Mental health

The Prison Reform Trust’s Head of Policy and Communications, Mark Day, yesterday took part in a discussion on the BBC Two Victoria Derbyshire programme on the damaging legacy of the Indeterminate Sentence for Public Protection (IPP). The BBC’s story, which was also covered by the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, considered the case of James Ward, who in 2006 was given an IPP sentence with a 10-month tariff, but who 11 years later remains in custody. Commenting on the Today programme, the Chair of the Parole Board, Nick Hardwick, urged the government to “get a grip” on the issue by bringing forward measures to expedite the release of the remaining post-tariff IPP prisoners.

You can watch the feature on the Victoria Derbyshire programme here [starts 16.10]

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Commenting on today's National Audit Office report on mental health in prisons, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:
 
“This is a familiar tale of admirable policy objectives not being delivered on the ground. There is a ray of hope in the successful rollout of liaison and diversion schemes in courts and police stations that spot some of the people who are most vulnerable. But this report makes horribly clear that our prisons are holding very many people who will suffer disproportionate and unnecessary harm because of the prison environment. It is futile to expect to improve their situation while prisons are overcrowded and thousands of people are spending a few weeks inside each year simply because there is inadequate community provision. The government must grip the issue of who goes to prison so that the system can care properly for the minority who really need to be there.”

Read Peter's blog for Huffington Post by clicking here.

You can download a copy of the full report by clicking here.

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Figures released today (Monday 8 May) by the Prison Reform Trust to mark the start of Mental Health Awareness Week (8–14 May) reveal that our overcrowded and overstretched prisons are struggling to meet the needs of the high numbers of people in their care with a mental health need or learning disability. 

Rising levels of self-inflicted deaths and record numbers of self-harm incidents point to the urgent need for the next government, whatever its political complexion, to address the decline in safety and standards in our prisons and to increase support in the justice system for vulnerable defendants.

Click 'read more' for the full story.

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Commenting on the Ministry of Justice's safety in custody statistics published today, Peter Dawson, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

"The message from these deeply alarming numbers could not be any clearer. An overcrowded prison system cannot cope with the number of people it is expected to hold. People are being maimed and dying in unprecedented numbers as a direct consequence. Two years of positive rhetoric from the government about prison reform has done nothing to stop a relentless decline in safety. There is no end in sight, and a new government must make a reduction in imprisonment a top priority."

The Ministry of Justice's safety in custody statistics (quarterly update to December 2016) are available here.

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Commenting on the prisons and courts bill, Peter Dawson, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

"A statutory commitment to a system that rehabilitates is crucial to building safer communities. But the key task for legislation is to ensure that prisons are places in which that ambition can actually be realised. No future government should be allowed to preside over the decline in safety, decency and fairness that  we have seen in recent years. Achieving that will require a commitment to minimum standards, a clear statement of the responsibilities of prisons to those in their care, an independent prisons inspectorate appointed by and accountable to parliament, and a sustained effort to reduce chronic levels of overcrowding and curb sentence inflation."

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Peter Dawson, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, has responded to the Justice Secretary Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss's speech on prison reform to the Centre for Social Justice with a letter published today in The Times newspaper.

Sir, Your leader hits a whole series of nails on their heads. Setting arbitrary limits on the prison population is not the issue. Eliminating overcrowding is. It represents the corrosion at the heart of our prisons, undermining decency, safety and rehabilitation. And no government in living memory has made a dent in it, probably because none has thought it worth having a strategy to do so.

Among all the many aspirations to emerge since the crisis in our prisons was finally acknowledged by Michael Gove and now Liz Truss, there is an echoing void where a timetabled plan to eliminate overcrowding should be. In the short term, the pressure can eased by not sending people to prison who need help not punishment, preventing the recall of people to prison on technical grounds, and by reversing the decline in early release on electronic tags. Longer term, we need to rethink how we punish more serious crime, restoring discretion to the courts and hope to the prisoners whose lives we seek to change.

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Commenting on the Prime Minister's speech on mental health on 9 January, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, Peter Dawson said:

"We welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement to tackle the ‘hidden injustice’ and stigma of mental illness, and additional investment in training and community care. High numbers of men, women and children in contact with criminal justice services experience mental illness, and liaison and diversion schemes can help facilitate access to mental health and other community services at an early stage. 

"Early intervention can help prevent escalating levels of need and expensive crisis intervention. For example, research demonstrates that for every £1 spent on women’s services, between £5 and £11 of benefits is realised in improved health and independence for women and their families.

"But that long term dividend can’t be realised without investment, not just in training and awareness but in the services which people need as the hidden injustice starts to see the light of day. A change in attitudes is not enough on its own."

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The National Federation of Women’s Institutes (NFWI) and the Prison Reform Trust (PRT) welcome today’s announcement (Tuesday 12 July 2016) of the Government’s commitment to roll out liaison and diversion services in police custody suites and criminal courts across England. At a Care not Custody coalition event in Parliament, Health Minister Alistair Burt MP announced a £12m investment in further roll out of liaison and diversion services. Subject to evaluation full roll out should be achieved by 2020. 

Currently 50,000 people a year are assessed by liaison and diversion services following arrest, and almost 70% require mental health support. This vital new funding will extend NHS England liaison and diversion services from 50% population coverage to 75% by 2018.
 
This money will help people with mental ill health, learning disabilities or autism get the right care in the right place, supporting work between the police and the NHS.

Click 'read more' for the full story.

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An explosion in the use of indeterminate sentences and the increased use of long determinate sentences are key drivers behind the near doubling of prison numbers in the past two decades. The latest edition of the Bromley Briefing Prison Factfile, published today (30 November) by the Prison Reform Trust, reveals the cost of our addiction to imprisonment in wasted time, money and lives.

For the full story click 'read more'.

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Ahead of today's (25 November) Spending Review the Care not Custody Coalition, established following the tragic death by suicide of a WI member's son suffering from schizophrenia, has written a letter in today's edition of The Times.

You can read the letter by clicking 'read more'.

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