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As the Justice Secretary announces 70 resettlement prisons, briefing finds budget cuts and overcrowding are leading to less purposeful activity, reduced regimes and more time in cell.

Massive cuts in prison staff and budgets are placing overcrowded prisons in England and Wales under unprecedented strain and undermining government plans to transform rehabilitation, the Prison Reform Trust's new iPad app Prison: The Facts, Bromley Briefings Online, reveals.

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Women and alternative sentencing

24/06/2013 14:25:00

Jenny Earle, director of PRT’s Programme to Reduce Women’s Imprisonment, took part in a panel discussion on Woman’s Hour which broadcast a special programme examining alternatives to prison for low-risk women offenders on Wednesday 19 June.

The programme featured moving accounts from women who have received support from Anawim women’s centre in Birmingham, and the panel included Joy Doal of Anawim and Alan Beith MP, Chair of the Justice Select Committee. The Minister Helen Grant MP was also interviewed and expressed her support for community sentences and the work of women’s centres.

You can listen to the show here

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The Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has said better community alternatives to women’s imprisonment are a priority in the Scottish Government’s plans to reform women’s justice.

Speaking ahead of a reception in the Scottish Parliament this afternoon (Wednesday) to mark the initiative by the Soroptimists and the Prison Reform Trust to reduce women’s imprisonment across the UK and to publicise their action pack, he said:

“Reducing reoffending, improving the circumstances of women in prison and seeking better community-based alternatives to imprisonment for women continue to be priorities for the Scottish Government  – indeed, that’s why we established the Commission on Women Offenders.”

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The Prison Reform Trust, in partnership with the University of the Third Age and Pact (the Prison Advice and Care Trust), will today (Monday 20 May 2013) launch two new resources for the public at a reception at Manchester Town Hall.

Where Do You Stand? and What Can I Do? are designed to inform debate by busting myths about the penal system, and to equip people to get involved in making a difference by promoting a wide range of volunteering opportunities.

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Soroptimist (UK), in partnership with the Prison Reform Trust, will today (Wednesday 15th May 2013) launch an action pack at a reception at the Pierhead in Cardiff to support their initiative to reduce women’s imprisonment across the UK.

More than eight out of ten of sentenced women entering prison have been convicted of non-violent offences. Many have young children. Many have themselves been the victims of serious crime, including domestic violence, sexual abuse and rape.

 

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Commenting on the government’s plans announced in the Queen’s Speech to extend probation supervision to short sentenced prisoners, Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“According to government figures, community sentences are better at cutting reoffending than a short spell behind bars. So, rather than use prison as a gateway to rehabilitation for over 50,000 petty offenders, the Justice Secretary should ensure that cost effective, robust community penalties are available to all courts in England and Wales.

“For those whose offending is so serious to warrant up to a year in custody, then supervision, support and drug treatment on release make some sense. There is a downside: a year of demands and an inflexible approach to breach of license conditions could refill our prisons and spin people through the revolving door of prison and crime.”

“Payment by results is untried and untested in the criminal justice system. Reform should be properly thought through and based on evidence of what works. The government should build on best practice rather than risk fragmenting the probation service and undermining the vital role played by small voluntary organisations in the delivery of services for vulnerable offenders. Is it wise to widen the ambit of the criminal justice industry when many of the solutions to crime lie in prevention, housing, employment, mental health and social care and treatment for addictions?”


Click read more to read our submissions to the Transforming Rehabilitation consultation.


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Commenting on the government’s proposed reforms to the Incentives and Earned Privileges (IEP) scheme, Juliet Lyon, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“Tough political talk, budget cuts and reduced staffing levels are all piling pressure on prisons and prisoners. However new proposals to focus on the first two weeks in custody, the riskiest time for vulnerable people, present an opportunity to ensure proper induction and enable prisoners to make best use of their time behind bars.

Click read more to see the full comment.

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Soroptimist (UK), in partnership with the Prison Reform Trust, will today (Thursday 25 April 2013) launch an action pack at a reception in the House of Commons to support the Soroptimists’ initiative to reduce women’s imprisonment in the UK.

Click this link to find out more and download the pack

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Adult social care services have a vital, and often overlooked, role in supporting the large number of people with multiple needs who offend to desist from crime, according to a new joint briefing by the Prison Reform Trust, the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), the Centre for Mental Health and Revolving Doors Agency.

Click this link to read more and download the report 

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Commenting on the Justice Minister Helen Grant’s announcement in Parliament today of measures to provide a greater focus on the support and rehabilitation of female offenders, Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

The Minister’s announcement should be a catalyst for coordinated cross-government action to reduce women’s prison numbers. Over 10,000 women were sent to prison every year, most to serve short sentences for non-violent crimes. Many women in prison have themselves been the victims of serious crime, including domestic violence, sexual abuse and rape. Mental health problems, drug and alcohol addiction and self-harm are particularly common among women in prison. Each year, more than 17,000 children are separated from their mothers by imprisonment.

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