Figures released today by the Ministry of Justice paint a complex picture of a prison service making heroic strides in some areas while struggling to cope with the impact of rising prison numbers and dramatic cuts to prison staff and budgets.
Commenting, Juliet Lyon, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:
“The tragic rise in the numbers of self-inflicted deaths in custody is the most vivid of the flashing warning signs of a prison service placed under unprecedented strain. Ministers must heed and not dismiss what the facts and figures are telling them. Slashing prison budgets while warehousing ever greater numbers in larger prisons overseen by fewer and less experienced staff is no way to transform rehabilitation.
“Good people have worked hard year on year to make prisons safer and more constructive places. In less than two years of thoughtless change and headline-grabbing policy, sharply rising levels of suicide and violence show just how far their work has been set back.”
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Home Secretary, the Rt Hon Theresa May MP delivered a speech last night (10 July 2014) outlining how the government is ensuring that people with mental health problems, learning disabilities and other support needs caught up in the criminal justice system are identified and diverted into appropriate healthcare and support services.
Click 'read more' to read a full transcript of the speech and download a copy of the Care not Custody briefing paper launched at the event.
The Prison Reform Trust has prepared a briefing (pdf) to assist Peers in the Second Reading debate on the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, which is scheduled to take place on Monday 30 June.
The Criminal Justice and Courts Bill is the fourth Ministry of Justice-led criminal justice bill introduced by the Coalition Government. Following the Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick’s recent warning of a “political and policy failure” in prison policy, it is difficult to understand why the government is introducing measures which will increase the size of the prison population, raise public costs and add significantly to the work of criminal justice agencies at a time when staff, resources and budgets are already overstretched.
The warning by the Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick of a “political and policy failure” in prisons is(see also PRT's lead letter in The Times) backed by the findings of a recent Prison Reform Trust report which shows a system under significant strain with high levels of overcrowding, fewer staff, worsening safety, and fewer opportunities for rehabilitation.
In the past five weeks the prison population has increased by 734 people – the size of a large prison - and now stands at 84,533.
The Prison Reform Trust has prepared a briefing to assist MPs in the Report Stage (Day Two) debate on the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill on Tuesday 17 June 2014.
The briefing focuses on New Clause 6 and New Clause 7. These new clauses would impose a mandatory jail sentence for a second conviction of carrying an offensive weapon or having an article with a blade or point in a public place or on school premises on children as young as 16.
Download a copy of the briefing by clicking here.
Commenting on the justice provisions announced in today’s Queen’s speech, Juliet Lyon, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:
“At a time when prison numbers are rising and the prison service is struggling to cope with fewer staff and resources, worsening safety and reduced rehabilitation, it is difficult to understand why the government is proceeding with measures which will add significantly to the work of criminal justice agencies and increase the prison population. Rising levels of assault, suicide rates and self harm, less constructive activity and the destabilising impact of mean and petty rules on prisoners and their families call into question the government’s overall priorities and commitment to fairness and decency behind bars.
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A new report by the Prison Reform Trust, supported by the Bromley Trust, shows a system under significant strain with fewer staff, worsening safety, and fewer opportunities for rehabilitation.
Unprecedented cuts to the Ministry of Justice budget, due to total £2.4bn by 2015-16 , are creating a race to the bottom in prison conditions and the warehousing of people in super-sized jails, according to the Prison Reform Trust’s new report Prison: the facts.
Letters and phone calls from prisoners reveal that, six months on from their introduction, new prison rules are undermining fairness and rehabilitation behind bars
Changes to prison rules introduced six months ago which include a ban on prisoners receiving books and other basic items are eliciting a strong sense of injustice in prisons and undermining opportunities for effective rehabilitation, a new briefing by the Prison Reform Trust reveals.
The Prison Reform Trust in partnership with leading thinktanks is providing platforms for the three main political parties to outline their justice proposals ahead of the 2015 general election. PRT believes there is scope for political consensus on prison reform. Parties wish to see decent, fair and purposeful prisons, a reduction in women's imprisonment, diversion and liaison services for people with mental health needs or learning disabilities and increased use of restorative justice.
You can read the first of these, ‘Prisons that work’, with Rt Hon Sadiq Khan MP, Shadow Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice by clicking this link
Banning prisoners from receiving books in prison is just one of a number of mean and petty rules introduced by the secretary of state for justice that add to the stress and strain of imprisonment, while doing nothing to promote rehabilitation and personal responsibility.