Conditions

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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Commenting on the decision of the Chief Inspector of Prisons Peter Clarke to issue an urgent notification in response to safety concerns at HMP Nottingham, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

"When a prison is failing in its basic duty to keep prisoners safe, it is right that the chief inspector is making prompt use of the notification power given to him by the previous secretary of state. Everything now turns on the current secretary of state providing an adequate response and seeing it through."

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Commenting on the findings of the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman report on discrimination complaints, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“This report by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman adds to the growing weight of evidence that prisons are failing to tackle discrimination. It echoes the findings of our own research, showing that many people, legitimately seeking answers, face unacceptable delays and inadequate responses. The neglect of remedies for unfair treatment should concern us all. A well functioning complaints system is a fundamental part of a successful prison service. It allows grievances to be resolved at an early stage and provides vital opportunities for prisons to learn. The government is failing to meet its legal responsibilities to promote equality in criminal justice. The Ombudsman’s report helps to show what government must do to repair the processes of resolving complaints about discrimination.”


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The latest edition of the Prison Reform Trust's Bromley briefings prison factfile highlights in facts and figures the consequences of a punitive political arms race over criminal justice policy over the past three decades. Steep cuts to prison staff and budgets in recent years have exposed the fault lines of a failed approach. The result is an overcrowded and overstretched prison system where standards of safety and decency are way below international expectations.
 
This year’s Bromley briefings open with a brand new section which we have called “The long view”. The Prison Reform Trust has built its reputation over more than three decades on presenting accurate evidence about prisons and the people in them. In a world where ministers feel compelled to respond to issues with ever greater immediacy, “The long view” offers an antidote to the latest Twitter storm or early morning grilling in the media.

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Taking responsibility behind bars

01/12/2017 00:01:00

Enabling people in prison to take responsibility for day to day life behind bars encourages a greater sense of autonomy and self-respect and contributes to better decision making by prison managers, according to a new report published today (1 December) by the Prison Reform Trust.
 
The report outlines the findings of PRT’s innovative active citizens programme, launched in 2015 with the kind support of the Milo & Violet Cripps Charitable Trust. Additional support from the Bromley Trust and the  Sir James Reckitt Charity will allow PRT to take the programme to more prisons in the coming year.

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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:

"Despite a small but welcome fall in deaths, every other indicator points to the ongoing and longstanding deterioration in standards of safety in our overstretched prisons. Record levels of self-harm and assaults highlight mounting levels of frustration and despair among prisoners. Too many prisoners are held in overcrowded and impoverished conditions with too few staff to provide a safe and constructive regime. With prison numbers projected to increase, declining levels of safety will be very difficult to turn around without a concerted effort by ministers to take the pressure off the system by reducing prison numbers."

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Prison closure confusion

16/10/2017 15:30:00

Last week, the Ministry of Justice’s programme for modernising the prison estate was thrown into confusion, with justice minister Sam Gyimah MP, appearing to contradict the head of HM Prisons and Probation Service, Michael Spurr, about planned prison closures. Speaking at the Prison Governor’s Association Annual Conference on Wednesday, Michael Spurr said that he anticipated that “we won’t close any prisons this parliament”. However, just the following day, when responding to a question in Parliament, Sam Gyimah said that the commitment to close prisons over the next few years “very much remains”.

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