Commenting on today’s (25 November 2015) announcement, Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:
“Selling off Holloway for social housing is the clearest message to the courts that prison is not the place to dump vulnerable women who have committed petty, non-violent offences and who have so often been victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse themselves. The money raised must be invested in effective community sentences and women’s centres and not just funnelled down the prison building drain.
"Justice Ministers across the UK are saying that they will act to reduce the needless imprisonment of women. This means that women who have offended will have their first real opportunity to beat drugs, drink, mental illness and crime, and take responsibility for their lives, and those of their children. Most will take it."
Ahead of today's (25 November) Spending Review the Care not Custody Coalition, established following the tragic death by suicide of a WI member's son suffering from schizophrenia, has written a letter in today's edition of The Times.
You can read the letter by clicking 'read more'.
Over 9,000 women were received into prison last year, most of them for non-violent offences, many of them leaving dependent children behind. An estimated 17,240 children, including many under 5 years old, are separated from their mothers by imprisonment. The impact on children can be profound and long-lasting – including increased risks of mental illness and anti-social behaviour. Only 5% of children with a mother in prison are able to stay in the family home – and only 9% are cared for by their fathers. By contrast, most children with an imprisoned father remain with their mother.
In a discussion paper published today (24 November), the Prison Reform Trust 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. Based on this analysis, it proposes a number of reforms to reduce the number of children separated from their mothers through imprisonment.
Click 'read more' for the full story.
As we begin Prisons Week (15–21 November) Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, has written an article in this month's edition of The Friend magazine. You can read the full article by clicking 'read more'.
“Prison is a place where people are sent as a punishment, not for further punishments...Human beings whose lives have been reckoned so far in costs—to society, to the criminal justice system, to victims and to themselves—can become assets—citizens who can contribute and demonstrate the human capacity for redemption.”
These were the words of the incoming Secretary of State for Justice, Michael Gove, in July this year. For Friends, and others with a longstanding commitment to prison reform, this was a welcome reassertion of the principles which should underpin any civilised penal system. So far so good. However, the Justice Secretary has inherited a system that is deteriorating both on internal and external measures, and a requirement to carve anything from 25% to 40% out of its budget over the next five years.
Commenting on today’s (9 November 2015) announcement that the Ministry of Justice will build nine new prisons, Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:
“The Justice Secretary’s commitment to better conditions and more effective rehabilitation are welcome. Many of our prisons need to be shut down.
"But prison reform is about more than replacing old buildings. The crisis he faces now is with prisons that have deteriorated sharply as budgets have been slashed and staff numbers cut. Pressure on the system has to be relieved by revising the sentencing framework and curbing ever lengthening sentence lengths , investing now in diverting addicts and people with mental health needs into treatment and dealing with the forgotten thousands of prisoners still held long beyond terms set by courts.
"To live within his means, Michael Gove needs to close many more prisons than he builds. He can do that safely and the time has come to set out how.”
You can also read our response to the Spending Review by clicking here.
In July this year, the Harris Review published its report into self-inflicted deaths of 18–24 year olds in custody. Ahead of the publication of the government's response, the House of Lords will debate the review's findings for the first time today (29 October).
The Prison Reform Trust has produced a briefing for peers and interested parties which can be downloaded by clicking here. The briefing highlights the need for early diversion into treatment and support; the importance of considering maturity, rather than age; the role of specialist training for staff working with young adults; and building on the successful reduction in youth custody numbers and crime over the last seven years.
You can watch the debate live on the Parliament website by clicking here, it should begin in the late afternoon on 29 October.
Too many women, many of whom are mothers, are sent to prison every year to serve short sentences for non-violent crimes, often for a first offence, a new Prison Reform Trust (PRT) briefing reveals.
The briefing marks the launch of a drive by the Prison Reform Trust, supported by a £1.2 million grant from the Big Lottery Fund, to reduce the number of women who are sent to prison for minor non-violent offences.
Commenting on the HM Chief Inspector of Prisons annual report 2014-15, Juliet Lyon, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:
“No mystery that violence, self-harm and suicide rise when you overcrowd prisons, reduce staff by almost one third, cut time out of cell and purposeful activity. The backdrop is a more punitive climate, increased injustice and uncertainty which have sucked hope out of the system for prisoners and staff. Solutions lie in good strong leadership from the new Secretary of State through to prison governors, a commitment to treat people in prison with humanity and respect and a determination to make prison an effective place of last resort.”
Read the report by clicking here