Conditions

The two leading prison reform groups in the country have today (Wednesday 8 April) written to the government again, urging ministers to move further and faster to reduce the prison population and avoid “an intolerable human cost in terms of the lives of both staff and prisoners”.

It is the second time this month that the Howard League for Penal Reform and the Prison Reform Trust have written to the Secretary of State for Justice, Robert Buckland, about the outbreak of coronavirus in prisons in England and Wales.

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Commenting on today’s announcement (4 April) that some prisoners are to be temporarily released as part of efforts to tackle Covid-19, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

“This is a welcome and substantial step in the right direction. Exceptional times require exceptional measures, and the public should be reassured that in this instance their protection is better served by carefully releasing some prisoners a few weeks early than by keeping them in. Prisons have never faced an emergency of this complexity or duration, and further measures will be needed in the weeks ahead. But this is a start, and the Lord Chancellor deserves credit for it.”

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The two leading prison reform groups in the country have called on the government to take further action to reduce the prison population in order to protect prisoners, staff and the wider public from coronavirus.

In an open letter, the Howard League for Penal Reform and the Prison Reform Trust have warned the Secretary of State for Justice, Robert Buckland, that failure to act immediately could lead to loss of life on an unprecedented scale.

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Our work and response to Covid-19

17/03/2020 13:00:00

Like all organisations and individuals the Prison Reform Trust has been closely monitoring the developments and government advice following the Covid-19 outbreak. The safety of those who live and work in our prisons and that of PRT staff is our priority. In light of the latest government advice we are taking measures to uphold our collective safety, whilst continuing to deliver vital services to those in prison.

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Commenting on the findings of today’s (7 February) National Audit Office report on improving the prison estate, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

 

“This startlingly frank report says that the government is failing to provide safe, secure and decent prisons. It describes in forensic detail how a succession of plans have disintegrated almost as soon as they have been announced, resulting in a failure to build new prisons, or close old ones, or maintain the current prison estate in a useable condition. To cap it all, there is no plan in place for the future.

“Scarcely a week passes without another high profile announcement of longer sentences or delayed release dates, despite the absence of any evidence that more imprisonment does anything to deter or reduce crime. This report exposes the recklessness of that approach, sending people to a prison system that shames us as a country, and all too often serves only to entrench the behaviour it is supposed to change.”


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Commenting on the findings of today’s (30 January) Ministry of Justice Safety in Custody statistics, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

“We welcome the small decrease in the overall levels of assault and significant drop in serious assaults on staff. But the hidden crisis revealed in these figures is the record levels of self-harm, which continue to rise unabated. A failure to ensure decent and humane conditions, as well as respond effectively to the large proportion of people in prison with serious mental health problems, is being paid for in human misery and distress. Too many people are held in overcrowded conditions with too little to do. The government needs a plan to restore purpose and hope to our prisons. Sending more people to prison for longer will make matters worse.”

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Planned government changes to sentencing will add to pressures on our overcrowded and overstretched prisons, without reducing crime or improving public confidence, a new Prison Reform Trust report warns.

The latest edition of the Bromley Briefing Prison Factfile reveals that, contrary to the impression given in much recent political debate and media coverage, England and Wales have become much tougher in their approach to punishing serious crime over the past few decades, on a scale which exceeds comparable countries or historical precedent.

Writing in the report in a specially commissioned section on life sentences, Professor Ben Crewe and Dr Susie Hulley, from the University of Cambridge, and Dr Serena Wright, from Royal Holloway, University of London, reveal a dramatic increase in the number of people serving sentences that were until recently considered wholly exceptional in their severity.

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Report finds just one in 10 safer custody departments in prisons answer phone calls from worried family members.

New research reveals that most prisons in England and Wales are failing in their duty to ensure that emergency phone lines are in place for families to share urgent concerns about self-harm and suicide risks of relatives in prison. This is in serious breach of government policy that families should be able to share concerns ‘without delay’.

At a time of unprecedented levels of self-harm in prisons, charities are calling on prisons to protect the lives of people in prison and address these critical failures. In 12 months to March 2019 there were 58,000 self-harm incidents in prisons – compared to 26,000 a decade earlier.

A joint report by the Prison Reform Trust, INQUEST and Pact (the Prison Advice and Care Trust), maps the provision of safer custody telephone lines across the prison estate - dedicated phone lines which enable family members and others to pass on urgent information when they have concerns.

It finds that provision is patchy, under-resourced and even non-existent in some prisons, leaving families struggling to share their concerns with prison staff.

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Photo credit: Andy Aitchison

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Commenting on today's (31 October) report on prison governance published by the House of Commons Justice Committee, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said: 

"This report is a scathing indictment of a political failure. The Government doesn't hesitate to promise more jail time for more people, but it has no plan for how to deliver a decent, safe or effective prison system to accommodate them.

"People's lives and public safety are at stake, and making 'policy by press notice' isn't good enough. The people who live and work in prison deserve to be told when overcrowding will end, and dilapidated prisons finally be shut."

Photo credit: Andy Aitchison

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We’re pleased to launch our new series of podcasts with Straightline and National Prison Radio.

Presented by Phil Maguire OBE, Chief Executive of the Prison Radio Association, and Head of Prisoner Engagement at Prison Reform Trust Paula Harriott, each episode of The Secret Life of Prisons takes on a theme related to the prison experience, and features a range of guests with personal experience and insight on each topic.

Through the series listeners will be hear personal testimony from people who have been there, as you are guided out from court and arrival to prison, all the way through to release.

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Photo credit: Andy Aitchison

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