Conditions

Commenting on the urgent notification issued today (31 May 2018) by HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) over safety concerns at HMP Exeter, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“Exeter prison is a grossly overcrowded prison where most prisoners are either not convicted at all or are serving short sentences. So David Gauke’s response to this urgent notification from the Chief Inspector should start by saying how he will give effect to the new policy direction he set out last weekend. He rightly wants to replace short prison sentences with community penalties that his own research show to be more effective at cutting crime. Turning that wish into reality is the most important thing he can do to stop the rot in Exeter and many other prisons like it.”

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Commenting on the publication of the Ministry of Justice’s education and employment strategy today (24 May 2018), Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“This is a welcome strategy full to the brim with good intentions. It could make a big difference to the families and communities to which prisoners return on release.

“But almost none of those good intentions set a date for when they will be delivered, or how many people will benefit. We have heard many of these promises before.

“So the government must take this opportunity to show it means business. It must deliver a National Insurance holiday for employers, not just consider it. It must get thousands more prisoners into workplace release on temporary licence, not just consult about it. And it needs to say how many more prisoners will end up with a job when all these good intentions have turned into reality.”

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Whilst there has been a welcome reduction in the number of self-inflicted deaths in prison over the last year, figures published last month show that all other safety indicators are once again set records for all the wrong reasons.

Record levels of self-harming; record levels of assaults on prisoners; and record levels of assaults on staff show that violence and fear is the daily reality for many people in prison.

Dr Kimmett Edgar, the Prison Reform Trust’s Head of Research, a specialist in violence and conflict resolution in prisons, has produced a guide for staff and officials to help them to develop much needed strategies for violence reduction in our prisons. This guide builds on a speech he delivered to the Prison Safety and Reform team at the Ministry of Justice last month.

Conflict resolution needs to be placed at the centre of prison strategies to reduce violence. Doing so would empower governors, officers and prisoners in their efforts to make prisons safer.

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Prison governors should be encouraged to empty prison wings during the day and get far more prisoners out on temporary release to engage in work, training and education in the community, a new briefing by the Prison Reform Trust (PRT) says.

As part of its forthcoming employment strategy for prisoners, the government should introduce a radical approach to using release on temporary licence (ROTL) at scale across the prison estate. This would be a huge incentive to good behaviour in prison as well as an effective aid to resettlement, the briefing suggests.

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Commenting, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:
 
“Despite a welcome reduction in the number of self-inflicted deaths in prison over the last year, all other safety indicators have once again set records for all the wrong reasons. Record levels of self-harming; record levels of assaults on prisoners; and record levels of assaults on staff show that violence and fear is the daily reality for many people in prison. Rebuilding officer numbers is the short term solution, but if we want to improve safety in the longer term we need to take the pressure off overstretched prisons by reducing prison numbers to a sustainable level.”

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Commenting on HM Inspectorate of Prisons report on incentivising and promoting good behaviour, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“This is a very important report, and especially timely given the justice secretary’s desire to use incentives to make prisons better. The core messages are simple and well known. Relationships hold the key, and those can only be built when prisoners are out of their cells and staff have the time to get to know them. Consistent and fair application of clear standards is essential. Release on temporary licence is seen by prisoners as the biggest long term incentive, but is grossly underused. 


“All of this holds true for adults as well as children, and ministers could not ask for a clearer explanation of why the overburdened adult estate is not delivering a safe and decent way of life in so many prisons. The investment all prisons need is in the time and skills to build relationships. Realistically, that has to mean an end to too many people going to prison for too long.” 

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Commenting on the speech made this morning by the Justice Secretary Rt Hon David Gauke MP on prison reform, Peter Dawson , director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

"The Justice Secretary set out an ambitious programme of reform for our prisons. But his predecessor promised to save £400m in the coming year. David Gauke's refusal to rule out further cuts in prisons raises serious doubts as to whether any of it is deliverable. Reducing reoffending, while a welcome ambition, will not make any significant dent in the size of the prison population. It is only by stemming the flow of people into prison and reversing sentence inflation that the government can begin to reduce chronic levels of overcrowding and get a grip on declining standards of safety and purposeful activity in our prisons. Anything else is wishful thinking."

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Late last year, the Prison Reform Trust’s advice and information service received a number of enquiries from people held in private prisons, regarding the cost of electronically transferring money into their prison account from families outside. Public sector prisons have also recently introduced such a service, however, unlike in private prisons this service is provided at no cost to either the sender or recipient. In response, we approached Unilink, the provider of the Secure Payment Service, to discuss how the situation might be able to be improved for those held in private prisons.

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Commenting on the Ministry of Justice's safety in custody statistics published today, Mark Day, head of policy and communications at the Prison Reform Trust, said:
 
"A new ministerial team must get to grips with an epidemic of violence behind bars which shows no sign of abating. Despite a small but welcome fall in deaths in the latest figures, every other indicator points to the ongoing and longstanding deterioration in standards of safety in prisons. Back to basics on prison reform cannot just mean fixing broken windows and cleaning dirty and infested accommodation, necessary though this is. It must also include a concerted and sustained effort to take the pressure off overstretched prisons by reducing prison numbers to a sustainable level."

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PRT comment: HMP Liverpool

19/01/2018 00:01:00

Commenting on today's HM Inspectorate of Prisons report on HMP Liverpool, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:
 
“We should all be ashamed that people are treated in this way in the 21st century, whatever their crime or the charge they face. But the answer cannot be confined to a new Governor and whatever sticking plaster the ministry can afford. Liverpool is just the latest example of a prison failing both its prisoners and the public. The responsibility for the problem ultimately lies with the politicians who have inflated maximum sentences while starving the prison service of the resources it needs to cope. Those same politicians need now to take ownership of the solution, reversing sentence inflation and having the courage to end our love affair with imprisonment.

“In the short term, if we are to continue to operate Victorian prisons like Liverpool, Wormwood Scrubs, Pentonville and many others, they need to be adequately resourced to deliver decent physical conditions and days spent in work and education, not behind a cell door.”

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