Conditions

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:

“These disturbing figures show every indicator of prison safety to be pointing the wrong way, with a rise in numbers of natural and self-inflicted deaths and record levels of self-harm and assaults. The measures the government have put in place to improve prison safety, including increasing staff numbers and the roll out of a new key worker model, have not yet succeeded in reversing this rising trend. Plans to roll out PAVA spray to all prison staff on the closed adult male estate risk making a volatile situation even worse.”

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People in prison need meaningful incentives which both motivate and allow them to take responsibility for their behaviour, according to a new report published by the Prison Reform Trust today.

The report, ‘What incentives work in prison?’ is the result of an extensive consultation exercise with over 1,250 people with experience of prison.

It presents the findings from an emerging network of current serving prisoners, ex-prisoners and connected organisations who want to share their expertise and experience with policy makers. The Prisoner Policy Network (PPN) aims to provide solutions to the big challenges currently facing our prisons, and a greater voice for prisoners in influencing the policies that affect them.

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We know that in-prison programmes can reduce dependency, and that the most ordered prisons have the busiest prisoners. Hope is a key ingredient of desistance. PRT director Peter Dawson explores how to address drug use in prisons in this article originally published in the Huffington Post.

Another week and another story about drugs in prison. It gets the usual five-minute examination—outrage that any drugs make it into a prison, bemusement that this is allowed to happen, an announcement of a new measure to stop it, and on to the next item.

Getting drugs out of our prisons is a critically important issue, and it deserves a better treatment.

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Photo credit: Andy Aitchison

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The Prison Reform Trust has called for an urgent moratorium on the planned roll out of PAVA spray to prison officers in the adult male estate.

It warns that the roll out, which is due to begin in the New Year, is likely to do more harm than good and undermine the safety of prisoners and prison officers.

After the decision to roll out PAVA was announced in early October, the Prison Minister Rory Stewart said that PAVA would only be used in “exceptional circumstances” to protect staff from the threat or perceived threat of serious violence.

However, a new analysis of the pilot evaluation by PRT’s Director Peter Dawson, who is a former prison governor, shows that nearly two thirds (64%) of incidents in which PAVA spray was deployed by prison staff may have contravened the guidance for its use.

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Photo credit: Andy Aitchison

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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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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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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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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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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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