Ahead of next Monday's House of Lords Committee Stage debate, we’ve published two joint briefings on amendments to the Police, Crime, Sentencing & Courts Bill. The amendments would reform the IPP sentence; and introduce judicial oversight for a new power allowing the government to prevent automatic release.

You can read the joint briefing in support of amendments relating to the sentence of Imprisonment for Public Protection by clicking here.

The second briefing in support of greater judicial oversight is available to read by clicking here.

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Prison Reform Trust director, Peter Dawson has written to Jo Farrar, Second Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice and Chief Executive Officer, HM Prison and Probation Service to seek clarification on the delivery of the HMPPS Race Action Programme.

The 3-year programme has just 12 months left to run, but there is no publicly available detail about how progress will be assessed; what resources are available; what the timescales for delivery are; or what objectives it seeks to meet. What limited information has been made available has a disproportionate focus on staff, with only brief mentions of prisoners.

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Commenting on the announcement today (14 October) that Ofsted, HM Inspectorate of Prisons, and the Care Quality Commission has triggered the Urgent Notification process for Oakhill Secure Training Centre, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

“This is the third occasion that a Secure Training Centre has been found to be totally unfit to hold the children the government has entrusted to its care. It shows that our whole approach to the imprisonment of children is in urgent need of a rethink. As other governments have done before it, this administration has placed its faith in the invention of a new type of institution—on this occasion a ‘secure school’. But that looks dangerously like window dressing when the first example has yet to open nearly 5 years after the government announced this model as the way forward.

“In the meantime, custodial remand of children has increased sharply, and the government is legislating to punish children even more severely, taking less rather than more account of the scientific evidence on maturity.

“It’s time the government sought expert help to craft a practical national strategy. Without it, they are condemning more children to suffer abuse in a broken system.”

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The last 20 years has seen a dramatic increase in the number of people serving long prison sentences a new briefing published by the Prison Reform Trust today [4 October] reveals.

The briefing has been produced as part of the Prison Reform Trust’s Building Futures project, a five-year project funded by the National Lottery Community Fund to explore the experiences of people who will spend 10 or more years in custody.

Sentences for more serious crimes have become longer and far more people will now spend 10 or more years held in prison. Meeting the challenges of this change will shape the prison landscape for the foreseeable future, the briefing says.

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Commenting on the findings of today’s (29 September) report on mental health in prisons by the House of Commons Justice Committee, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said: 

“The government should be deeply ashamed of the situation this report describes. We are sending mentally ill people to prisons where conditions are guaranteed to damage their health further. The first priority must be to provide the community options that will avoid the need for prison in all but the most serious cases. But there can be no excuse either for prison environments that are guaranteed to make ill people sicker and in which people all too frequently take their own lives.

“The government can find countless millions to build new prisons, but seems reluctant to invest with the same urgency in the services that would make that unnecessary. The result is morally as well as economically indefensible.”

Click here to read the committee's findings.

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Commenting on the announcement today (21 September) that the House of Commons Justice Committee has launched an inquiry into the IPP sentence, Mark Day, Head of Policy and Communications at the Prison Reform Trust said:

“Despite its abolition nearly a decade ago, the IPP sentence continues to cast a long and doleful shadow over our justice system. Without urgent action, we soon face the prospect of a growing IPP prisoner population, as the numbers being recalled to custody outstrips those being released. We welcome this inquiry by the respected cross-party justice committee, and hope it will be the catalyst needed for the government to finally confront and deal with the toxic legacy of this unjust sentence.”

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Women in prison have revealed the devastating impact of Covid-19 restrictions on their mental health and wellbeing, in a briefing launched today by the Prison Reform Trust.

Based on evidence from women in prison from May 2020 to May 2021, as well as supporting evidence from HM Inspectorate of Prisons and other sources, the briefing looks at women’s experiences of prison during the first and second waves of the pandemic.

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PRT comment: HMP Wormwood Scrubs

09/09/2021 00:01:00

Commenting on the findings of today’s (9 September) report on conditions at HMP Wormwood Scrubs by HM Inspectorate of Prisons, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said: 

"Any signs of sustained improvement in a prison with as troubled a history as Wormwood Scrubs are welcome. But this report shows that while lockdown may have ended in the community, for many prisoners it continues in the most extreme form. This is about the fundamental problems that existed before the pandemic—overcrowding and inadequate resources—and the government doesn't have a plan to solve either."

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The Prison Reform Trust has published a briefing on the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill for the House of Lords second reading debate on the Bill which is taking place on Tuesday 14 September.

The briefing highlights particular concerns relating to the provisions of Part 7 of the Bill on sentencing and release. It also focusses on a key omission the Bill – the opportunity presented by the legislation to reform the indeterminate sentence of Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP). 

Click here to download a copy of the briefing.

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PRT comment: HMP Oakwood

03/09/2021 00:01:00

Commenting on the findings of today’s (3 September) report on conditions at HMP Oakwood by HM Inspectorate of Prisons, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

“There are crucial lessons for the whole of the prison service from this impressive report on HMP Oakwood. As ministers consider the future shape of day to day life in prisons, they need to recognise that a successful prison is a partnership between the people who work there and the people who live there. Prisoners constantly stress the importance of showing trust—doing things with them, not to them.

"Everything that matters in prison—safety, security, decency and rehabilitation—comes from the quality of relationships between staff and prisoners. None of these things can be achieved from behind a locked cell door.”

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