Policy

Everyone knows that violence in prison has got much, much worse over the last 5 years or so. The statistics are alarming – every quarterly publication describes a new record level of assaults against both prisoners and staff. Violence is both more frequent and more severe. It’s not surprising that people in prison, whether they live there or work there, say “something must be done”.

Writing for the prison newspaper Inside Time, Prison Reform Trust Director, Peter Dawson examines the case for a rethink on the introduction of PAVA spray.

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There is understandable public concern about the recent spate of acid attacks and rise in knife crime in some inner-city areas. The government’s serious violence strategy recognises that many of the solutions lie in preventative rather than punitive measures, however proposals in the Offensive Weapons Bill, currently before Parliament risk undermining this valuable work.

The Prison Reform Trust co-signed a joint letter to the Home Secretary, outlining our serious concerns about the bill, and was covered by The Observer this weekend.

As the House of Lords prepares to debate the Offensive Weapons Bill on Tuesday 26 February, the Prison Reform Trust and Standing Committee for Youth Justice (SCYJ) have prepared a joint briefing to assist Peers.

We believe that many of the proposed measures within the bill will be ineffective in tackling the causes of violent behaviour. They increase the use of ineffective short mandatory minimum custodial sentences; create legal uncertainty; are likely to impact BAME communities disproportionality and further damage trust in the justice system.

We are extremely concerned about the government’s proposals for a Knife Crime Prevention Order (KCPO), which can be imposed on the balance of probability and are highly likely to be net-widening, labelling, disproportionately impact BAME communities, and impose more criminal sanctions on vulnerable children and young people. Earlier this month PRT and SCYJ, along with a coalition of organisations working with children and young people in the criminal justice system, wrote a letter published in The Times opposing the KCPO.

Click here to download a copy of the briefing.

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Reacting to David Gauke’s speech at Reform this morning (18 February), Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“The justice secretary is establishing a reputation as a thoughtful, balanced policy thinker, driven by evidence not preconception. This speech rightly rejects the pointless language of tough versus soft, and calls for an informed debate about how to punish serious crime in ways that are both effective and humane. It deserves a non-partisan response, so that we can ultimately achieve a penal system of which the country can feel proud rather than ashamed.”

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Prison Reform Trust Director Peter Dawson runs a critical eye over the new proposed changes to our parole system

Very shortly after he was appointed Justice Secretary, David Gauke was confronted with a media storm over the Parole Board’s decision to authorise the release of John Worboys. Following judicial review proceedings in which the Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) was probably more heavily criticised than the Parole Board, The Justice Secretary nevertheless decided to sack the Parole Board chair, Professor Nick Hardwick, and, in the way that governments do, announced a couple of reviews to soak up the immediate pressure on his own department. A year later, the outcome of those two reviews has been published – one looking at Parole Board rules generally, and one a more specific response to a public consultation on whether Parole Board decisions should be subject to an appeal process.

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Commenting on the announcement Peter Dawson, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

"The Prison Reform Trust welcomes Jo Farrar as the CEO of HMPPS. We look forward to working closely with her, and in particular making it possible for her to hear from the people who live in the prisons for which she will be responsible. Their insight and willingness to help is vital to achieving the safe, decent and purposeful system to which we all aspire."

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The Prison Reform Trust and the Standing Committee for Youth Justice, along with a coalition of organisations working with children and young people in the criminal justice system, have written a letter published in today’s Times opposing the government’s proposed knife crime prevention orders. A copy of the letter and a list of signatures is below.

Baroness Doreen Lawrence has also criticised the proposals, in an article in the Times which also highlights today’s letter.

The bill is being debated in the House of Lords today. The Prison Reform Trust and the Standing Committee for Youth Justice have published a briefing for Peers urging them to oppose the new orders and highlighting other key amendments.

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People in prison need meaningful incentives which both motivate and allow them to take responsibility for their behaviour, according to a new report published by the Prison Reform Trust today.

The report, ‘What incentives work in prison?’ is the result of an extensive consultation exercise with over 1,250 people with experience of prison.

It presents the findings from an emerging network of current serving prisoners, ex-prisoners and connected organisations who want to share their expertise and experience with policy makers. The Prisoner Policy Network (PPN) aims to provide solutions to the big challenges currently facing our prisons, and a greater voice for prisoners in influencing the policies that affect them.

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We know that in-prison programmes can reduce dependency, and that the most ordered prisons have the busiest prisoners. Hope is a key ingredient of desistance. PRT director Peter Dawson explores how to address drug use in prisons in this article originally published in the Huffington Post.

Another week and another story about drugs in prison. It gets the usual five-minute examination—outrage that any drugs make it into a prison, bemusement that this is allowed to happen, an announcement of a new measure to stop it, and on to the next item.

Getting drugs out of our prisons is a critically important issue, and it deserves a better treatment.

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The Prison Reform Trust has called for an urgent moratorium on the planned roll out of PAVA spray to prison officers in the adult male estate.

It warns that the roll out, which is due to begin in the New Year, is likely to do more harm than good and undermine the safety of prisoners and prison officers.

After the decision to roll out PAVA was announced in early October, the Prison Minister Rory Stewart said that PAVA would only be used in “exceptional circumstances” to protect staff from the threat or perceived threat of serious violence.

However, a new analysis of the pilot evaluation by PRT’s Director Peter Dawson, who is a former prison governor, shows that nearly two thirds (64%) of incidents in which PAVA spray was deployed by prison staff may have contravened the guidance for its use.

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The Prison Reform Trust has today published its response to a stakeholder consultation on the Incentives and Earned Privileges (IEP) scheme.

You can read a copy of our response by clicking here and our accompanying letter to the prisons minister, Rory Stewart, by clicking here.

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