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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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It was confirmed today that following the decision to hold a general election on 8 June the Prisons and Courts Bill will not progress any further in this Parliament.

Commenting, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

"The prisons and courts bill, while far from perfect, had achieved cross-party support and contained some valuable measures to make prisons fit for the 21st century. With levels of safety, decency and fairness continuing to slide, the fall of the bill as a result of the election must not derail the vital job of prison reform. The next government, whatever its political complexion, should reintroduce a prisons bill as a top priority."

Click here to read about the Prison Reform Trust's work on the bill up to this point.

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Commenting on the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture's report on UK prisons, Peter Dawson, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

"This is a devastating international indictment of how low our prison system has sunk. This independent, expert committee exists to prevent mistreatment in prisons across Europe. It should be a matter of national shame that they found that every prison they visited in this country was unsafe for both staff and prisoners. They specifically found that some children were being held in conditions that were inhuman and degrading

"The committee is equally clear that endemic overcrowding lies behind this appalling failure. Its report makes plain that the government's stated commitment to reform will come to nothing without determined and prompt action to reduce prison numbers.
 
"There have been times in our history when the way we ran our prisons was held up as a model for other countries to follow. Now we are falling short of the most basic international expectations. Whatever the outcome of the general election, a new government needs to restore some pride in the way we treat the people we choose to punish."

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PRT comment: HMP Guys Marsh

11/04/2017 09:30:00

Commenting on today's HM Inspectorate of Prisons report on Guys Marsh, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:
 
“Yet another inspection shows the damage done to our prisons by irresponsible cost cutting, and a few more staff won’t make the difference on their own. The solution must involve restoring hope for those prisoners who want to make constructive use of their time inside. That should include spending time working in the community as preparation for release. But incredibly, only one prisoner in Guys Marsh was out on temporary licence at the time of the inspection. It is time ministers were held to account for the part their government has played in reducing prisons like Guys Marsh to the state they’re in—and for the policy changes they need to approve to help them recover.”

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Only one in 100 prisoners who made an allegation of discrimination against prison staff had their case upheld by the prison. By contrast, three in four staff (76%) reports of alleged discrimination by a prisoner were upheld, an in-depth research report by the Zahid Mubarek Trust and the Prison Reform Trust reveals.

The report finds that the system for handling discrimination complaints in prisons is neither fair nor impartial, does not have the confidence of prisoners, and is failing to provide prisons with the opportunity to learn and provide more equitable treatment. As prisons struggle to cope with increasing violence and fewer officers, equality has slipped down the priority list.

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The Prison Reform Trust has published a briefing ahead of the House of Commons Committee Stage to assist Parliamentarians in their detailed scrutiny of the bill, which also outlines key amendments which we support. You can read the briefing by clicking here.

The House of Commons second reading debate took place on Monday 20 March, and the Prison Reform Trust also produced a briefing, which you can download by clicking here. You can also catch up on the second reading debate by clicking here to watch, or clicking here to read.

Commenting, Peter Dawson, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

"It is 65 years since it last happened, so the publication of a Prisons Bill is obviously an important moment. There is plenty to welcome—especially a statutory commitment to rehabilitation. But the Bill is also notable for what it does not contain—for example, nothing to control the demand for prison and no mention of decency or justice as the foundations of a rehabilitative system. 

"We will do everything we can to help parliament turn this bill into a genuinely reforming Act, making sure that: the purposes of prison are comprehensive; a mechanism exists to translate those purposes into standards approved by parliament and in line with our international obligations; and the institutions that hold the Secretary of State to account are properly independent of her and her department."

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Commenting on today's report by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

“This is a heartbreaking report. Following public outcry more than 10 years ago, lessons looked like they had been learned. However this rapid reversal is yet another symptom of a system under more pressure than it can bear. The promised strategy for women offenders needs to set out how a much higher proportion of this intensely vulnerable group of women can be diverted from the criminal justice system altogether. There is rare political consensus for a radically different approach, and the government must seize the opportunity it presents to save lives in future.”

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Commenting on today’s announcement by the Secretary of State for Justice that 5,000 new prison places are to be built, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:
 
“This massive investment in new prisons is not matched by a credible plan to reduce our reckless overuse of prison in the first place. The prison estate certainly needs an overhaul, but reducing demand would mean closing prisons, not opening them. The government has admitted that it has no idea when overcrowding will cease, and this announcement takes us no closer to an answer to that crucial question.
 
“To ensure effective parliamentary scrutiny of the government's plans for prison reform, we urgently need to see a comprehensive plan for the whole prison estate—showing how demand will be reduced and closing prisons we no longer need as a result. It should include when overcrowding will end, how far prisoners’ families will be expected to travel for visits, and when every prison will be equipped to the same modern standard to do the same job of rehabilitation.”

Photo: Stacey Oliver

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New research published today by the Prison Reform Trust reveals significant variations in how police forces deal with women who come into the criminal justice system. Fair Cop? Improving outcomes for women at the point of arrest provides solutions and examples of positive work being delivered by police to tackle low level, non-violent crime committed by women. However, the report also found that opportunities are being missed to intervene early, reduce women’s offending and protect the public.

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Scotland has one of the highest rates of women’s imprisonment in northern Europe, a new report published today (8 March) on international women's day by the Prison Reform Trust reveals.

The report found that for every 100,000 women in Scotland, seven are held in prison, considerably higher than most countries in northern Europe, and more than double the rate in France (3.3 per 100,000).

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