Inspectorate reports

Commenting on the findings of today’s (17 May) Criminal Justice Joint Inspection report, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

“This report exposes as a complete fallacy the idea that the criminal justice system is back to ‘normal’, or anything close to it. In prisons, the Covid crisis has simply morphed into a wholly predictable staffing crisis. The outcome for prisoners is the same — endless days spent behind a cell door, with all the disastrous consequences for both health and public protection that the report sets out.

“In that context, the government’s insatiable appetite to have ever more people in prison is more irrational than ever. The report correctly remembers that the justice system was on its knees before the pandemic struck. What it needs now is fundamental reform, not an obsession with simply looking tougher than your political opponents.”

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Commenting on the findings of conditions at HMP & YOI Bronzefield by HM Inspectorate of Prisons today (11 May), Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

“Despite impressive work in some areas, so many of the problems documented in this report are simply beyond the scope of one prison to solve. Too many women with serious mental health problems are entering prison instead of treatment and care in the community. And too many women are leaving prison without stable accommodation. The government already has a female offenders strategy which, if properly resourced and backed with a detailed plan for implementation, would go some way to fixing these problems. Vulnerable women in prison need more than warm words from ministers. They need them to deliver on their promises.”

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PRT comment: HMP/YOI Deerbolt

12/04/2022 00:01:00

Commenting on the findings of conditions at HMP/YOI Deerbolt by HM Inspectorate of Prisons today (12 April), Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

“In December 2021 the government said in its Prison Strategy White Paper that HMP/YOI Deerbolt would provide a model for other prisons to follow in their treatment of young men. So it is deeply worrying that inspectors describe a prison in which the majority of the people it holds are spending entire days in complete idleness. It’s no surprise that their frustration and pent up energy results in violence. But the cure for that — active, purposeful days spent out of their cells — seems further away than ever.”

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The National Preventive Mechanism—21 independent bodies which have powers to visit and report on all places of detention across the UK—has published its annual report focusing on the impact of Covid-19, and the measures which were introduced to limit its spread. It reveals that restrictions have had an impact on prisoners' mental health, including a rise in mental health referrals and a sharp increase in self-harm by women. It also confirms that isolating prisoners were “being kept in conditions that meet the widely accepted definition of solitary confinement” prohibited under the Nelson Mandela Rules.

Click here to read the full report.

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Commenting on the findings of conditions at HMP & YOI Foston Hall by HM Inspectorate of Prisons, Emily Evison, women’s policy officer at the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“Women’s prisons are expected to solve problems which are made worse by women being in custody. Nearly three-quarters (72%) of women entering prison to serve a sentence have committed a non-violent offence. Many women who offend suffer from drug and alcohol addictions and mental ill health. A large number of women in prison are victims of far more serious crimes than those for which they have been convicted.

“The answers to women’s offending lie in proper treatment and support in the community and sustained investment in non-custodial alternatives. Building more women’s prison places, as the government has committed to doing, is an irrational response.”

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PRT comment: HMP Rochester

01/02/2022 00:01:00

Commenting on the findings of conditions at HMP Rochester by HM Inspectorate of Prisons today (1 February), Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

“Yet another prison report uncovers the chronic strategic failures which lie behind the failure of so many of our prisons. Rochester prison should have been a note in the history books by now, closed because it had reached the end of its useful life. But ministers’ insatiable appetite for locking people up means it has had to limp along, vermin infested and unsanitary. Worse may yet be to come, with staff leaving the prison much faster than they can be replaced.

“Rochester is far from an isolated example. More prisoners and fewer staff represents a perfect storm for our prisons, and it will soon be upon us.”

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PRT comment: HMP Wandsworth

06/01/2022 09:30:00

Commenting on the findings of conditions at HMP Wandsworth by HM Inspectorate of Prisons today (6 January), Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said: 

“In 2016, this government announced the ‘biggest shakeup of prisons since Victorian times, as first six reform prisons named, including one of Europe’s largest prisons, HMP Wandsworth’. Five years on, the chief inspector describes that prison as ‘crumbling, overcrowded, vermin-infested’. The human cost of that failure is seven suicides in less than two years. And now the governor, praised by the inspector for his leadership, must prepare for 300 more prisoners to be crammed into his already grossly overcrowded prison. 

“There is little point the government making ever more ambitious statements about prison reform when the reality on the ground is so disgraceful. It’s time to stop promising and start delivering.”

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PRT comment: HMP Manchester

21/12/2021 00:01:00

Commenting on the findings of conditions at HMP Manchester by HM Inspectorate of Prisons today (21 December), Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

“With more and more people serving ever longer sentences, the government has published a white paper that promises ‘time well spent’ in custody. Its ambitions are good. But this important report on Manchester prison shows just how far there is to travel. Prisoners facing more years inside than ever before are not getting the opportunities they need to progress in their sentence and show they will be safe to release when the time comes. And some very basic elements of a safe, civilised prison regime are lacking, including poor oversight of use of force by staff. The chief inspector rightly highlights the need for consistent long-term leadership locally. The same is true at the centre—ministers need to deliver on the promises they have made.”

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PRT comment: HMP Woodhill

14/12/2021 00:01:00

Commenting on the findings of conditions at HMP Woodhill by HM Inspectorate of Prisons today (14 December), Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

“This inspection is about a modern prison, well-led and not overcrowded. Yet it is failing for lack of the staff needed to run it. Staff are leaving Woodhill faster than they can recruit. The prisons white paper published last week has a chapter devoted to this problem and a long list of promises to recruit more and retain more officers. But it says nothing about the resources needed to deliver those ambitions. As the chief inspector makes clear, the buck on this issue stops with the government, not prison managers. It’s a pass or fail test for the Deputy Prime Minister.”

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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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