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PRT comment: HMP Nottingham

16/05/2018 00:01:00

Commenting on today’s inspection report, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“This report shames us as a nation. It speaks of a fundamental failure to administer justice in a civilised way.

“But it is not an isolated example. Between 2013 and 2017, 1,364 people died in prison in England and Wales. 447 of those took their own life, and 21 were killed by a fellow prisoner. Nottingham prison is symptomatic of a disastrous political decision to slash resources from a chronically overcrowded prison system. Local failures must be rigorously exposed, as the Chief Inspector and Ombudsman rightly have done, and must be put right. But it was a political decision that broke the prison system and it will take political leadership to fix it. That must start with using prison less—it is time for ministers to step up.”

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Following a meeting of the Prison Reform Trust’s Care not Custody programme, and subsequent correspondence with Sir Simon Wessely, chair of the Mental Health Act independent review, it was agreed that the Centre for Mental Health, Prison Reform Trust and Together for Mental Health would convene a small expert round table seminar to discuss criminal justice concerns as they relate to the Mental Health Act.
 
A seminar, chaired by Lord Bradley, was held on 10 January, and a consultation response was submitted on 17 January. Our response can be read by clicking here.
 
At a follow up meeting with Sir Simon, we were asked if we would repeat the exercise with a specific focus on learning disability and autism, and a second seminar was held on 18 April; our response can be read by clicking here.

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Prison governors should be encouraged to empty prison wings during the day and get far more prisoners out on temporary release to engage in work, training and education in the community, a new briefing by the Prison Reform Trust (PRT) says.

As part of its forthcoming employment strategy for prisoners, the government should introduce a radical approach to using release on temporary licence (ROTL) at scale across the prison estate. This would be a huge incentive to good behaviour in prison as well as an effective aid to resettlement, the briefing suggests.

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PRT comment: HMYOI Feltham A

09/05/2018 00:01:00

Commenting on today’s inspection report, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:
 
“This is an encouraging report. As the Chief Inspector notes, there have been false dawns before in difficult prisons, and it is crucial that progress at Feltham continues. But there is much for the rest of prison estate to learn from this report, especially in relation to safety. The improvement at Feltham is down to an approach that focuses on incentives for good behaviour, and resolving conflict before it turns into violence. Ministers should step back from plans in the adult estate to equip staff with more weapons, escalating the risk of violence rather than reducing it.”

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Today's edition of the Guardian (3 May) reported that the Ministry of Justice has postponed the publication of its long awaited strategy for women offenders, according to a Whitehall source. The story was also covered by BBC Radio 4's World at One.

Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, has written to the Secretary of State for Justice, David Gauke, to seek clarification and reassurance that the strategy will be published before Parliament's summer recess.

Click read more to view a copy of the letter and to read Peter's full comment

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Commenting on the government’s proposals announced today (28 April) for reform of the Parole Board, Peter Dawson, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“In calling for greater transparency and an appeal mechanism the Justice Secretary is pushing at a door his own department closed in the first place. The real scandal is that thousands of prisoners are still in prison many years beyond what their sentence required. That is because the prison and probation services between them have not come up with a plan for their safe release.

“A serious risk with these proposals is that without additional resource to back them we will see a return to lengthy parole delays which up until his forced resignation Nick Hardwick had been successful in tackling. Furthermore, without measures to guarantee the Board’s independence by establishing it as an independent court, there is a danger that decision making will become disproportionately risk averse.

“The Secretary of State needs to stop hiding behind the Parole Board and tackle the inadequacy of the prison and probation system for which he is personally accountable.”

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Commenting, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:
 
“Despite a welcome reduction in the number of self-inflicted deaths in prison over the last year, all other safety indicators have once again set records for all the wrong reasons. Record levels of self-harming; record levels of assaults on prisoners; and record levels of assaults on staff show that violence and fear is the daily reality for many people in prison. Rebuilding officer numbers is the short term solution, but if we want to improve safety in the longer term we need to take the pressure off overstretched prisons by reducing prison numbers to a sustainable level.”

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A new report, jointly published today by the Prison Reform Trust and University of Leeds, examines sexual offending amongst people with learning disabilities and/or autism.

Building on an expert, multi-sector seminar held in 2017, this new report provides a stimulus for further discussion, looking at the challenges faced both by the individuals themselves and the professionals and practitioners who work with them, suggesting practical ways forward and recommendations for improving outcomes.

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Commenting on the resignation of the chair of the Parole Board Nick Hardwick, Peter Dawson, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

"Nick Hardwick has made an important contribution to the work of the Parole Board and has been a vocal advocate for reform. His departure is a matter of real regret. The independence of the Parole Board is critical to its vital role in overseeing the safe release of prisoners, and Nick Hardwick is right to highlight the threats to its independence in his letter of resignation. It is a cornerstone of an independent parole system that decisions about the liberty of individuals should not be a matter for government ministers. In order to strengthen the confidence of the public, victims and prisoners in its work, our submission to the Parole review urges the government to establish the Parole Board as an independent legal tribunal, and make improvements to the transparency and accountability of the parole system as a whole."

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The Prison Reform Trust has written to David Gauke to submit evidence to the review of parole, announced by the Ministry of Justice in January. 

Those who live and work in our prisons will be only too familiar with the history of ill-judged policy responses prompted by high profile individual cases. So PRT’s evidence, prepared by Dr Thomas Guiney, a colleague at the Prison Reform Trust, and a leading authority on the history of parole in this country, proposes a measured set of recommendations designed to protect the parole process from improper political influence, while improving its transparency and effectiveness.

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