Inspectorate reports

Commenting on the findings of today’s (17 November) joint thematic inspection of the criminal justice journey for individuals with mental health needs and disorders, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

“The government repeatedly celebrates the fact that it expects to send more people to custody and is spending £4bn to build new prisons as a result. But this hugely important joint report from six different inspectorates shows that many of the people who will fill those cells will be mentally ill. 12 years on from being given a road map to solve these problems, the government’s progress is exposed as inadequate. Austerity provides no excuse. Much of what the inspectors describe stems from a failure to work efficiently across departments rather than a lack of resource. But where resource is an issue, governments still choose to spend on punishment rather than treatment.

“A frantic search is underway for ways in which to accommodate the surge in prison numbers expected as courts work through their backlog. That will mean more people spending 23 hours a day sharing Victorian cells in prisons that should be closed. It will mean more people sent to prison as a “place of safety” despite the overwhelming evidence that such prisons cause mental health conditions to worsen, not improve.

“The solutions are still there, and this latest report lays them out. But they require the government to concentrate its attention and resources on their delivery—a task that pointless ‘tough on crime’ rhetoric only seeks to evade.”

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PRT comment: HMP Hull

02/11/2021 00:01:00

Commenting on the findings of today’s (2 November) report on conditions at HMP Hull by HM Inspectorate of Prisons, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

“At the very start of the pandemic, the government took a secret decision to accelerate the rollout of ‘PAVA’ spray—a chemical incapacitant weapon—to all closed adult male prisons. When challenged in court, the prison service gave repeated undertakings about the central scrutiny that would be applied to make sure that PAVA was properly used. But yet again, the inspectorate have found that PAVA has been used without justification and that local safeguards are not working. PAVA use has been unnecessary, disproportionate and unsafe, and it’s taken the independent inspectorate to notice.

“The prison service is not in control of the weapon it’s put into officers’ hands. The rollout has to stop, and PAVA must be withdrawn from the prisons where the standards promised just aren’t being met.”

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Commenting on the announcement today (14 October) that Ofsted, HM Inspectorate of Prisons, and the Care Quality Commission has triggered the Urgent Notification process for Oakhill Secure Training Centre, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

“This is the third occasion that a Secure Training Centre has been found to be totally unfit to hold the children the government has entrusted to its care. It shows that our whole approach to the imprisonment of children is in urgent need of a rethink. As other governments have done before it, this administration has placed its faith in the invention of a new type of institution—on this occasion a ‘secure school’. But that looks dangerously like window dressing when the first example has yet to open nearly 5 years after the government announced this model as the way forward.

“In the meantime, custodial remand of children has increased sharply, and the government is legislating to punish children even more severely, taking less rather than more account of the scientific evidence on maturity.

“It’s time the government sought expert help to craft a practical national strategy. Without it, they are condemning more children to suffer abuse in a broken system.”

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PRT comment: HMP Wormwood Scrubs

09/09/2021 00:01:00

Commenting on the findings of today’s (9 September) report on conditions at HMP Wormwood Scrubs by HM Inspectorate of Prisons, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said: 

"Any signs of sustained improvement in a prison with as troubled a history as Wormwood Scrubs are welcome. But this report shows that while lockdown may have ended in the community, for many prisoners it continues in the most extreme form. This is about the fundamental problems that existed before the pandemic—overcrowding and inadequate resources—and the government doesn't have a plan to solve either."

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PRT comment: HMP Oakwood

03/09/2021 00:01:00

Commenting on the findings of today’s (3 September) report on conditions at HMP Oakwood by HM Inspectorate of Prisons, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

“There are crucial lessons for the whole of the prison service from this impressive report on HMP Oakwood. As ministers consider the future shape of day to day life in prisons, they need to recognise that a successful prison is a partnership between the people who work there and the people who live there. Prisoners constantly stress the importance of showing trust—doing things with them, not to them.

"Everything that matters in prison—safety, security, decency and rehabilitation—comes from the quality of relationships between staff and prisoners. None of these things can be achieved from behind a locked cell door.”

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Commenting on the findings of today’s (20 July) Annual Report by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

“The Chief Inspector could not put it any plainer—locking prisoners in their cells all day solves nothing. The future in our prisons must be built on a foundation of good staff building good relationships with the people in their care. That can’t be delivered in an overcrowded, under-resourced system. The government’s approach to sentencing, driven by politics not evidence, makes that fundamental problem worse, not better.”

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Commenting on the findings of today’s (15 July) Criminal Justice Joint Inspection report on neurodiversity in the criminal justice system, Peter Dawson, Director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

“This outstanding report shows conclusively that the criminal justice system is failing in its core duty to treat people with neuro-divergent conditions fairly, and that the number of individuals affected is startlingly high.

“The Lord Chancellor was clearly right to commission this work. But the real test is whether he will now provide the resource and the leadership required to follow through on the six crystal clear recommendations the report makes. “

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Commenting on the findings of today’s (16 March) thematic report on race equality by HM Inspectorate of Probation, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

“Different elements of the criminal justice system have regressed in their efforts to tackle race discrimination, despite the clearest possible roadmap for change from the Lammy report, and an apparent acceptance by the government of the need to either ‘explain or reform’.  This report highlights the urgent need for a renewed focus on tackling racial disparities across criminal justice agencies. The frequent assertion that we have the finest system of justice in the world simply doesn’t match up to the reality exposed by this and other inspection findings.”

This important report confirms the conclusion reached by Beverley Thompson OBE, writing in the Prison Reform Trust’s Bromley Briefings Prison Factfile, that the prison and probation service has regressed in its efforts to tackle racial disparities. Click here to read.

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Commenting on the findings of today’s (11 February) thematic report on the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown in prisons by HM Inspectorate of Prisons, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

“The Chief Inspector’s report shines a light on the hidden suffering Covid-19 has caused in prisons. Saving lives has come at a huge price for prisoners and their families.

“For all the heroic efforts of prison managers and staff, we should remember that their task has been made harder by the overcrowded and dilapidated condition of our prisons before the pandemic began. It is inexplicable that ministers will shortly introduce legislation that will inflate our prison population still further, knowing what the people who live and work in prisons have had to endure over the last year.”

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Commenting on HM Inspectorate of Prisons annual report on children’s experiences in custody, Peter Dawson, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“This damning report describes conditions for imprisoned children that predate the pandemic. It shows a third of children not able to shower once a day. Most of these teenagers couldn’t even play sport once a week. More than two out of every five had been bullied. And in a system where over half come from an ethnic minority, the colour of your skin led to an even worse experience across almost every aspect of daily life inside.

But despite these shameful facts, the government has published a white paper which will reverse the steady decline in the number of children we imprison, and which accepts that its proposals will have a disproportionate impact on children of colour. Parliament should refuse to countenance such an appalling prospect.”

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