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"I understand the disappointment at our decision not to take the government to court. Fundamentally, our case was that we believed the Lord Chancellor was ignoring advice that around 15,000 prisoners needed to be released in the interests of safety. What we have discovered through the action is that the situation is fluid and that the Government’s current position is informed by the public health advice that was published last Friday. Our lawyers have therefore advised that the most effective way forward at this time is to continue to apply pressure.

"We are not giving up. Managing the pandemic in prisons puts enormous strain on those who live and work in our prisons, and those who care for them. The need for there to be many fewer people in prison will not change and we will continue to make that case. The information we have gained this week because of the threat of legal action will be crucial in doing that. But we have to do it in the way we think is most likely to get the right result."

Peter Dawson
Director

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Commenting on the findings of today’s (30 April) report by the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

“This is a deeply shaming report. It shows how far below the standards of a civilised country our prison system has fallen. While attention is naturally focussed on managing the immediate crisis, this searing account highlights the reasons why that task has been made exponentially more difficult, and why we should never return to ‘business as usual’ in our prisons. As the committee rightly observes, overcrowding lies at the root of the problem and the government cannot build its way out of all the harms it causes. The solution lies in a radical change in who we send to prison, and for how long.”

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On Tuesday 28 April 2020 the government’s lawyers responded to our letter before claim threatening judicial review proceedings. The challenge centred on the Secretary of State for Justice’s failure to release people from prison despite the government’s announcement of 4 April 2020 that this was required in response to Covid-19.

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Following the publication of the Ministry of Justice report, Tackling racial disparity in the criminal justice system: 2020 in February this year, the HMPPS External Advice and Scrutiny Panel (EASP)—established following David Lammy's independent review in 2017—wrote to raise its concerns that it had been wrongly represented.

The report did not make clear that the EASP continued to have concerns that safeguards to address racially disproportionate outcomes in use of force were inadequate, and that they were very likely to persist in the use of PAVA incapacitant spray. 

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The Prison Service has now published guidance about prison releases in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Full details are included in documents called ‘End of Custody Temporary Release’ and ‘Covid-19: Use of Compassionate ROTL’ which can be found by clicking here.

We have summarised some of the key points of these policies, which you can read by clicking here.

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Dr Ruth Mann

27/04/2020 12:00:00

We were very sad to hear that Dr Ruth Mann passed away over the weekend. Ruth has been a friend to PRT for many years and many of us knew her well. It is unusual for someone to be able to combine prison research at the highest standards with a positive, humane sensibility that inspires hope. But that rare combination seemed to come naturally to Ruth. Her work consistently championed the supportive, decent and life-changing dimensions of prisons that bring out the best in staff and prisoners. She was a pioneer in her vision of a rehabilitative culture, seeing the potential in people to create caring and purposeful institutions. Anyone who knew or worked with Ruth could only be improved and uplifted by the experience. Her legacy is immense, and we will treasure it.

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As the coordinator of Lancashire Women’s Enhanced Through The Gate (ETTG) services for women within HMP/YOI Styal, Therese Sanders knows that release from prison can be a very stressful time, both for those being released and their families. In normal times, Therese and her probation colleagues, who are all based within the prison, meet with women 12 weeks prior to their release to prepare them for settling back into the community and to address any specific needs they may have. But these are not normal times.

PRT associate Sarah Beresford examines the lack of information and communication about early release, and the impact it is having on people leaving prison, their families, and the organisations supporting them.

Click 'read more' to read her blog

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The two leading prison reform groups in the country have today (Friday 17 April) sent a formal letter before claim to the Secretary of State for Justice, Robert Buckland, over the government’s failure to respond effectively to the coronavirus pandemic in prisons.

The letter, from lawyers acting for the Howard League for Penal Reform and the Prison Reform Trust, gives details of a proposed application for judicial review in relation to the Secretary of State’s response “to the obvious need…to substantially reduce the prison population to save lives and avoid a public health catastrophe both within prisons and beyond”.

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Prison Reform Trust director Peter Dawson has submitted evidence to the House of Commons Justice Committee today, to assist in its role in scrutinising the government's response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

PRT will continue to regularly share evidence with the committee, drawn from our contact with people in prison and those working to support them during this exceptionally difficult time.

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The Prison Reform Trust and the Barrow Cadbury Trust have partnered with The Griffins Society to support two fellowships in 2020–21 focused on the treatment of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) women in prison or more broadly across the criminal justice system. We encourage applications for the fellowships from BAME practitioners. The closing date for applications is Noon, 31 July.

Click 'read more' to find out more about the fellowships programme and how you can apply.

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