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The Prison Reform Trust’s Head of Policy and Communications, Mark Day, yesterday took part in a discussion on the BBC Two Victoria Derbyshire programme on the damaging legacy of the Indeterminate Sentence for Public Protection (IPP). The BBC’s story, which was also covered by the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, considered the case of James Ward, who in 2006 was given an IPP sentence with a 10-month tariff, but who 11 years later remains in custody. Commenting on the Today programme, the Chair of the Parole Board, Nick Hardwick, urged the government to “get a grip” on the issue by bringing forward measures to expedite the release of the remaining post-tariff IPP prisoners.

You can watch the feature on the Victoria Derbyshire programme here [starts 16.10]

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PRT comment: Farmer review

10/08/2017 00:01:00

Commenting on Lord Farmer's review on strengthening family ties in prison, Mark Day, Head of Policy and Communications at the Prison Reform Trust, said:

"This in-depth report rightly recognises the vital importance of family ties to improving the mental health and wellbeing of people in prison and reducing their risk of reoffending on release. Lord Farmer has produced concise recommendations to put families at the heart of safe and constructive prison regimes. Particularly welcome is the proposal that each prison should have a clear, auditable and responsive 'gateway' communication system for families and significant others, so that concerns family members or others may have about the physical or mental health of a loved one in prison can be properly recorded and action taken. We hope this and the other sensible recommendations put forward in the report will be adopted and put swiftly into practice."

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Following the riot at HMP The Mount this week, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust has written in the Huffington Post. A full copy of his blog is reproduced here.

Another day, another prison riot. This time it’s at The Mount, a perfectly ordinary 30-year-old prison on the outskirts of London—not some Victorian hell hole waiting for the bulldozers to move in. And this the week after another set of statistics showing accelerating violence, self-harm and death in our prison system. The coruscating annual report of Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons feels like a distant memory only three weeks after it was headline news.

So does the riot at The Mount tell us anything we don’t already know, and might just be bored of being told?

Click 'read more' for the full story.

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Commenting on today's (27 July) publication of safety in custody statistics by the Ministry of Justice, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

“These numbers confirm what the Chief Inspector of Prisons has described in graphic detail—that our prison system is nowhere near being safe for those who live and work within it. The appalling loss of life and toll of despair requires something more immediate than the promise of more staff and new prisons. In the short term, the provision of much cheaper and easier access to a legitimate phone system would make a day to day difference—and provide some consolation to the families of prisoners wondering if their loved ones are safe inside.”

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Commenting on the HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland's thematic inspection on older prisoners, Peter Dawson, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

"This report highlights the challenges of providing effective care and a constructive regime for an increasingly elderly and frail prison population. It is a challenge which the Scottish prison service cannot meet on its own. Prison staff should not be expected to do the jobs of nurses and care providers. A comprehensive strategy is needed to ensure health, social care and criminal justice agencies work together to meet the needs of the increasing numbers of people growing old behind bars."

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Commenting on the HM Chief Inspector of Prisons' Annual Report 2016–17, published today, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:
 
“The Chief Inspector of Prisons could not put it any more clearly—political rhetoric on prison reform counts for nothing when so many prisons lack the most basic elements of a civilised way of life for either prisoners or staff. A dramatic reduction in staffing numbers prompted this crisis, but its solution lies in a similarly dramatic change in the way we use prison. Ending the use of pointless short sentences and needless recalls would ease pressure quickly on the worst affected prisons. But a timetabled plan to end overcrowding, reserving prison to only the most serious offences, and for periods that punish without destroying hope, is essential to achieving a permanent improvement in the longer term.”

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Commenting on the findings of the Ministry of Justice's evaluation of the Sex Offender Treatment Programme, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

"The results of an evaluation into sex offender treatment programmes published today are disappointing, but they do not mean that a whole group of people have been made more dangerous by doing the courses involved. The reoffending rate for sexual offending is much lower than for most other offences, and the rise in the reoffending rate for the whole cohort is from 8% to 10% (for sexual reoffending) measured over 8 years. The great majority of people released after serving a long sentence for sexual offending are not being convicted of further sexual offences.

"Decisions on whether to release people convicted of sex offences and how to manage them safely in the community depend on a wide range of factors, including the support available to them. Completing a particular course has only ever contributed to that judgement. That remains true.

"The range of courses available has already been adjusted to take account of these findings, but it is very important that individual prisoners are not disadvantaged because they voluntarily took part in the previous courses. In fact, their willingness to undergo lengthy and challenging courses, and the skills learned, should count in their favour, as just one factor amongst many in assessing risk and preparing for release."

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The number of women in prison in England and Wales has exceeded 4,000 for the first time in four-and-a-half years. Ministry of Justice figures released today show the female prison population currently stands at 4,007.

The latest edition of Prison: the facts (Bromley briefings summer 2017), published this month and covered exclusively on BBC Radio Four Woman’s Hour, shows an increase of 200 women in prison in the past year has pushed the female prison population towards this significant watershed after years of gradual but sustained decline in the numbers of women behind bars. The briefing highlights facts and figures which show the beleaguered state of our overcrowded prison system and the men and women in its care.

Click 'read more' for the full story

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Commenting on today's National Audit Office report on mental health in prisons, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:
 
“This is a familiar tale of admirable policy objectives not being delivered on the ground. There is a ray of hope in the successful rollout of liaison and diversion schemes in courts and police stations that spot some of the people who are most vulnerable. But this report makes horribly clear that our prisons are holding very many people who will suffer disproportionate and unnecessary harm because of the prison environment. It is futile to expect to improve their situation while prisons are overcrowded and thousands of people are spending a few weeks inside each year simply because there is inadequate community provision. The government must grip the issue of who goes to prison so that the system can care properly for the minority who really need to be there.”

Read Peter's blog for Huffington Post by clicking here.

You can download a copy of the full report by clicking here.

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Last Wednesday afternoon we were alerted by our partners in Scotland, Families Outside, to a problem with applications from prisoners’ families to the Assisted Prisons Visits Unit. A new online application system was not working and there appeared to be no way of making an application on paper. We spoke to Clinks, whose members were raising the issue with them too and sent a joint letter to the Prisons Minister at 10am on Thursday. By the afternoon we were pleased to have a response from the minister, Sam Gyimah, saying the system was up and running and families could continue to make paper applications if they wished.

We hope this intervention has resolved matters but of course what matters now is that the online process is reliable and that it really is possible for people who don’t have access to the internet to make their application on paper without being disadvantaged.

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