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Late last year, the Prison Reform Trust’s advice and information service received a number of enquiries from people held in private prisons, regarding the cost of electronically transferring money into their prison account from families outside. Public sector prisons have also recently introduced such a service, however, unlike in private prisons this service is provided at no cost to either the sender or recipient. In response, we approached Unilink, the provider of the Secure Payment Service, to discuss how the situation might be able to be improved for those held in private prisons.

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In an innovative partnership, supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Oxford University and the Prison Reform Trust have come together to create new resources, including films and briefings, for criminal justice professionals to help improve their understanding of the impacts of maternal imprisonment.

It is estimated that 17,000 children every year are affected by maternal imprisonment in England and Wales. 95% (16,000) of these children are forced to leave their homes as their mother's imprisonment leaves them without an adult to take care of them.

Despite this, no government agency has responsibility for ensuring the welfare of these children is safeguarded and their rights are protected.

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Commenting on the Ministry of Justice's safety in custody statistics published today, Mark Day, head of policy and communications at the Prison Reform Trust, said:
 
"A new ministerial team must get to grips with an epidemic of violence behind bars which shows no sign of abating. Despite a small but welcome fall in deaths in the latest figures, every other indicator points to the ongoing and longstanding deterioration in standards of safety in prisons. Back to basics on prison reform cannot just mean fixing broken windows and cleaning dirty and infested accommodation, necessary though this is. It must also include a concerted and sustained effort to take the pressure off overstretched prisons by reducing prison numbers to a sustainable level."

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PRT comment: HMP Liverpool

19/01/2018 00:01:00

Commenting on today's HM Inspectorate of Prisons report on HMP Liverpool, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:
 
“We should all be ashamed that people are treated in this way in the 21st century, whatever their crime or the charge they face. But the answer cannot be confined to a new Governor and whatever sticking plaster the ministry can afford. Liverpool is just the latest example of a prison failing both its prisoners and the public. The responsibility for the problem ultimately lies with the politicians who have inflated maximum sentences while starving the prison service of the resources it needs to cope. Those same politicians need now to take ownership of the solution, reversing sentence inflation and having the courage to end our love affair with imprisonment.

“In the short term, if we are to continue to operate Victorian prisons like Liverpool, Wormwood Scrubs, Pentonville and many others, they need to be adequately resourced to deliver decent physical conditions and days spent in work and education, not behind a cell door.”

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Commenting on the decision of the Chief Inspector of Prisons Peter Clarke to issue an urgent notification in response to safety concerns at HMP Nottingham, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

"When a prison is failing in its basic duty to keep prisoners safe, it is right that the chief inspector is making prompt use of the notification power given to him by the previous secretary of state. Everything now turns on the current secretary of state providing an adequate response and seeing it through."

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Commenting on the findings of the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman report on discrimination complaints, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“This report by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman adds to the growing weight of evidence that prisons are failing to tackle discrimination. It echoes the findings of our own research, showing that many people, legitimately seeking answers, face unacceptable delays and inadequate responses. The neglect of remedies for unfair treatment should concern us all. A well functioning complaints system is a fundamental part of a successful prison service. It allows grievances to be resolved at an early stage and provides vital opportunities for prisons to learn. The government is failing to meet its legal responsibilities to promote equality in criminal justice. The Ombudsman’s report helps to show what government must do to repair the processes of resolving complaints about discrimination.”


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PRT comment: Parole Board review

08/01/2018 12:10:00

Commenting on the announcement of a Parole Board review, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

“We welcome the announcement of a parole board review to ensure the decision making process is transparent for victims, prisoners and the wider public, while at the same time protecting its vital independence. The Chair of the Parole Board, Nick Hardwick, deserves much praise for his candid and uncomplicated response to public scrutiny. Giving him the ability to say more about the process by which decisions are arrived at has the potential to increase public confidence in the system. Similarly, he is clearly right to want to check that the system carries out the sensitive work of keeping victims informed to the highest possible standard. PRT will contribute to the review, which we hope will strengthen the important work of an independent parole board in a fair and balanced justice system."

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Commenting on the government’s response to the Lammy Review, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:
 
“This is a comprehensive response that aims to meet the spirit as well as the letter of David Lammy’s report. But key recommendations on the judiciary have been rejected, outcomes for women are neglected, and very few of the promises of action have deadlines for completion. No new resources are promised to support any of this work, and the degree of external scrutiny proposed is very modest.

“So, as the government acknowledges, everything now depends on the evidence of change on the ground. Equality requires perpetual vigilance. The Lammy Review’s recommendation of an ‘explain or reform’ discipline must become a permanent foundation, running throughout every stage of criminal justice. We are a long way from that, and trust will only develop if people from BAME communities, including those in prison, see good words turned into action.”

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The latest edition of the Prison Reform Trust's Bromley briefings prison factfile highlights in facts and figures the consequences of a punitive political arms race over criminal justice policy over the past three decades. Steep cuts to prison staff and budgets in recent years have exposed the fault lines of a failed approach. The result is an overcrowded and overstretched prison system where standards of safety and decency are way below international expectations.
 
This year’s Bromley briefings open with a brand new section which we have called “The long view”. The Prison Reform Trust has built its reputation over more than three decades on presenting accurate evidence about prisons and the people in them. In a world where ministers feel compelled to respond to issues with ever greater immediacy, “The long view” offers an antidote to the latest Twitter storm or early morning grilling in the media.

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Today, on the same day that MPs will debate the government’s prison reform and safety plans, the Prison Reform Trust has published a paper it has commissioned from a former Prison Service Finance Director, Julian Le Vay.
 
The paper analyses the Ministry of Justice’s ambitions for prison building in the light of its current spending review settlement with HM Treasury.
 
It concludes that the Ministry of Justice’s current plans are inadequately funded to the tune of £162m in 2018/19, rising to £463m in 2022/23.

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