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Commenting on today's thematic report on living conditions in prison by HM Inspectorate of Prisons, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

“This report describes a stain on our national reputation and reveals the dreadful truth about conditions in much of our overcrowded prison system. This is a system that “demoralises and embitters” the people for whom it purports to care, encourages drug taking in prison and undermines rehabilitation on release. Incredibly, enforced inactivity is worst for the young adults with most energy to burn.  As the Chief Inspector makes clear, reform cannot be delivered against this backdrop. A significant reduction in our unnecessary and unmerciful resort to this most severe of punishments is an essential first step to a prison system of which we can feel proud rather than ashamed.”

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We are delighted that the National Council of Women Great Britain (NCW) has reaffirmed their commitment to seeing fewer women in prison, with a motion passed unanimously at their annual conference on 7 October. The Prison Reform Trust’s Programme Director for Reducing Women’s Imprisonment, Jenny Earle, spoke in favour of the motion alongside NCW members Heather Carter and Coralyn Burge, drawing attention to the high levels of non-violent, acquisitive crime committed by women, addictions, primary caring responsibilities and histories of abuse. 

Commenting, Jenny Earle said:

"NCW is an influential organisation and Prison Reform Trust is proud to be affiliated. The NCW’s call to ensure that fewer women are sent to prison and that the provision of community-based solutions is improved, especially for women with dependent children is timely, and one the Government should take heed of ahead of the publication of the forthcoming strategy for women offenders.”

Find out more about why we should focus on reducing the number of women in prison by clicking here

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The Prison Reform Trust has today (25 September) published its response to HM Treasury’s consultation on this year’s Budget, which highlights concerns about the viability of the Ministry of Justice’s prison building programme in light of the projected increase in prison numbers.

An additional and unanticipated rise in prison numbers, together with alarming new population projections, raise serious doubts about the sustainability of the prison estate transforming programme. Without the option of closing older prisons, as now appears inevitable under the current population projections, no funds are released to run the new prisons planned—still less to finance the building and running of new prisons that will be required over and above the 10 committed by the previous government.

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Photo: Stacey Oliver

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We are very pleased and excited to announce that Paula Harriott has been appointed to the role of head of prisoner engagement at the Prison Reform Trust. This new senior management position reflects our desire to give a louder voice to prisoners and their families both in meeting the challenges of prison reform and in how PRT itself operates.

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Over the last 18 months Prison Reform Trust has been encouraged to discover a variety of peer led services which provide information to prisoners about rules and procedures in custody and which complement the work that our Advice and Information service delivers.  These services help people understand the experiences they are having in prison, who they can go to for support and how to challenge any treatment which they think is not fair or decent.  

By visiting and speaking to the staff and prisoners who are running these services we have collated examples of good practice and devised a step by step toolkit for setting up a peer led service information service in a prison. This has been supported by input from Prisoners' Advice Service and St Giles Trust who have a wealth of experience and expertise in this field.

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Today the BBC Radio 4 Today programme covered the decision by the Parole Board to release James Ward. In 2006 James was given an IPP sentence with a 10 month tariff. 11 years later he remains in custody.
 
The Parole Board’s decision will come as an immense relief to James and his family who have fought tirelessly to highlight the injustice of his continued detention. His case highlights the devastating impact of the IPP on them and thousands of people serving the discredited IPP sentence, imprisoned not for what offences they did commit but for what they might do.

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PRT comment: HMP Grendon

14/09/2017 00:01:00

Commenting on today's positive inspection report on HMP Grendon, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:
 
“This excellent report shows what a stable prison with adequate resources, consistent focus and leadership can achieve. Reserving prison for only those people who really need to be there would give other prisons the breathing space to perform equally well. The answer to our prisons crisis lies in reducing demand and the new justice secretary seems to have understood that. What is needed is a plan to make it happen.”

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PRT comment: Lammy Review

08/09/2017 00:01:00

Commenting on David Lammy's independent review into the treatment and outcomes for black, Asian and minority ethnic individuals in the criminal justice system, published today (8 September), director of the Prison Reform Trust, Peter Dawson said:

“This is a seminal report. It shows through dispassionate factual analysis our criminal justice system still discriminates when it comes to ethnicity.  But it also shows that the solutions lie in accountable, fair practice which every part of the system could achieve, and which would benefit every person caught up in the system, regardless of their race or background.
 
“On her first day in office, the Prime Minister highlighted systemic disadvantage as a priority. David Lammy has delivered an unanswerable case for change with a practical set of recommendations to achieve it. The government has an opportunity to right a deep seated wrong at the heart of our justice system. The time for analysis is past—the time to act is now"

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Commenting on today's (5 September) announcement that the Scottish Government will introduce a presumption against the use of custodial sentences of less than 12 months, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:
 
“There is much for England and Wales to learn from the progressive approach to punishment outlined today by Nicola Sturgeon. In particular, extending the presumption against short prison sentences from 3 to 12 months is a sensible way of reserving prison for those that really need it. In 2016 there were over 38,000 prison sentences of under 12 months in England and Wales, served in dangerous conditions and with the highest likelihood of the person reoffending on release. What a difference a similar presumption in England and Wales could make – safer communities and safer prisons.”

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Black and mixed ethnicity women are more than twice as likely as white women in the general population to be arrested, according to a new report published today (31 August) by the Prison Reform Trust.

Black women are also more likely than other women to be remanded or sentenced to custody, and are 25% more likely than white women to receive a custodial sentence following a conviction, the report reveals. Black, Asian and minority ethnic women make up 11.9% of the women’s population in England and Wales, but account for 18% of the women’s prison population.

This report, Counted Out, is timely and has been submitted to the Lammy review ahead of its launch in September, to highlight the overlooked inequalities experienced by many Black, Asian and minority ethnic women in the criminal justice system.

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