independent review into links between care and custody 

An independent review of children in care, chaired by the crossbench peer Lord Laming and established by the Prison Reform Trust, is launched today to consider the reasons behind, and how best to tackle, the over representation of looked after children in the criminal justice system in England and Wales.


Following a number of requests, the deadline for written submissions to the care review has been extended until 5.00pm on Tuesday 25 August 2015.


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Progress in reducing chronic levels of overcrowding and improving treatment and conditions in prisons has been set back by the reluctance of politicians “to explain to the public the limited improvements that can be achieved by greater reliance on more and longer imprisonment,” Lord Woolf, chair of the Prison Reform Trust, said at a lecture at Inner Temple Hall this evening (1 April).

Lord Woolf chaired the original inquiry into the Strangeways riot which occurred 25 years ago today on 1 April 1990.

You can either listen to or read a copy of his full speech by clicking 'read more'.

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Twenty five years after the Strangeways riot began on 1 April 1990, chronic overcrowding driven by a near doubling of the prison population over the past two decades continues to undermine standards of decency in prisons and restrict opportunities for rehabilitation, according to a new report by the Prison Reform Trust. 

Lord Woolf’s subsequent inquiry into the causes of the disturbances constituted a wide-ranging examination of conditions in Britain’s prisons and represents the most important analysis of the penal system for the past 100 years.

Strangeways 25 years on: achieving fairness and justice in our prisonsassesses progress made against Lord Woolf’s 12 main recommendations for a more fair and just prison system. It says that many of the factors which contributed to the unrest have resurfaced today. Although the Prison Service is better able today to ensure control and security, this has threatened to set back decades of painstaking progress it has made to improve treatment and conditions.

Click 'read more' to read the full story.

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Commenting on the Justice Committee’s report on Prison: planning and policies, Juliet Lyon, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: 

“Written in moderate terms, this devastating report is a powerful indictment of this government’s complacent and dismissive attitude to rapidly deteriorating standards and safety in our prisons over the last two years. Soaring levels of violence, a one hundred percent increase in acts of concerted indiscipline, shocking rates of suicide and self-harm, chronic and growing overcrowding, a slump in purposeful activity, dangerously low staffing levels and plummeting staff morale reveal a prison service under unprecedented strain. There is a threshold beneath which it is no longer possible to maintain a safe and decent environment. This report reveals that we are at that threshold.

“The Justice Committee offers footholds for a fresh and effective approach to prison policy and planning. Re-evaluating the use of prison and alternatives to custody would enable an incoming government to end the one-size-fits-all model of prison building and introduce smaller units for women and young people; pay proper attention to an aging prison population; and improve resettlement through better application of technology and the sensible use of release on temporary licence and the open estate. A decent, humane prison system must be underpinned by an experienced and valued workforce, proper discretion for prison governors, an end to ministerial interference in operational matters and a truly independent prisons inspectorate accountable directly to Parliament.

“An incoming administration in May 2015 must not accept this deterioration in prison standards and conditions as the new normal. Restoring prison to its proper function as an important place of last resort in a balanced justice system is the basis on which to create a just, fair and effective penal system.”

Click 'read more' to read the full story.

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