Conditions

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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PRT comment: HMP Exeter

09/10/2018 09:00:00

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

“The government's response to the Chief Inspector's urgent notification promised central support for an updated safety strategy and efforts to improve living conditions. Missing was any proposal to address one of the key factors underlying the appalling standards of safety and decency at Exeter and many other local prisons up and down the country—their chronic levels of overcrowding. A presumption against short sentences and curbs on the unnecessary use of recall and remand would help bring down numbers in local establishments to sustainable levels and enable them to focus on improving treatment and conditions for the longer term.”

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Commenting on the issuing of an Urgent Notification on conditions at HMP Bedford today (13 September) by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, Mark Day, Head of Policy and Communications at the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“This fourth urgent notification issued against a local prison since January this year should be a wake up call to ministers. The Chief Inspector highlights an unchecked decline in standards over the space of nine years and so no one can say that they didn't see this coming. As in many other local establishments, the churn of prisoners entering and leaving the prison has been matched by the high turnover of burntout governors and inexperienced staff. The government cannot allow this to become the new normal. Its response must include concerted measures to take the pressure off these vastly overstretched local establishments, by introducing a presumption against short sentences and a statutory ban on overcrowding.”

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Commenting on the urgent notification issued today (20 August 2018) by HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) over safety concerns at HMP Birmingham, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“This is a dramatic intervention following yet another deeply disturbing report about an overcrowded local prison. The depressing truth is that it puts Birmingham in the same category as a succession of other prisons doing the same job - trying to look after far too many people, most spending just a few weeks in custody.

“It shows a system as well as a prison in crisis, and it’s not getting better. The responsibility lies with the government to change who goes to prison in the first place. Ministers have rightly spoken about the need to use community sentences in place of short prison terms – but they must now take urgent action to turn that wish into reality. The time has come for a presumption against short sentences and a statutory ban on overcrowding.”

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Commenting on today’s announcement (17 August) by the Ministry of Justice to invest £10m into 10 of the most challenging prisons, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“The Governors of the 10 prisons will be pleased to have a little more money, wherever it comes from. But we have been here before. In 2016 Michael Gove set up six reform prisons that would pave the way for others to follow. That idea was quietly shelved by his successors with neither explanation nor evaluation. We are now promised ‘tangible’ results from a new version, so we need to be told what those results are, and who will be held to account for delivering them.

“If Rory Stewart makes good on his wish to see fewer people go to prison on short sentences he will achieve something fundamental on prison reform. But he must concentrate on the job only he can do—matching the demands on the system to the resource Parliament is prepared to make available for it. It was a catastrophic failure to provide that balance which caused the collapse of prison safety after 2012—trying to tell Governors how to run prisons is not going to put it right.”

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The government should follow Scotland’s lead and introduce a presumption against short prison sentences as part of their efforts to restore safety and stability to our struggling jails according to a new briefing, Prison: the facts, published today by the Prison Reform Trust.

The briefing reveals the current scale of the challenge facing the government, with hundreds of people flowing in and out of the prison system on short sentences every week, placing pressure on an already overstretched and overcrowded prison system.

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Commenting on today's Annual Report, published by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“The findings of this report put Britain to shame. We should not tolerate a situation in a civilised society where thousands of prisoners are forced to share cells designed for one, eating their meals next to an unscreened toilet; where violence and self-harm have risen exponentially ; and where a fifth of prisoners spend less than two hours a day out of their cell.

“The heart of the problem is that we use prison too much. Solving that means reserving custody for only the most serious and violent offenders. Ministers have rightly said they want to follow the evidence and stop the pointless use of futile short prison sentences for less serious crime. They now need to back that up with statutory and operational measures that will deliver the change they want to see.”

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Commenting on today’s speech by David Gauke at the Centre for Social Justice, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“David Gauke has set out a balanced and pragmatic approach to prison reform. He rightly starts by insisting that prison really should be a last resort and the futile imprisonment of short sentenced prisoners should end.

“£7m for in-cell phones in 20 prisons is a concrete and significant investment, which should pave the way for a national roll out. New measures to identify trouble makers need careful scrutiny to avoid perpetuating discriminatory treatment based on untested evidence.

“Getting the detail right will depend on listening to the people who live and work in prison—especially as the minister develops his plans for incentives that will change behaviour.”

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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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