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Families play a key role supporting vulnerable people through the criminal justice system but are often let down by a lack of effective support and accessible information. Too many face high levels of social stigma and isolation, a new joint report by the Prison Reform Trust (PRT) and POPS (Partners of Prisoners and Families Support Group) reveals.

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Too many women, many of whom are mothers, are sent to prison every year to serve short sentences for non-violent crimes, often for a first offence, a new Prison Reform Trust (PRT) briefing reveals.

The briefing marks the launch of a drive by the Prison Reform Trust,  supported by a £1.2 million grant from the Big Lottery Fund, to reduce the number of women who are sent to prison for minor non-violent offences.

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Putting Prisons Right

17/07/2015 13:50:00

This week the outgoing Chief Inspector reports on prisons in severe decline. On Wednesday, without using the crisis word, the incoming Secretary of State for Justice in his first meeting with the new Justice Committee admits there are difficulties to be faced. On Friday Michael Gove gives his first speech on prisons.

Read the rest of Juliet Lyon's blog by clicking 'read more'.

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Commenting on the HM Chief Inspector of Prisons annual report 2014-15, Juliet Lyon, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“No mystery that violence, self-harm and suicide rise when you overcrowd prisons, reduce staff by almost one third, cut time out of cell and purposeful activity. The backdrop is a more punitive climate, increased injustice and uncertainty which have sucked hope out of the system for prisoners and staff. Solutions lie in good strong leadership from the new Secretary of State through to prison governors, a commitment to treat people in prison with humanity and respect and a determination to make prison an effective place of last resort.”

Read the report by clicking here

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A rapid expansion in the prison population in England and Wales over the past twenty years is placing a growing burden on the taxpayer while reoffending rates out of prison have remained stubbornly high, according to a new report by the Prison Reform Trust.

Analysis published in Prison: The Facts estimates that in 2014 the cost of holding that increased population at today’s costs was an extra £1.22bn compared with twenty years ago—a cost of over £40 per year for every UK taxpayer.

This extra funding of prison places is equivalent to employing an additional 56,000 newly qualified nurses.

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Commenting on Changing Prisons, Saving Lives: Report of the Independent Review into Self-inflicted Deaths in Custody of 18-24 year olds (The Harris Review), Juliet Lyon, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“Too many vulnerable young people are slipping through the net of mental health and welfare services and ending up behind bars. Very many of the tragic deaths described in this sobering report could have been prevented by thorough assessment and intervention at an earlier stage in these young peoples’ lives. Time and again this is what bereaved families say after struggling for years to get the help they need. The stark recommendation for the Minister to telephone families when a loved one has died in custody will come as a shock but it may well be that that only when this conversation takes place that change will result and true accountability be achieved.
 

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Lord Laming chairs independent review into links between care and custody 

An independent review of children in care, chaired by the crossbench peer Lord Laming and established by the Prison Reform Trust, is launched today to consider the reasons behind, and how best to tackle, the over representation of looked after children in the criminal justice system in England and Wales.


Following a number of requests, the deadline for written submissions to the care review has been extended until 5.00pm on Tuesday 25 August 2015.


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Progress in reducing chronic levels of overcrowding and improving treatment and conditions in prisons has been set back by the reluctance of politicians “to explain to the public the limited improvements that can be achieved by greater reliance on more and longer imprisonment,” Lord Woolf, chair of the Prison Reform Trust, said at a lecture at Inner Temple Hall this evening (1 April).

Lord Woolf chaired the original inquiry into the Strangeways riot which occurred 25 years ago today on 1 April 1990.

You can either listen to or read a copy of his full speech by clicking 'read more'.

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Twenty five years after the Strangeways riot began on 1 April 1990, chronic overcrowding driven by a near doubling of the prison population over the past two decades continues to undermine standards of decency in prisons and restrict opportunities for rehabilitation, according to a new report by the Prison Reform Trust. 

Lord Woolf’s subsequent inquiry into the causes of the disturbances constituted a wide-ranging examination of conditions in Britain’s prisons and represents the most important analysis of the penal system for the past 100 years.

Strangeways 25 years on: achieving fairness and justice in our prisonsassesses progress made against Lord Woolf’s 12 main recommendations for a more fair and just prison system. It says that many of the factors which contributed to the unrest have resurfaced today. Although the Prison Service is better able today to ensure control and security, this has threatened to set back decades of painstaking progress it has made to improve treatment and conditions.

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Commenting on the Justice Committee’s report on Prison: planning and policies, Juliet Lyon, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: 

“Written in moderate terms, this devastating report is a powerful indictment of this government’s complacent and dismissive attitude to rapidly deteriorating standards and safety in our prisons over the last two years. Soaring levels of violence, a one hundred percent increase in acts of concerted indiscipline, shocking rates of suicide and self-harm, chronic and growing overcrowding, a slump in purposeful activity, dangerously low staffing levels and plummeting staff morale reveal a prison service under unprecedented strain. There is a threshold beneath which it is no longer possible to maintain a safe and decent environment. This report reveals that we are at that threshold.

“The Justice Committee offers footholds for a fresh and effective approach to prison policy and planning. Re-evaluating the use of prison and alternatives to custody would enable an incoming government to end the one-size-fits-all model of prison building and introduce smaller units for women and young people; pay proper attention to an aging prison population; and improve resettlement through better application of technology and the sensible use of release on temporary licence and the open estate. A decent, humane prison system must be underpinned by an experienced and valued workforce, proper discretion for prison governors, an end to ministerial interference in operational matters and a truly independent prisons inspectorate accountable directly to Parliament.

“An incoming administration in May 2015 must not accept this deterioration in prison standards and conditions as the new normal. Restoring prison to its proper function as an important place of last resort in a balanced justice system is the basis on which to create a just, fair and effective penal system.”

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