Inspectorate reports

Commenting on the urgent notification issued by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons at HMYOI Feltham A, Peter Dawson, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“This distressing report stands in stark contrast both to previous evidence of some improvement at Feltham and to a very positive report issued only last week about a larger but otherwise similar Young Offender Institution in the north of England. This huge discrepancy in the quality of care demands the urgent attention of a new Justice Secretary, and the Chief Inspector is right to insist upon that. He helpfully points to the core issue – a need to address the causes of violence and escape the cycle of reacting endlessly to it.”

Photo credit: Andy Aitchison

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PRT comment: HMP Brixton

02/07/2019 00:01:00

Commenting on today's inspection report on conditions at HMP Brixton, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“There is much to praise in what has been achieved at Brixton by the Governor, staff and prisoners working together. But filling almost a third of the prison with men convicted of sexual offences was an expedient measure that did not have the best interest of those men at its heart. As intended, it will have contributed more than this report acknowledges to reductions in drug use and violence.

“The bottom line is that, like many other inner city prisons, Brixton risks being a resettlement prison in name only. A third of prisoners are being released with nowhere to live, and no-one is allowed out of the prison to work, learn, find a job or a home. Release on temporary licence is an essential tool for successful resettlement—keeping that tool locked away in the box is scarcely a matter for congratulation.”

Photo credit: David Anstiss / Wall of H.M. Prison Brixton / CC BY-SA 2.0

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Commenting on the HM Inspectorate of Probation report on Post-release supervision for short-term prisoners: the work undertaken by Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs), Mark Day, head of policy and communications at the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“The chief inspector could not be clearer in her assessment of the failure of compulsory post-release supervision for short sentenced prisoners. While the reforms appear to have had no discernible impact on reoffending, recall rates have rocketed, disrupting lives and placing unnecessary pressure on an already overcrowded and overstretched prison system. Since its introduction, recall rates for men have increased by 29%, while for women they have risen by a shocking 166%.

“The justice secretary has signalled his willingness to follow the evidence by bringing offender management back into the public sector. He should now follow the advice of his chief inspector by ending the unfair and disproportionate mandatory supervision of short sentenced prisoners. Delivering on his aim of abolishing short prison sentences altogether would be the best and simplest solution. He also needs to persuade his colleagues around the cabinet table to invest in the housing, health and welfare support that could actually make the difference in reoffending rates that has so obviously eluded the government so far.”

Photo credit: Andy Aitchison

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PRT comment: HMP Wakefield

01/11/2018 00:01:00

Commenting on today's inspection report on conditions at HMP Wakefield, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“This report shows what can be an achieved in an adequately resourced prison, with a stable and settled population. But it also highlights the unreasonable expectations placed on prisons and staff to care for people with acute mental illnesses. Rather than getting the help they urgently need, they are held in conditions which make matters worse, because secure mental health units will not or cannot make beds available. The Chief Inspector has correctly laid this problem at the minister’s door—the minister needs to apply the same discipline to solving it as he demands from governors in meeting the recommendations put to them.”

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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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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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PRT comment: HMP Wandsworth

13/07/2018 00:01:00

Commenting on today's HM Inspectorate of Prisons report on HMP Wandsworth, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“For decades Wandsworth prison has looked after the very short stay prisoners—many of them unconvicted—that ministers now recognise should not be in prison at all. That does not excuse the terrible conditions which the Chief Inspector describes, but it does show where the solution lies. The government must turn its aspiration to make prison a last resort into reality.

“In the meantime, there is no choice but to invest in the people and physical environment that this report shows are urgently needed. No-one—least of all people still waiting to be tried—should be expected to live in such dismal and dangerous surroundings.”

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