Commenting on the allegations made in the BBC Panorama programme broadcast on Monday 11 January 2016 regarding Medway Secure Training Centre (STC), Peter Dawson, Deputy Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:
“The evidence Panorama has produced is profoundly shocking. Those who abuse and those who turn a blind eye must be brought to book. Police investigations need to be concluded quickly and prosecutions follow.
“The allegation that records are routinely falsified is also very serious, and the future of Medway must be considered by ministers. But the issue goes well beyond one secure training centre. The abuse of authority by staff is a constant and severe risk in any custodial institution. It is one of many reasons why locking up children must always be an absolute last resort. The safeguards in Secure Training Centres (STCs) and Young Offender Institutions are comprehensive in theory. But the fact that they have failed so terribly in this instance must make us ask whether those safeguards actually work.”
Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust
Most people would say they know something about prison. They recognise the abiding austere image of the barred cell window or, in contrast, the holiday camp, beloved by the tabloid press, where old lags are reported to laze at taxpayers' expense. Yet, despite our zest for incarceration, few really know what life is like beyond the locked iron gates.
Prisons are our least visible, most beleaguered public service. At the close of the year, 70 of 117 prisons in England and Wales are overcrowded. As prison numbers soared to over 85,000 in 2015, drastic budget cuts saw staff numbers plummet. Serious assaults rose and purposeful activity fell to highest and lowest recorded levels respectively. The facts and figures about the state of our prisons and the state of people in them are carefully laid out and referenced in our Bromley Briefings Prison Factfile, Autumn 2015.
To read the full article click 'read more'.
On 17 December, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted the revised UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners—the Nelson Mandela Rules.
Whilst not legally binding, the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, adopted sixty years ago, provide guidelines for international and domestic law for citizens held in prisons and other forms of custody; as well as providing the framework for inspection and monitoring of prisoner treatment.
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People held in segregation in prisons experience impoverished regimes with poor levels of purposeful activity. More than half suffer from three or more mental health problems, an in-depth research report published today (17 December 2015) by the Prison Reform Trust reveals. The report finds that segregation units and close supervision centres (CSCs) entail social isolation, inactivity, and increased control of prisoners—a combination proven to harm mental health and wellbeing.
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An explosion in the use of indeterminate sentences and the increased use of long determinate sentences are key drivers behind the near doubling of prison numbers in the past two decades. The latest edition of the Bromley Briefing Prison Factfile, published today (30 November) by the Prison Reform Trust, reveals the cost of our addiction to imprisonment in wasted time, money and lives.
For the full story click 'read more'.
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.
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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.