Overcrowding and high reoffending rates are a fact of life in today’s prison system according to an analysis of recent prison population statistics by the Prison Reform Trust. Despite opening two new prisons this year with a capacity of 2,500 places, 59% of prisons in England and Wales are operating at an overcrowded level.
Although the growth in the prison population has slowed down in recent months, prompting plans to close HMP Wellingborough, there are still 7,294 more people in the prison system than it is designed and built to hold. On 31 July 2012, there were 77 out of 131 establishments over the Prison Service’s Certified Normal Accommodation: “the good, decent standard of accommodation that the Service aspires to provide all prisoners”.
Commenting on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons thematic review of remand prisoners, Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:
People held on remand awaiting trial are innocent until proven guilty but the findings of this worrying review make a mockery of that principle. It’s clear that people remanded into custody are often held in worse conditions and receive less help and support than those convicted of a crime and serving a prison sentence.
On Tuesday 22 May the European Court of Human Rights published their judgment in the case of Scoppola v. Italy (no 3). The Court has confirmed the Hirst (no. 2) v. the United Kingdom judgment of October 2005 that a blanket ban on all serving prisoners losing voting rights is a breach of their human rights.
Prison Reform Trust's company secretary Geoff Dobson has written an article on the future of probation, originally published in the Guardian's Society section on Wednesday 23 May 2012.
Below is his article in full, and you can read the Guardian article here
What does a modern effective Probation Service look like? The closing date for two important Ministry of Justice consultations will be reached on 22 June. Proposals to reform community sentences have received publicity to date, not least because of eye catching suggestions to extend the use of electronic monitoring to track offenders and to introduce sobriety bracelets. Within that report is an important section on restorative justice, opening up the possibility for far greater use of this approach, both pre and post sentence.