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Commenting on today's HM Inspectorate of Prisons report of HMP Wormwood Scrubs, Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

“This shattering report on London’s best-known Victorian jail reveals levels of Dickensian squalor which ought to have been consigned to the history books. Inspectors found deteriorating levels of safety, poor staff/management relations, high use of force, inadequate support for people at risk of suicide and self-harm and a prison awash with drink and drugs. Most men were locked up 22 hours a day and the prison was filthy and rat-infested. These inhumane, degrading conditions have no place in a modern justice system. No prison goes downhill overnight. Putting things right is a litmus test for a government publicly committed to reform.”

You can download the report by clicking here.

photo: Chmee2 under creative commons.

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In his budget George Osborne announce a potential devolution of criminal justice commissioning to Greater Manchester. In this article published in the Justice Gap Peter Dawson, PRT’s deputy director, examines what this might entail and what consequences such a move would have for the criminal justice system generally.

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Women's justice reform

08/03/2016 07:30:00

The Prison Reform Trust has long called for a reduction in women’s imprisonment in the UK and a step change in how the criminal justice system responds to the needs of women and the drivers to their offending.

Following the announcement that HMP Holloway, the largest women's prison in Europe, is to close, director of the Prison Reform Trust, Juliet Lyon, joined Baroness Corston on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour to discuss how much progress has been made in reforming women's justice. Presenter, Jane Garvey visited HMP Styal and Stockport Women's Centre to hear first hand from women there. You can listen to the show by clicking here.

To mark International Women's Day (8 March) we brought together some of the latest developments in our Transforming Lives programme.

Find out about our new women's justice site, our latest briefings and blogs and hear our director Juliet Lyon at the Southbank Centre's WOW – Women of the World festival.

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London-based charity Switchback has won the Robin Corbett Award for Prisoner Rehabilitation 2016. This innovative charity, which was nominated for its work at HMP/YOI Isis in Thamesmead, uses catering, combined with intensive mentoring, as a way to help prisoners into training and employment on release. The charity has worked with professional chefs including the campaigner, food writer, broadcaster, and Switchback Partner, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. 

Commenting, Fearnley-Whittingstall said: “We love our work with Switchback. It’s a fantastic organisation that gives people an amazing chance.”

The second prize was awarded to St Giles Trust for their work at HMP Huntercombe to help foreign nationals held in prison with support and advice to prepare them for their release and reduce their risk of future offending. 

The awards, kindly supported by the Worshipful Company of Weavers, will be presented to the winners by Lady Corbett at a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Penal Affairs Group in the Houses of Parliament today [Tuesday 23 February 2016]. The award was established in 2012 in memory of the former chair of the All Party Group Lord Corbett.

The award received coverage in the Daily Mirror, which you can read by clicking here.

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Commenting on today’s judgement by the Supreme Court in the cases of R v Jogee (Appellant) Ruddock (Appellant) v The Queen (Respondent)(Jamaica) concerning the application of the doctrine of joint enterprise, Juliet Lyon, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“This judgement brings useful clarity to a complex area of law which has been the subject of increasing concern from the cross-party justice committee, criminal justice professionals, policy-makers, penal reformers and others. In some instances sentencing under joint enterprise has acted as a dragnet. For families, victims and offenders, this judgement should prompt more precise and proportionate decisions at each stage in the criminal justice process.

“The court's ruling that the law "took a wrong turning" will undoubtedly bring back to court cases where the original outcome was unjust. It is impossible to say how many cases this will affect but it is essential that resources are provided to allow appeals to be considered promptly.”

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On Wednesday 10 February Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Michael Matheson MSP delivered a speech at a packed workshop in Edinburgh on Women and Criminal Justice in Scotland, jointly organised by the Prison Reform Trust and the Criminal Justice Voluntary Sector Forum, to review progress towards implementing the Angiolini Commission recommendations to reduce the unnecessary imprisonment of women in Scotland.

Yvonne Donald is Programme Manager for Scotland and is based in Edinburgh with Families Outside, who are jointly leading the work to support the change of direction in Scotland in favour of small custodial units and community-based provision.

Michael Matheson’s speech was delivered ahead of an announcement by the Scottish Government, that HMP Cornton Vale would close. This is to allow preparatory work to begin ahead of the construction of a new national prison, which will hold significantly fewer women.

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Deputy Director, Peter Dawson has written his thoughts on David Cameron's speech.

An honest reaction to David Cameron’s speech on prison reform? Well, more meat than might have been expected—and a really welcome rabbit out of the hat in ‘banning the box’ for all civil service appointments, allowing ex offenders to compete on fair terms for several hundred thousand jobs. The Prime Minister robustly dismissed the myths both that prison is too soft, and that mass imprisonment might reduce crime.
But some very big questions remain for Michael Gove to answer over the next few months.

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Commenting on David Cameron's call to rethink of the way the prison system in England and Wales treats pregnant women and mothers with babies, Juliet Lyon, Director of Prison Reform Trust, said: 

"There is huge sense in making sure that women pay back for what they have done in the community rather than suffer harsh separation from babies and toddlers in prison and the long term damage that does."

The Prison Reform Trust recently published a discussion paper, Sentencing of Mothers, proposes a number of reforms to reduce the number of children separated from their mothers through imprisonment. The paper considers sentencing policy, process and practice through a review of case law and research evidence, talking to mothers in prison, and consultations with key individuals and organisations.

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Trustees and staff are delighted to announce that James Timpson OBE is to chair the Prison Reform Trust from April 2016. James is Chief Executive of Timpson, a family business of 1400 shops across the UK and Ireland. Named last week as one of the Sunday Times’ Britain’s 500 most influential people, he is well known and respected for his leading role in training, mentoring and employing former prisoners—with 10% of Timpson colleagues recruited directly from prison.

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James has also written a blog for the Huffington Post, which you can read by clicking here.

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Charities and local businesses are struggling to fill volunteer and work placements as a result of strict rules on the temporary release of prisoners introduced by the former Justice Secretary Chris Grayling.

The changes to release on temporary licence (ROTL) are squandering the goodwill of voluntary and private sector organisations and preventing prisoners from getting jobs and training in the community to help them turn their lives around, a joint briefing published today by Clinks and the Prison Reform Trust reveals.

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