Conditions

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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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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