Letters and phone calls from prisoners reveal that, six months on from their introduction, new prison rules are undermining fairness and rehabilitation behind bars
Changes to prison rules introduced six months ago which include a ban on prisoners receiving books and other basic items are eliciting a strong sense of injustice in prisons and undermining opportunities for effective rehabilitation, a new briefing by the Prison Reform Trust reveals.
The Prison Reform Trust in partnership with leading thinktanks is providing platforms for the three main political parties to outline their justice proposals ahead of the 2015 general election. PRT believes there is scope for political consensus on prison reform. Parties wish to see decent, fair and purposeful prisons, a reduction in women's imprisonment, diversion and liaison services for people with mental health needs or learning disabilities and increased use of restorative justice.
You can read the first of these, ‘Prisons that work’, with Rt Hon Sadiq Khan MP, Shadow Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice by clicking this link
Banning prisoners from receiving books in prison is just one of a number of mean and petty rules introduced by the secretary of state for justice that add to the stress and strain of imprisonment, while doing nothing to promote rehabilitation and personal responsibility.
Some older people have committed serious crimes and it is important that justice is done, whether or not someone is aged 18 or 80.
But imprisonment for many old, disabled people can amount to a double punishment.
People aged over 60 are now the fastest growing age group in prison in England and Wales. As of last summer there were over 10,000 people aged 50 and over in prison, representing 12% of the total prison population. Many of this group have additional support needs, but caring for wheelchair-bound, doubly incontinent, often demented people is beyond what can be reasonably expected of prison staff.
Supporting women at an early stage to help them address the causes of their offending would cut crime, reduce women’s prison numbers and save the taxpayer money, according to a new briefing launched today by the Prison Reform Trust.
Brighter Futures, supported by the Pilgrim Trust, profiles innovative approaches to reducing women’s offending and calls for the development of coordinated services that bring together police, health, women’s services and local authorities to help women turn their lives around.
The former Home Secretary David Blunkett’s welcome admission that the plight of some people affected by the introduction of the Kafkaesque Indeterminate Sentence for Public Protection (IPP) was on his conscience will be of little comfort to the 3,561 people in prison serving an IPP sentence held beyond their tariff expiry date.
The Criminal Justice and Courts Bill is the fourth Ministry of Justice-led criminal justice bill introduced by the Coalition Government. The Prison Reform Trust is concerned that many of the provisions of the Bill are unnecessary and will increase the size of the prison population. They will raise public costs and add significantly to the work of criminal justice agencies in general, and the Parole Board in particular, at a time when resources and budgets are already overstretched. Many of the provisions involve significant transfers of powers to the Secretary of State, limiting the discretion of operational managers and reducing scope for effective Parliamentary scrutiny.
Plans for secure colleges could drive up the numbers of children in custody following a welcome period of decline both in youth imprisonment and youth crime. While education is vital, provision for children must take account of mental health needs, learning disabilities and difficulties, addictions and childhood abuse or neglect. This requires cooperation across government and not just another criminal justice-led response to tackling entrenched social problems.
Download a copy of our second reading briefing by clicking here.
Commenting on HM Inspectorate of Prisons report on HMP Pentonville, Juliet Lyon, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:
"Despite some welcome improvements, this report is one in a long line of inspectorate reports into large, local Victorian jails which show that the pressures of coping with shrinking budgets and rising prison numbers are turning parts of our prison estate into human warehouses, with staff who are hard pressed to provide purposeful activity, education and employment or meet even the basic needs of such a vulnerable and needy population."
Commenting on the government’s announcement today of an independent review into the deaths of young people in custody, Juliet Lyon, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:
“We welcome the government’s commitment to establish an independent review into the deaths of young people in custody. In preparation for and during the review, it will be vital that proper account is taken of the views and experiences of bereaved families. The scope of the review should extend well beyond the short journey from the court to prison. The review has the potential to go further than coroners are able, and many would like, to take account of how a young person first got into trouble, underlying vulnerability or history of abuse or neglect and the sentencing decisions that led to imprisonment.
Click 'read more' to see our full comment.
PrisonWorks, a volunteer-led charity based in the Isle of Man prison at Jurby which provides restorative programmes for prisoners to help them address the consequences of their actions, has won the Robin Corbett Award for Prisoner Rehabilitation 2014. The award is kindly supported by the Worshipful Company of Weavers.
The runner up prize was awarded to The Forgiveness Project for its preparatory restorative justice work undertaken as part of its national RESTORE programme at HMP-YOI Parc in Wales.