Commenting on the announcement today (21 September) that the House of Commons Justice Committee has launched an inquiry into the IPP sentence, Mark Day, Head of Policy and Communications at the Prison Reform Trust said:

“Despite its abolition nearly a decade ago, the IPP sentence continues to cast a long and doleful shadow over our justice system. Without urgent action, we soon face the prospect of a growing IPP prisoner population, as the numbers being recalled to custody outstrips those being released. We welcome this inquiry by the respected cross-party justice committee, and hope it will be the catalyst needed for the government to finally confront and deal with the toxic legacy of this unjust sentence.”

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Women in prison have revealed the devastating impact of Covid-19 restrictions on their mental health and wellbeing, in a briefing launched today by the Prison Reform Trust.

Based on evidence from women in prison from May 2020 to May 2021, as well as supporting evidence from HM Inspectorate of Prisons and other sources, the briefing looks at women’s experiences of prison during the first and second waves of the pandemic.

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PRT comment: HMP Wormwood Scrubs

09/09/2021 00:01:00

Commenting on the findings of today’s (9 September) report on conditions at HMP Wormwood Scrubs by HM Inspectorate of Prisons, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said: 

"Any signs of sustained improvement in a prison with as troubled a history as Wormwood Scrubs are welcome. But this report shows that while lockdown may have ended in the community, for many prisoners it continues in the most extreme form. This is about the fundamental problems that existed before the pandemic—overcrowding and inadequate resources—and the government doesn't have a plan to solve either."

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The Prison Reform Trust has published a briefing on the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill for the House of Lords second reading debate on the Bill which is taking place on Tuesday 14 September.

The briefing highlights particular concerns relating to the provisions of Part 7 of the Bill on sentencing and release. It also focusses on a key omission the Bill – the opportunity presented by the legislation to reform the indeterminate sentence of Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP). 

Click here to download a copy of the briefing.

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PRT comment: HMP Oakwood

03/09/2021 00:01:00

Commenting on the findings of today’s (3 September) report on conditions at HMP Oakwood by HM Inspectorate of Prisons, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

“There are crucial lessons for the whole of the prison service from this impressive report on HMP Oakwood. As ministers consider the future shape of day to day life in prisons, they need to recognise that a successful prison is a partnership between the people who work there and the people who live there. Prisoners constantly stress the importance of showing trust—doing things with them, not to them.

"Everything that matters in prison—safety, security, decency and rehabilitation—comes from the quality of relationships between staff and prisoners. None of these things can be achieved from behind a locked cell door.”

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The Sentencing Council has published new guidelines for sentencing modern slavery offences, after consultation on the proposed guidelines earlier this year.

PRT provided detailed evidence to the consultation on the proposed guideline and welcome publication of the new guideline.

In particular, we are pleased to see changes made by the Council to the guideline include two recommendations put forward in PRT evidence to the consultation:

  • The guideline now recognises previous victimisation as a factor indicating reduced culpability (this change is based on a recommendation made by the Sentencing Academy and supported by PRT)
  • The guideline now has reduced sentencing levels including more options for community penalties at the lower end of culpability and harm

Our full submission to the Council’s consultation is available here.

The Council’s response to the consultation is available here.

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HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) has published a guide to assist families and significant others who have a loved one serving an indeterminate sentence, such as a Life or IPP sentence.

The guide builds on the joint Prison Reform Trust and University of Southampton report, ‘A Helping Hand: Supporting Families in the Resettlement of People Serving IPPs’, written by Dr Harry Annison and Christina Straub, which we published in 2019. The report recommended that HMPPS should “develop appropriate information materials for families that explain the systems, processes and responsibilities related to the IPP sentence.”

The guide goes some way to meeting that recommendation, and aims to improve understanding of key stages during the sentence; suggests ways to support progression; and where to find more information and support.

Click here to download a copy of the guide.

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Commenting on the findings of today’s (20 July) Annual Report by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

“The Chief Inspector could not put it any plainer—locking prisoners in their cells all day solves nothing. The future in our prisons must be built on a foundation of good staff building good relationships with the people in their care. That can’t be delivered in an overcrowded, under-resourced system. The government’s approach to sentencing, driven by politics not evidence, makes that fundamental problem worse, not better.”

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Most women are sent to prison for non-violent offences and serve sentences of 12 months or less, a new briefing by the Prison Reform Trust reveals. 72% of women who entered prison under sentence in 2020 have committed a non-violent offence. Furthermore, 70% of prison sentences given to women were for less than 12 months.

A series of inquiries and reports over the last 20 years, as well as the government’s own ‘female offender strategy’, have all concluded that prison is rarely a necessary, appropriate or proportionate response to women who get caught up in the criminal justice system. Despite this, the government has recently announced plans to build an additional 500 prison places in the women’s estate. This is in direct contradiction to a key commitment of the female offender strategy to reduce the female prison population.

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Commenting on the findings of today’s (15 July) Criminal Justice Joint Inspection report on neurodiversity in the criminal justice system, Peter Dawson, Director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

“This outstanding report shows conclusively that the criminal justice system is failing in its core duty to treat people with neuro-divergent conditions fairly, and that the number of individuals affected is startlingly high.

“The Lord Chancellor was clearly right to commission this work. But the real test is whether he will now provide the resource and the leadership required to follow through on the six crystal clear recommendations the report makes. “

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