Policy

Commenting on the publication of the Ministry of Justice’s education and employment strategy today (24 May 2018), Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“This is a welcome strategy full to the brim with good intentions. It could make a big difference to the families and communities to which prisoners return on release.

“But almost none of those good intentions set a date for when they will be delivered, or how many people will benefit. We have heard many of these promises before.

“So the government must take this opportunity to show it means business. It must deliver a National Insurance holiday for employers, not just consider it. It must get thousands more prisoners into workplace release on temporary licence, not just consult about it. And it needs to say how many more prisoners will end up with a job when all these good intentions have turned into reality.”

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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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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 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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Commenting on HM Inspectorate of Prisons report on incentivising and promoting good behaviour, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“This is a very important report, and especially timely given the justice secretary’s desire to use incentives to make prisons better. The core messages are simple and well known. Relationships hold the key, and those can only be built when prisoners are out of their cells and staff have the time to get to know them. Consistent and fair application of clear standards is essential. Release on temporary licence is seen by prisoners as the biggest long term incentive, but is grossly underused. 


“All of this holds true for adults as well as children, and ministers could not ask for a clearer explanation of why the overburdened adult estate is not delivering a safe and decent way of life in so many prisons. The investment all prisons need is in the time and skills to build relationships. Realistically, that has to mean an end to too many people going to prison for too long.” 

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Commenting on the speech made this morning by the Justice Secretary Rt Hon David Gauke MP on prison reform, Peter Dawson , director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

"The Justice Secretary set out an ambitious programme of reform for our prisons. But his predecessor promised to save £400m in the coming year. David Gauke's refusal to rule out further cuts in prisons raises serious doubts as to whether any of it is deliverable. Reducing reoffending, while a welcome ambition, will not make any significant dent in the size of the prison population. It is only by stemming the flow of people into prison and reversing sentence inflation that the government can begin to reduce chronic levels of overcrowding and get a grip on declining standards of safety and purposeful activity in our prisons. Anything else is wishful thinking."

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Late last year, the Prison Reform Trust’s advice and information service received a number of enquiries from people held in private prisons, regarding the cost of electronically transferring money into their prison account from families outside. Public sector prisons have also recently introduced such a service, however, unlike in private prisons this service is provided at no cost to either the sender or recipient. In response, we approached Unilink, the provider of the Secure Payment Service, to discuss how the situation might be able to be improved for those held in private prisons.

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PRT comment: Parole Board review

08/01/2018 12:10:00

Commenting on the announcement of a Parole Board review, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

“We welcome the announcement of a parole board review to ensure the decision making process is transparent for victims, prisoners and the wider public, while at the same time protecting its vital independence. The Chair of the Parole Board, Nick Hardwick, deserves much praise for his candid and uncomplicated response to public scrutiny. Giving him the ability to say more about the process by which decisions are arrived at has the potential to increase public confidence in the system. Similarly, he is clearly right to want to check that the system carries out the sensitive work of keeping victims informed to the highest possible standard. PRT will contribute to the review, which we hope will strengthen the important work of an independent parole board in a fair and balanced justice system."

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