Tackling the spread of coronavirus in prison

Like all organisations and individuals the Prison Reform Trust has been closely monitoring the developments and government advice following the Covid-19 outbreak. The safety of those who live and work in our prisons and that of PRT staff is our priority.

Whilst the focus for government and our prisons will rightly be on how best to respond to Covid-19, the Prison Reform Trust continues to have an important role to monitor as best we can how people in prison and their families are being looked after, and to be as constructive and imaginative as possible in suggesting ideas for mitigating their suffering.

Everything good about government action in tackling this emergency has been characterised by being early and decisive. On prisons, by contrast, it is a story of too little, too late. The scientific and operational advice couldn’t be clearer – if ministers are serious about following it, they must go much further, and do it now.

In this section, you can find out how we are responding to the pandemic, and what we're doing to help ensure that the lives of prisoners, staff and our community are protected during this period of unprecedented challenge.


Getting help

If you know of someone in prison in need of advice and information then click here for details on how they can get in contact with us.

The Ministry of Justice has also posted a Q&A for friends and family of people in prison which you can read by clicking here.

If you are concerned about a person in prison and would like support yourself, click here for details on how to contact the Prisoners' Families Helpline.


Confirmed cases

The Ministry of Justice is providing updates on the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in prisons each weekday. However, Public Health England has reported that access to testing for prisoners across the estate has been limited and variable. Therefore, the number of confirmed cases reported does not represent the true scale of infection within the prison system. As such, these numbers should be treated with caution.

 

 

Covid-19 prisons project—CAPPTIVE

The Covid-19 pandemic has dramatically affected the lives of prisoners, their families and those that work in prison. Widescale lockdown with people held in cells for up to 23 and a half hours a day, as well as the suspension of family visits since March have placed an immense strain on prisoners and their loved ones during this unprecedented time.

In response, we have established an urgent new project—CAPPTIVE (The Covid Action Prison Project: Tracking Innovation, Valuing Experience) to hear from people in prison, and the people who care about them, about their own experience of the pandemic, and to ensure that prisoners’ voices are heard in the discussions amongst wider society about what our lives will look like after the pandemic.

Contributions to the project from prisoners, family members and the organisations that support them are informing a series of rapid review reports that will be vital in ensuring we have the evidence to continue our work effectively both now and in the future.

These reports will bring the direct experiences, insights and ideas for change to the attention of those who most need to hear them, in Parliament, in the Ministry of Justice and the prison service.

 

Reports

Briefing 1—Families and communications

Briefing 2—Regimes, reactions to the pandemic, and progression

 

Get involved

We’d like to thank everyone who has contributed to the CAPPTIVE project so far. As part of our continuing work on the CAPPTIVE project, we would like to invite people with lived experience of imprisonment to continue submitting their responses on the following topics:

  • Black, Minority Ethnic and Muslim experience of prison during the Covid ‘double lockdown’;

  • Women in prison; and

  • Innovative practices witnessed in the prison estate.

Prisoners, family members and organisations that support them can contribute their experiences and thoughts using the contact details below.

 Post
 Prisoner Policy Network c/o
 Prison Reform Trust FREEPOST ND 6125
 London EC1B 1PN
 Email ppn@prisonreformtrust.org.uk

 

Our action

In the light of government guidance and the current situation generally, PRT is running a reduced service for the time being.

If you know of someone in prison in need of advice and information then click here for details on how they can get in contact with us.

Media inquiries during office hours should be directed to alex.hewson@prisonreformtrust.org.uk. Out of hours media inquiries should be made by phone to 0207 689 7746 or 0207 689 7732.

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Commenting on the announcement by the Justice Secretary that the government is considering the early release of some prisoners in response to the Covid-19 outbreak, Peter Dawson, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“The risks of infection for people who live and work in prisons are acute, as the Justice Secretary has said. So while it is obviously right that the way of life in prisons should change dramatically, just as it has in the wider community, Robert Buckland is right to be considering forms of early release. In a chronically overcrowded system, this will help keep people safe by reducing the pressure on both space and staff resources. For this to work, there will need to be support to organisations, many of them charities, that help prisoners on release. And it’s vital that while creating some headroom through releases, the flow of people into prisons is also drastically reduced. That means not sending anyone to prison for all but the most serious alleged or proved offending, and not recalling people to prison in all but the most dangerous of circumstances.

There is no time to waste—just as in the community at large, suppressing the spread of the virus in prisons means taking decisive action sooner rather than later.”

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Commenting on the government’s decision to suspend social visits and increase the provision of phones in prisons, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“The suspension of social visits was always likely to be necessary for the safety of prisoners and visitors alike. The provision of more phones for prisoners to stay in contact with families is a welcome step in the right direction. As the situation develops, prisons will need to be alert to other opportunities to preserve the relationships on which all of us are relying in these difficult times.”

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HM Prison Service has announced that prisons in England and Wales are temporarily closed to visitors following government instructions for people to stay at home.

Read the full guidance and how you can keep in touch with loved ones during the coronavirus pandemic by clicking here.

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Our work and response to Covid-19

17/03/2020 13:00:00

Like all organisations and individuals the Prison Reform Trust has been closely monitoring the developments and government advice following the Covid-19 outbreak. The safety of those who live and work in our prisons and that of PRT staff is our priority. In light of the latest government advice we are taking measures to uphold our collective safety, whilst continuing to deliver vital services to those in prison.

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