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The UK has the highest number of life-sentenced prisoners of any country in Europe, the latest edition of the Prison Reform Trust’s Bromley Briefings Prison Factfile reveals.

There are 8,554 people in prison in the UK serving a life sentence—more than France, Germany and Italy combined.

In 2016, the UK and Turkey between them comprised 66% of the total life-sentenced prison population in Europe.

Life-sentenced prisoners in the UK make up more than 10% of the total sentenced prison population, which is higher than that for any other European country—and higher than that for the United States at 9.5%.

The growth in life and other forms of indeterminate sentences in the UK has been a significant driver of the increase in the prison population and raises serious questions regarding the fairness and proportionality of their use, the Briefing says.

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Photo credit: Andy Aitchison


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We have an exciting new role to join our head of research as a research officer. We are looking for a diligent researcher with excellent communication and people skills.

If you have an MA in criminology or related fields; a background in research focusing on prisons and people in prison; and a passion for prison reform, then this could be the position for you.

Click 'read more' to download an application pack and find out more.

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HMP Bronzefield IMB report

06/11/2018 09:00:00

Commenting on today's report by HMP Bronzefield's Independent Monitoring Board, Jenny Earle, Director of the Prison Reform Trust’s Transforming Lives Programme to Reduce Women’s Imprisonment, said:

“Yet again, a prison watchdog highlights the problem of short term prisoners being released with no home to go to. More than two years after Bronzefield prison had to resort to giving women tents to sleep in when they left custody, and nearly six months after the government published its long-awaited strategy on women offenders, this report rightly asks what has been done to fix a problem that only ministers can solve.

“The startling growth in the number of women recalled to prison since the Government’s so called “rehabilitation revolution” took effect; and the continuing scandal of women detained under the discredited IPP sentence rightly attract criticism. Ministers are quick to hold others accountable for operational failings, but as this report makes clear—the challenges facing Bronzefied require answers from the politicians.”

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PRT comment: HMP Wakefield

01/11/2018 00:01:00

Commenting on today's inspection report on conditions at HMP Wakefield, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“This report shows what can be an achieved in an adequately resourced prison, with a stable and settled population. But it also highlights the unreasonable expectations placed on prisons and staff to care for people with acute mental illnesses. Rather than getting the help they urgently need, they are held in conditions which make matters worse, because secure mental health units will not or cannot make beds available. The Chief Inspector has correctly laid this problem at the minister’s door—the minister needs to apply the same discipline to solving it as he demands from governors in meeting the recommendations put to them.”

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Commenting on the publication of today's safety in custody statistics, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“Despite the unrelenting effort of many in the system, all of these indicators show that there is no end in sight to the catastrophe that has engulfed many of our prisons. The government has recruited more staff and spent money on security. But so far it has only talked about reducing the number of prisoners the system holds. That needs to change, with action for the short and long term which will bring the prison population back down to a level where safety can be restored.”

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As a result of growing demand, we’re pleased to announce that we have just re-printed copies of our report, Leading change: the role of local authorities in supporting women with multiple needs. Two years after the report was first published, its reprinting is timely and has a renewed relevance following the publication of the government’s Female Offender Strategy in June this year. The strategy rightly places emphasis on the importance of joining up agencies and work at a local level. Local Authorities are key in achieving this, providing strategic oversight, and enabling collaboration and coordination to deliver necessary support to women in contact with, or on the edges of the criminal justice system.

This report suggests ways in which local leaders and councillors can make a positive difference to the daily lives of women and children, helping them to lead healthy, fulfilling and productive lives.

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Commenting on the publication of HMIP's thematic report on social care in prisons in England and Wales, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“Changing the law to require local authorities to provide social care for people in prison was an important and sensible reform, but today’s report clearly shows that it is not delivering what parliament intended. Our prisons are increasingly filled with old people serving very long sentences. An overcrowded, under-resourced system is failing in many cases to provide humane care within prison, still less to prepare these people for what remains of their life when they are eventually released. The absence of a coherent, funded strategy to cope with a problem that can only become more severe is a glaring omission.

“The prisons minister has said that he wants to get the basics right. Ensuring that old, sick people are treated with dignity is about as basic as it gets.”

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There is understandable public concern about the recent spate of acid attacks and rise in knife crime in some inner-city areas. As the government’s serious violence strategy recognises, many of the solutions lie in preventative rather than punitive measures.

As the House of Commons prepares to debate the Offensive Weapons Bill again on Monday 15 October, the Prison Reform Trust has prepared a short briefing to assist MPs, highlighting our support for a number of key amendments and new clauses.

We are concerned that provisions which unnecessarily criminalise children and young people risk driving the problem underground and could result in more vulnerable individuals being drawn into the criminal justice system, instead of putting them in contact with the treatment and support they need.

Click here to download a copy of the briefing.

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PRT comment: HMP & YOI Chelmsford

12/10/2018 00:01:00

Commenting on today's inspection report on conditions at HMP & YOI Chelmsford, Mark Day, Head of Policy and Communications at the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“This troubling report reveals that Chelmsford missed an urgent notification by the skin of its teeth, saved only by the confidence placed by the Chief Inspector in the senior leadership to turn things around.

“The findings are all too familiar—another grossly overcrowded and dilapidated local prison struggling with high levels of violence, self-harm, self-inflicted deaths and too much time spent in cells.

“The good quality of rehabilitation work and prisoner staff relationships are bright spots in an otherwise bleak picture.

“The fact that the majority of people held at the prison are unconvicted, unsentenced or serving sentences of less than a year should raise serious questions as to why are we sending so many people to prison for pointless short spells behind bars.”

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Commenting on the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman Annual Report 2017–18, Mark Day, Head of Policy and Communications at the Prison Reform Trust, said: 

“This disturbing report paints a bleak picture of a prison system where people are dying needlessly, and where lessons clearly set out by the Ombudsman are not being learned. Despite highlighting a welcome fall in self-inflicted deaths, there are worrying signs that this trend is in danger of reversing. A lack of suitably qualified mental health professionals in prison and the ability to transfer severely mentally ill people out of prison and into treatment remain significant concerns.

“It is clear that prisons need an effective strategy to deal with the destructive impact of psychoactive substances. This must include measures to limit demand as well as supply through more time out of cell and purposeful activity. The high rate of natural deaths underscores the desperate need for a properly resourced older prisoners strategy.

“The routine loss and damage to prisoners’ property continues to be a source of needless frustration, which could be easily remedied by prisons following clear and simple procedures for recording ownership and arranging transfers.”

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