PRT comment: ‘Time’

14/06/2021 16:40:00

Reacting to the new BBC drama ‘Time’, Peter Dawson, Director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

“ ‘Time’ condenses a lot of experiences into one man’s story, but it is telling a fundamental truth about our prison system. Too many people—many of them very unwell—are being forced to live in overcrowded, dilapidated prisons. Years of political neglect have produced a system that makes life more dangerous both for those inside it and for the communities they will rejoin on release. This government, with its addiction to more prison, is making exactly the same mistake.”

Former Prison Reform Trust Trustee and Editor of Inside Time, Erwin James was also interviewed by The Sun, which you can read by clicking here.

Peter Dawson was interviewed for an opinion piece in The Guardian, which you can read by clicking here.

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Prison Reform Trust director, Peter Dawson has urged the government to take the necessary "political decision" to enable greater access to ICT in prisons.

Giving evidence to the House of Commons Education Committee today (8 June) Peter Dawson said:

"There was a time when it was unthinkable that prisoners would have televisions in their cells. There was a time time very recently when it was unthinkable that prisoners would have phones in their cells, and now two-thirds of prisons have phones in cells.

"The use of technology goes so far beyond education. We're worried about people spraying Spice onto letters, you can't spray Spice onto an email but prisoners can't access electronic communication. The case has been made long ago, but it needs political will to make it happen."

Click here to catch up on the whole evidence session, and click here to read our written evidence to the committee's inquiry on prison education.

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The winner of this year’s prestigious Robin Corbett Award (RCA) is leading prisoner reintegration charity, StandOut. StandOut have been recognised by the RCA judging panel who were impressed by the way they see potential in those they work with and support returning citizens into employment.

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Eric McGraw

26/04/2021 14:30:00

The Prison Reform Trust is sad to learn of the death of Eric McGraw, founder of InsideTime, the  newspaper for people in prison, and its former managing editor. Launched in 1990, the newspaper is published monthly and distributed throughout the UK prison estate including Immigration Removal Centres and special hospitals.

It provides a vital voice for people in detention and their families, receiving some some 10,000 items of communication each year and 400,000 unique visitors to its website each month. Eric previously worked as a consultant for the United Nations Development Programme and is the author of several books and publications on the subject of ‘world population growth’ and its impact on poverty, development and the environment. Our thoughts are with Eric’s family and loved ones at this time.

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An analysis of the government’s Female Offender Strategy published today by the Prison Reform Trust shows the government has fully implemented only 31 of 65 commitments. The majority of the promises made in the strategy remain unachieved or partially achieved nearly three years after the strategy was published in June 2018.

The recent announcement of 500 new prison places in the women’s estate reverses a key aim of the strategy to reduce the women’s prison population. New places would not be needed if the strategy had been implemented successfully.

Click 'read more' for the full story

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The Home Detention Curfew (HDC) scheme is an effective tool for easing the transition from custody to the community as well as managing existing and future prison population pressures. However, its use is being hampered by overly restrictive eligibility criteria and inefficient systems, a new briefing by the Prison Reform Trust suggests.

Existing eligibility criteria include limiting its use to those serving sentences of four years or less and rigid exclusions based on previous breaches or recalls and offence history. These criteria are disproportionate and exclude large categories of prisoners who could potentially benefit from the scheme, the briefing says.

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The Criminal Procedure Rules relating to the use of intermediaries have been amended via new legislation that came into force on 5 April. The amendments follow a consultation by the Criminal Procedure Rules Committee last year.

The new rules clarify the situation in respect of intermediaries being appointed to assist defendants as well as witnesses, whenever it is necessary to support the effective participation of a defendant in any part of their trial.

Click 'read more' for the full story and our reaction

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Commenting on the report of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, Peter Dawson, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“For all its claimed emphasis on following the evidence, this complacent report turns a blind eye to the grossly disproportionate outcomes for Black people both in prison and on their journey to it. By contrast, The Lammy report of 2017, commissioned by a Tory Prime Minister from a prominent Labour politician, gave a compelling and authoritative account of racial discrimination in the criminal justice system. The majority of its recommendations remain unimplemented, and the government’s current proposals on sentencing, by its own assessment,  will make the problem worse. Blithe optimism is no substitute for the clear eyed analysis and hard work needed to change a system  that discriminates from beginning to end.”

Click here to read more about the Prison Reform Trust's work on tackling racial disparities in the criminal justice system

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Writing for the i our Head of Research, Dr Kimmett Edgar outlines the extraordinary conditions that people in prison have been held in during the last 12 months, and questions why the government are intent on introducing new sentencing measures which even its own minister admits are unevidenced.

Click 'read more' to read the full article

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The pandemic: One year on

24/03/2021 09:00:00

Today marks a year since the announcement that prisons in England and Wales were to temporarily close to visitors, following government instructions for people to stay at home.

At that time, few could have imagined that the dramatic restrictions, introduced to safeguard against the predicted widespread loss of life in prisons, would still be in place a year on.

Our CAPPTIVE project, created in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, has heard from hundreds of people in prison about the reality of daily life and near total isolation behind cell doors for the last 12 months.

The stoicism and solidarity between prisoners and staff, often under intolerable pressures, have provided light in the darkness. But nothing can dull the pain of full days spent in isolation and inactivity.

No-one yet knows what the lasting damage to people’s mental and physical health of that unprecedented regime will be. As the lockdown in prisons has stretched on— whilst the wider community outside looks ahead to the easing of restrictions—those in prison remain fearful and unsure of what the future holds.

Prisons will face huge challenges as they work to re-establish normal regimes. But one thing the pandemic has shown is that rehabilitation and public safety don’t come from locking people up in 9 by 6ft cells all day, every day. These come only from a way of life in prison that allows relationships between staff and prisoners to form and for trust to be built.

As we mark this most unhappy of anniversaries the Prison Reform Trust remains here for people in prison and their families at this extraordinary time, and will continue to be there for as long as it takes.

You can find out more about our work during the pandemic by clicking here.

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