The Sentencing Council has published new guidelines for sentencing modern slavery offences, after consultation on the proposed guidelines earlier this year.

PRT provided detailed evidence to the consultation on the proposed guideline and welcome publication of the new guideline.

In particular, we are pleased to see changes made by the Council to the guideline include two recommendations put forward in PRT evidence to the consultation:

  • The guideline now recognises previous victimisation as a factor indicating reduced culpability (this change is based on a recommendation made by the Sentencing Academy and supported by PRT)
  • The guideline now has reduced sentencing levels including more options for community penalties at the lower end of culpability and harm

Our full submission to the Council’s consultation is available here.

The Council’s response to the consultation is available here.

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HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) has published a guide to assist families and significant others who have a loved one serving an indeterminate sentence, such as a Life or IPP sentence.

The guide builds on the joint Prison Reform Trust and University of Southampton report, ‘A Helping Hand: Supporting Families in the Resettlement of People Serving IPPs’, written by Dr Harry Annison and Christina Straub, which we published in 2019. The report recommended that HMPPS should “develop appropriate information materials for families that explain the systems, processes and responsibilities related to the IPP sentence.”

The guide goes some way to meeting that recommendation, and aims to improve understanding of key stages during the sentence; suggests ways to support progression; and where to find more information and support.

Click here to download a copy of the guide.

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Commenting on the findings of today’s (20 July) Annual Report by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

“The Chief Inspector could not put it any plainer—locking prisoners in their cells all day solves nothing. The future in our prisons must be built on a foundation of good staff building good relationships with the people in their care. That can’t be delivered in an overcrowded, under-resourced system. The government’s approach to sentencing, driven by politics not evidence, makes that fundamental problem worse, not better.”

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Most women are sent to prison for non-violent offences and serve sentences of 12 months or less, a new briefing by the Prison Reform Trust reveals. 72% of women who entered prison under sentence in 2020 have committed a non-violent offence. Furthermore, 70% of prison sentences given to women were for less than 12 months.

A series of inquiries and reports over the last 20 years, as well as the government’s own ‘female offender strategy’, have all concluded that prison is rarely a necessary, appropriate or proportionate response to women who get caught up in the criminal justice system. Despite this, the government has recently announced plans to build an additional 500 prison places in the women’s estate. This is in direct contradiction to a key commitment of the female offender strategy to reduce the female prison population.

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Commenting on the findings of today’s (15 July) Criminal Justice Joint Inspection report on neurodiversity in the criminal justice system, Peter Dawson, Director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

“This outstanding report shows conclusively that the criminal justice system is failing in its core duty to treat people with neuro-divergent conditions fairly, and that the number of individuals affected is startlingly high.

“The Lord Chancellor was clearly right to commission this work. But the real test is whether he will now provide the resource and the leadership required to follow through on the six crystal clear recommendations the report makes. “

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The first 40 years of PRT

12/07/2021 11:00:00

To commemorate the first 40 years of the Prison Reform Trust, an anniversary which we celebrate in September of this year, we have published a short history setting out our work and achievements.

Produced through the kind support of both the McGrath Charitable Trust and The Sheriffs’ and Recorder’s Fund in the City of London, this short history details how the Prison Reform Trust has grown and adapted in response to the challenges set by its founders in 1981.

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Prison Reform Trust director, Peter Dawson has written to Jo Farrar, CEO of HM Prison and Probation Service and Second Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice, to highlight the confusion surrounding plans to reform prison conditions.

The Daily Mail reported last month that a Ministry of Justice “source” expected a White Paper on prisons to be published later this year, and offered a simplistic and misleading summary of what might be learned from the experience of prisoners over the last 15 months.

In the letter, Peter Dawson writes:

“We are only too pleased to work closely with officials as policy is developed…and in particular to help the department hear from prisoners. But we are deeply suspicious of these constructive and candid conversations being presented as a sufficient process to inform a White Paper on prisons, especially when the press is being fed what appears to be advance notice of a policy decision to reduce the time prisoners will spend unlocked."

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Prisoner numbers in England and Wales are projected to rise by one quarter (20,000) over the next five years. But there are no plans either to reduce overcrowding or close prisons that are clearly unfit for purpose. Efforts by the prison service to recover from the impact of the global pandemic will be fatally undermined as a result, according to a new report published today (5 July 2021) by the Prison Reform Trust. 

The report, Prison: the facts, highlights Ministry of Justice prison population projections that predict a rise to 98,700 people from the current level of 77,912 (4 June 2021) by 2026. This is due to the impact of inflationary sentencing policies, including proposals in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Bill currently before Parliament, the recruitment of 20,000 police officers, which is expected to increase charge volumes, and the recovery of the courts as Covid-19 restrictions subside.

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Commenting on the findings of the first annual report by the IMB specifically covering YOIs within England, PRT senior associate John Drew said:

"The IMB’s first annual report on conditions in children’s prisons unerringly demonstrates the harm done to children in prison during the Covid crises. An important lesson is that greater local freedom given to Governors from the outset would have meant that children were much less isolated and had better access to education.

"The IMB rightly notice more recent improvements while also identifying that the provision for children still falls well short of the minimum standards the government has previously set. The IMB also brings a fresh mind to the issue of mental health and highlights that the lack of secure mental heath facilities for children mean that many children are in custody who need specialist care in NHS facilities, much to the frustration of staff working in prisons."

Click here to read the full report

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Professor Hans Toch

24/06/2021 10:00:00

PRT staff members were saddened to hear of the death of Hans Toch, whose pioneering work inspired a generation of people committed to prison reform. Professor Toch’s writing reflected both a rigorous analysis and a humane and affirming spirit—a rare combination. He was one of the first to advocate for giving prisoners a voice in the running of a prison. His insightful explorations into prison reform, how to survive in prison, mental illness, and prison violence provided practical reforms that remain urgently needed. We who work for a fairer, more humane prison system are forever in his debt.

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