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Women in prison have often been victims of much more serious offences than those of which they have been convicted, a new report published today by the Prison Reform Trust reveals.

The report is timely in light of the forthcoming Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill and development of the government’s strategy on women offenders. A draft version of the report was discussed at a high level PRT summit in October, chaired by the Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria Vera Baird and attended by the then-Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability, Sarah Newton MP.

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Taking responsibility behind bars

01/12/2017 00:01:00

Enabling people in prison to take responsibility for day to day life behind bars encourages a greater sense of autonomy and self-respect and contributes to better decision making by prison managers, according to a new report published today (1 December) by the Prison Reform Trust.
 
The report outlines the findings of PRT’s innovative active citizens programme, launched in 2015 with the kind support of the Milo & Violet Cripps Charitable Trust. Additional support from the Bromley Trust and the  Sir James Reckitt Charity will allow PRT to take the programme to more prisons in the coming year.

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Commenting on research on prison suicides published in the Lancet, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

"This useful research shows that reducing suicides in prison is complex. But we know in this country that between 2008 and 2014 the situation was improving before deteriorating sharply as staffing levels were drastically reduced. Good procedures and good relationships underpin every aspect of safety in prison—overcrowding is just one of the reasons both are under pressure. Tackling it is long overdue and vital to prisons delivering every aspect of the government's many ambitions for reform."

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The Prison Reform Trust has published Triage and diversion: Getting it Right 24/7, the report of a seminar held with Police Scotland earlier this year to consider the benefits and opportunities of early interventions for women. The briefing will inform an event in Edinburgh on Monday 27 November entitled Creating A Diversion—ending unnecessary imprisonment and punishment of women in the criminal justice system. The event is organised by the Scottish Working Group on Women Offenders together with the Prison Reform Trust and WFI Justice for Women, supported by Community Justice Scotland.

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Commenting on today's announcement by the Secretary of State for Justice extending the entitlement to vote to prisoners on release on temporary licence, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

"Today's announcement is a small but welcome step in the right direction to recognising voting as a normal part of rehabilitation and resettlement. However, it will only apply to a handful of prisoners, and is a long way from the norm in many other European countries where there are few or no restrictions on prisoners voting. People are sent to prison to lose their liberty, not their citizenship. If we want prisons to rehabilitate, we should expect people in prison to be able to exercise their civic responsibilities by voting in democratic elections."

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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:

"Despite a small but welcome fall in deaths, every other indicator points to the ongoing and longstanding deterioration in standards of safety in our overstretched prisons. Record levels of self-harm and assaults highlight mounting levels of frustration and despair among prisoners. Too many prisoners are held in overcrowded and impoverished conditions with too few staff to provide a safe and constructive regime. With prison numbers projected to increase, declining levels of safety will be very difficult to turn around without a concerted effort by ministers to take the pressure off the system by reducing prison numbers."

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Sarah Newton MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability, spoke today (17 October 2017) at a high-level roundtable in London to consider the links between domestic abuse and offending by some women, and what can be done to improve criminal justice responses in this area.
 
The Prison Reform Trust (PRT) organised the event in consultation with Against Violence and Abuse (AVA) with support from the Big Lottery Fund as part of PRT’s three-year National Lottery funded programme to reduce women’s imprisonment.

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Prison closure confusion

16/10/2017 15:30:00

Last week, the Ministry of Justice’s programme for modernising the prison estate was thrown into confusion, with justice minister Sam Gyimah MP, appearing to contradict the head of HM Prisons and Probation Service, Michael Spurr, about planned prison closures. Speaking at the Prison Governor’s Association Annual Conference on Wednesday, Michael Spurr said that he anticipated that “we won’t close any prisons this parliament”. However, just the following day, when responding to a question in Parliament, Sam Gyimah said that the commitment to close prisons over the next few years “very much remains”.

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The Prison Reform Trust has launched a briefing today exclusively with BBC Radio 5 Live Drive on the contribution of women’s centres to reducing women’s offending. The one page briefing condenses the important evidence underpinning women’s centres, and had been launched on the same day as the Ministry of Justice’s independent advisory board for female offenders met.

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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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