Conditions

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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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."

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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.

Click 'read more' for the full story and to listen to the first episode.

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Following the Prime Minister’s announcements about prisons in mid-August, we wrote three letters seeking clarification, to Permanent Secretary Richard Heaton, to the Secretary of State, Robert Buckland and to the CEO of HMPPS, Jo Farrar. To their collective credit, they have replied only three weeks later, and with some detail.

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PRT comment: HMP Eastwood Park

28/08/2019 00:01:00

Commenting on the findings of the HM Inspectorate of Prisons report on HMP Eastwood Park, Dr Jenny Earle, Prison Reform Trust lead for reducing women’s imprisonment said:

“The cause of at least some of Eastwood Park prison’s failings lie outside its walls in the lack of housing and mental health support for women in the community. It is shocking that inspectors found that more than two in five women were being released homeless—only increasing the likelihood that they will return back to custody. Over a year on since the publication of the government’s Female Offender Strategy, this report suggests that progress in key areas remains disappointingly slow. Women are still too often being set up to fail.”

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Commenting on the publication of the results from the 10 prisons project by the Ministry of Justice today, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

“Any reduction in violence in any prison is welcome. But the 10 prisons project and the fate of a prisons minister always risked being a distraction from the real issue facing the government. That is about overcrowding—still running at over 20% despite three decades of prison building. It has always been possible to yank a very poor prison back from the abyss for a while, but the strategic problem of prisons holding too many people has never been properly addressed. Any glimmers of systemic improvement will be quickly snuffed out if we return to the failed ‘prison works’ policies that have created this calamity in the first place.”

 

The Prison Reform Trust has produced two infographics to show performance in each of the 10 prisons for assaults and positive drug tests.

Click here to see performance in assaults

Click here to see performance in positive drug tests

 

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In response to the recent government announcements on a review of sentencingbuilding 10,000 additional prison places; and further investment in prison security, the Prison Reform Trust has written three separate letters seeking urgent clarification in order to assist our and wider public understanding.

We have written to:

  1. Robert Buckland—regarding the announcement of 10,000 additional prison places

  2. Richard Heaton—seeking clarification on the announcement of a review of sentencing

  3. Jo Farrar—about the announcement of £100m investment for additional prison security

Because of the public interest created by the announcements and the lack of opportunity for debate, we are publishing these letters and will publish the responses once they have been received.

You can read our response to the original announcements by clicking here.

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A new report published today (8 August) by the Prison Reform Trust demonstrates the benefits when prisoners are consulted about how to address areas of concern in prisons.

Prisoners reforming prisons focuses on three important areas of prison life—safety, respectful relationships, and the responsible use of time in prison. The prisoners’ input, summarised in this report, suggests solutions to crucial areas in which prisons’ performance have recently shown a marked decline.

The report is the second in a series under the Prison Reform Trust’s active citizens programme. The findings are based on work between the Prison Reform Trust and individual prisons to establish active citizen panels—providing a structure to consult prisoners about an issue that concerns them in their prison.

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Commenting on the latest safety in custody statistics published today by the Ministry of Justice, Peter Dawson, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

 “The faint hope that our prison system might have turned a corner has been dashed by these numbers. Prisons are still getting more dangerous as places where people have to live and work.  More people than last year chose to take their own life rather than endure it. When an individual prison hits rock bottom, the government reduces the number of prisoners it holds – but it continues to ignore the obvious truth that it is the prison system as a whole that is grossly overcrowded. Ministers talk about having recruited more staff, but the problem will only be solved by having fewer prisoners.”

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Commenting on the urgent notification issued by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons at HMYOI Feltham A, Peter Dawson, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“This distressing report stands in stark contrast both to previous evidence of some improvement at Feltham and to a very positive report issued only last week about a larger but otherwise similar Young Offender Institution in the north of England. This huge discrepancy in the quality of care demands the urgent attention of a new Justice Secretary, and the Chief Inspector is right to insist upon that. He helpfully points to the core issue – a need to address the causes of violence and escape the cycle of reacting endlessly to it.”

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