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Commenting on today's publication of Safety in Custody statistics by the Ministry of Justice, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

"Another record low in standards of safety should leave no one in any doubt of the need to relieve the pressure on our failing prison system. We know that the worst outcomes happen in overcrowded prisons. Reducing the population can no longer be an afterthought—it is the only realistic way to make our prisons safe in the foreseeable future."

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The House of Commons Justice Committee was today (18 January) taking oral evidence for its inquiry into prison reform. Prison Reform Trust Director, Peter Dawson, was alongside Andrea Albutt of the Prison Governors' Association and Ralph Valerio of the Prison Officers' Association, to outline his views on the government's proposals so far for improving prison performance and governor empowerment.

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Commenting on the Prime Minister's speech on mental health on 9 January, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, Peter Dawson said:

"We welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement to tackle the ‘hidden injustice’ and stigma of mental illness, and additional investment in training and community care. High numbers of men, women and children in contact with criminal justice services experience mental illness, and liaison and diversion schemes can help facilitate access to mental health and other community services at an early stage. 

"Early intervention can help prevent escalating levels of need and expensive crisis intervention. For example, research demonstrates that for every £1 spent on women’s services, between £5 and £11 of benefits is realised in improved health and independence for women and their families.

"But that long term dividend can’t be realised without investment, not just in training and awareness but in the services which people need as the hidden injustice starts to see the light of day. A change in attitudes is not enough on its own."

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Prison safety and reform

10/01/2017 08:00:00

The long awaited Ministry of Justice's white paper on prison safety and reform was published in November.

Whilst there is much to welcome, the aspirations in the white paper can only be met through the delivery of very detailed policy development, most of which has yet to be undertaken.

There are also some critical elements of reform missing, including measures to reduce the demand for prison places; standards for decency and fairness; and providing a role for prisoners in designing and delivering reform.

You can read our full response to the white paper by clicking here.

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Ambulance call outs to prison

09/01/2017 12:40:00

Yesterday (8 January) Director of the Prison Reform Trust, Peter Dawson took part in BBC Radio 5 Live investigates. Figures show that the number of ambulance call-outs to prisons in England has increased by nearly 40 per cent in the last three years—with an ambulance being called on average every 45 minutes.

Peter highlighted the intense pressures that prisons and people in them are facing, with the effects of an overcrowded and under resourced system now plain to see. High levels of overcrowding, coupled with a reduction in operational staff numbers have brought about a rapid decline in standards of safety and decency within our prisons. With levels of assaults, self-harm and deaths at record highs, as highlighted in our most recent Bromley Briefings Prison Factfile.

You can listen again to the show by clicking here.

Photo: Lydia under creative commons

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Recognising achievement

06/01/2017 12:00:00

With our prisons and the people in them under severe strain, it is easy to lose sight of some of the remarkable work going on in spite of these challenging circumstances.

This year's New Year's Honours include recognition for a number of people for their commitment to helping people in prison, including Clive Martin, Roma Hooper, Sue McAllister and Lynn Saunders.  We'd like to extend our congratulations to them all.

HMP Whatton, the prison that Lynn Saunders governs, also received recognition last week from HM Inspectorate of Prisons for its positive work to reduce the risks posed by higher risk prisoners.

Click 'read more' for our response to the inspectorate's report.

Photo: dconvertini under creative commons

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Christmas in prison

23/12/2016 00:01:00

"Christmas day in prison. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. For over 10 years I spent every Christmas morning in prison and the only conclusion I reached was that every individual has to find their own way through a difficult season."

Read PRT Director, Peter Dawson's reflections on spending Christmas in prison by clicking 'read more'.

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Today sees the publication of two briefings which present learning from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust (WCMT) Prison Reform Fellowships. From 2010–2015, the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust funded Travelling Fellowships with a particular focus on prison reform across the world. The Fellowships are the result of an innovative partnership between WCMT and the Prison Reform Trust. 

These two briefings, authored by Jessica Jacobson and Helen Fair of the Institute for Criminal Policy Research, Birkbeck, University of London, highlight some of the learning from these Fellowships in maintaining contact between prisoners and their families and problem-solving approaches to criminal justice

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The 30 most overcrowded prisons in England and Wales are twice as likely to be rated as failing by the prison service compared with prisons overall, a new analysis published with the latest annual edition of the Prison Reform Trust’s Bromley Briefings Prison Factfile, kindly supported by the Bromley Trust, reveals.
 
The new analysis of Ministry of Justice prison population and prison performance ratings by the Prison Reform Trust suggests that overcrowding is undermining the resilience of establishments and their ability to maintain safety and decency in the face of steep cuts to staffing and resources. 

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PRT comment: HMP Hindley

29/11/2016 00:01:00

Commenting on today's report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:
 
"We are used to dreadful inspection reports about dilapidated, overcrowded Victorian prisons. HMP Hindley is none of these things, and this damning verdict is all the more troubling as a result. It shows that a lack of decency will undermine a prison, regardless of its physical condition and facilities. The Chief Inspector is right to make this a test of the government's ability to respond swiftly and effectively when a prison is failing."

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