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Juliet Lyon, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, gave evidence to the House of Commons Welsh Affairs Committee inquiry 'prisons in Wales and treatment of Welsh offenders’ on Tuesday 13 January, the evidence session examined the ill thought through plans to build a new super-sized 2,000 place prison in Wrexham. PRT’s written evidence to the committee said that the plans are unlikely to bring the benefits to the Welsh economy that have been claimed, and are instead an English solution to an English problem.

The Committee considered the recommendation of the Silk Commission to devolve youth justice. It examined how the National Offender Management Service and Welsh Government can hold people closer to their families and support networks, improve resettlement for people returning to Wales and increase cooperation between devolved and non-devolved bodies in meeting the needs of Welsh offenders.

You can read the evidence by clicking here, or you can watch the session by clicking here. You can also read our written evidence submitted to the committee by clicking here. Coverage of the evidence session can also be read by clicking here.

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Too many women in the UK are still being sent to prison instead of receiving community sanctions and targeted support to address the causes of their offending, according to a leading women’s voluntary organisation.

The women’s prison population doubled between 1995 and 2010. Most women in prison serve short prison sentences for non-violent offences and many have themselves been victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse. In 2011 the Soroptimist UK Programme Action Committee resolved to work with the Prison Reform Trust to reduce women’s imprisonment.

Now a wealth of information gathered by 139 Soroptimists clubs across the UK has been distilled into a report that is intended to spur national and local governments into action. The report recommends the development in England and Wales of a cross-government strategy for women’s justice, led by the Minister for Female Offenders. Recommendations for improvements to the oversight of women’s justice in Scotland and Northern Ireland are also highlighted.

Download the report by clicking here.

Read the full story by clicking 'read more'.

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Christmas can be a particularly difficult time for children and parents separated by imprisonment.
 
Approximately 200,000 children in England and Wales have a parent in prison. This is over three times the number of children in care and over five times the number of children on the Child Protection Register. Figures reveal that, in 2009, more than double the number of children were affected by the imprisonment of a parent than by divorce in the family.
 
Each year over 17,000 children are separated from their mothers by imprisonment.
 
Primary care responsibilities are a mitigating factor in sentencing guidelines but many parents, particularly lone mothers, are still being locked up for petty and non-violent offences.
 
No-one routinely monitors the parental status of prisoners in the UK or systematically identifies children of people remanded or sentenced to custody or simply asked who is looking after the children left behind and do they, and the children themselves, have the support they need. Justice ministers can and should put this right.
 

Read more about mothers and fathers in custody and prisoners’ children in the latest edition of the Bromley briefing prison factfile (page 32)

You can read the BBC Newsbeat story on prisoners' children by clicking here

 


Government plans to hold young children and girls with older teenage boy in a proposed new 320-place secure college in Leicester suffered a defeat in the House of Lords on Tuesday 9 December. Peers voted by a majority of 64 to insist on an amendment, introduced in the report stage of the bill, preventing girls and boys under the age of 15 being housed in secure colleges for young offenders. Read of copy of PRT’s joint briefing with the Standing Committee for Youth Justice, the Children’s Rights Alliance and the Howard League for Penal Reform by clicking here.

You can also read the debate by clicking here.

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The high court has overturned the restrictions on prisoners receiving book under the Incentives and Earned Privileges (IEP) scheme. Changes to the IEP scheme introduced in November 2013 included a ban on prisoners receiving parcels, including books, writing materials and other basic items. The policy must now be amended so that it excludes prisoners receiving books from friends and family. In his judgement, Mr Justice Collins said that as far as books are concerned, "to refer to them as a privilege is strange".

Earlier this year the Prison Reform Trust published a briefing, Punishment without purpose, highlighting the impact of the changes to the IEP scheme on rehabilitation, fairness and decency behind bars. Commenting on the briefing in his judgment, Mr Collins said:

“A report from the Prison Reform Trust has highlighted the hostility to the new PSI and has set out concerns that it is undermining the rehabilitative purpose of prisoners. It is what is seen to be the ban on receipt of parcels or items from visitors which has provided the greatest concern. The inclusion of books in the scheme is seen as a ban. Overall, the IEP as now operated seems to fail to recognise that it is deprivation of liberty that is the penalty imposed and that any further restrictions must be fully justified.”


Read a copy of the briefing by clicking here.

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This year's Longford Lecture, was held in association with PRT  on Thursday 27 November at Church House, Westminster. Nils Öberg, Head of Sweden’s prison and probation service spoke about how Sweden is closing prisons and reducing the prison population.

Since 2004, Swedish prisoner numbers have fallen from 5,722 to 4,500 out of a population of 9.5 million, and last year four of the country’s 56 prisons were closed and parts of other jails mothballed. In contrast, the prison population in England and Wales is now 84,691 out of a population of 57 million.

Read the speech Read his interview with PRT Trustee Erwin James in the Guardian by clicking the 'read more' link below

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The Prison Reform Trust in partnership with leading thinktanks is providing platforms for the three main political parties to outline their justice proposals in the pre-election period. On Tuesday 18 November the Rt Hon Simon Hughes MP, Minister for Justice and Civil Liberties, delivered the keynote address at a meeting jointly hosted by the Prison Reform Trust and Centre Forum at the Mothers’ Union in Westminster.

Click 'read more' to read the speech.

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Making prisons safe

18/11/2014 00:01:00

With the publication of a highly critical HM Inspectorate of Prisons report on HMP Hewell today (18 November), following several deeply disturbing reports from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons, there is now mounting evidence of an unfolding crisis in our prison system. Commenting, Juliet Lyon, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“Drastic staff and budget cuts combined with rushed policy decisions have left many prisons struggling to deliver even basic standards of safety, decency and rehabilitation. A rising tide of violence, self-harm and self-inflicted deaths reflect growing frustration and despair among prisoners. Parliament must act urgently to hold Ministers to account for the degradation of an essential public service."

Read the rest of the story by clicking 'read more'.

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The Prison Reform Trust is delighted to announce the winners of the 2014 writing competition, kindly supported by the Band Trust. 

The competition attracted a record 624 entries from men, women and children in prisons and the community. Judges included Rachel Billington OBE, Kingslee 'Akala' Daley, Erwin James, Michael Morpurgo OBE, Chris Mullin and Femi Oyeniran. Prizes were awarded in three categories for comment, short story and lyric/rap. 

The competition was covered in the Guardian online last week and in the Society Guardian today

Read the winning entries by clicking here.

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The Criminal Justice and Courts Bill will have its Third Reading in the House of Lords on Monday 10 November. During the Report Stage debate the government introduced amendments into the Bill to create a new public function entitled “recall adjudicator”. This new body would carry out the review of whether determinate sentenced prisoners released on licence and subsequently recalled to prison should be re-released. The function is currently carried out by the Parole Board.
 
The Prison Reform Trust and JUSTICE share concerns regarding the practical operation of the recall adjudicator and the legal basis for the decision to create the role. We have prepared a joint briefing in support of Lord Woolf’s amendment to Clause 8 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill to provide parliamentary oversight of arrangements for the recruitment, qualifications, training and costs of recall adjudicators.

Read a copy of the briefing here

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