Policy

There should be a step change in the availability of release on temporary licence (ROTL) out of prisons to give more businesses the opportunity to employ prisoners in the community as part of preparation for their release, according to a new report published today (2 June) by the Prison Reform Trust.
 
The report, which details the findings of a two-year action learning project Out for Good based in HMP Brixton in south London, says there is "huge potential" to get more prisoners into jobs and training. It found a substantial number of employers both open to employing ex-offenders and willing to work with prisons to achieve this.

Against expectations, the report found it was not the attitudes of employers but national prison policy and practice which was the main barrier preventing opportunities for work and training from being seized.

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Commenting on the Ministry of Justice's safety in custody statistics published today, Peter Dawson, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

"The message from these deeply alarming numbers could not be any clearer. An overcrowded prison system cannot cope with the number of people it is expected to hold. People are being maimed and dying in unprecedented numbers as a direct consequence. Two years of positive rhetoric from the government about prison reform has done nothing to stop a relentless decline in safety. There is no end in sight, and a new government must make a reduction in imprisonment a top priority."

The Ministry of Justice's safety in custody statistics (quarterly update to December 2016) are available here.

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It was confirmed today that following the decision to hold a general election on 8 June the Prisons and Courts Bill will not progress any further in this Parliament.

Commenting, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

"The prisons and courts bill, while far from perfect, had achieved cross-party support and contained some valuable measures to make prisons fit for the 21st century. With levels of safety, decency and fairness continuing to slide, the fall of the bill as a result of the election must not derail the vital job of prison reform. The next government, whatever its political complexion, should reintroduce a prisons bill as a top priority."

Click here to read about the Prison Reform Trust's work on the bill up to this point.

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The Prison Reform Trust has published a briefing ahead of the House of Commons Committee Stage to assist Parliamentarians in their detailed scrutiny of the bill, which also outlines key amendments which we support. You can read the briefing by clicking here.

The House of Commons second reading debate took place on Monday 20 March, and the Prison Reform Trust also produced a briefing, which you can download by clicking here. You can also catch up on the second reading debate by clicking here to watch, or clicking here to read.

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

"It is 65 years since it last happened, so the publication of a Prisons Bill is obviously an important moment. There is plenty to welcome—especially a statutory commitment to rehabilitation. But the Bill is also notable for what it does not contain—for example, nothing to control the demand for prison and no mention of decency or justice as the foundations of a rehabilitative system. 

"We will do everything we can to help parliament turn this bill into a genuinely reforming Act, making sure that: the purposes of prison are comprehensive; a mechanism exists to translate those purposes into standards approved by parliament and in line with our international obligations; and the institutions that hold the Secretary of State to account are properly independent of her and her department."

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Commenting on the prisons and courts bill, Peter Dawson, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

"A statutory commitment to a system that rehabilitates is crucial to building safer communities. But the key task for legislation is to ensure that prisons are places in which that ambition can actually be realised. No future government should be allowed to preside over the decline in safety, decency and fairness that  we have seen in recent years. Achieving that will require a commitment to minimum standards, a clear statement of the responsibilities of prisons to those in their care, an independent prisons inspectorate appointed by and accountable to parliament, and a sustained effort to reduce chronic levels of overcrowding and curb sentence inflation."

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We have submitted a very detailed response to the inspectorate's consultation on a new expectations for male prisoners document. In the absence of a modern statutory penal code, these expectations are perhaps the most important protection prisoners have for their fundamental rights. 

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Peter Dawson, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, has responded to the Justice Secretary Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss's speech on prison reform to the Centre for Social Justice with a letter published today in The Times newspaper.

Sir, Your leader hits a whole series of nails on their heads. Setting arbitrary limits on the prison population is not the issue. Eliminating overcrowding is. It represents the corrosion at the heart of our prisons, undermining decency, safety and rehabilitation. And no government in living memory has made a dent in it, probably because none has thought it worth having a strategy to do so.

Among all the many aspirations to emerge since the crisis in our prisons was finally acknowledged by Michael Gove and now Liz Truss, there is an echoing void where a timetabled plan to eliminate overcrowding should be. In the short term, the pressure can eased by not sending people to prison who need help not punishment, preventing the recall of people to prison on technical grounds, and by reversing the decline in early release on electronic tags. Longer term, we need to rethink how we punish more serious crime, restoring discretion to the courts and hope to the prisoners whose lives we seek to change.

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This week the Prison Reform Trust will be hosting a roundtable event to discuss the learning from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust (WCMT) Prison Reform Fellowships. From 2010–2015, the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust funded Travelling Fellowships with a particular focus on prison reform across the world. The Fellowships are the result of an innovative partnership between WCMT and the Prison Reform Trust.

The meeting will focus on the findings of two recently published briefings, authored by Jessica Jacobson and Helen Fair of the Institute for Criminal Policy Research, Birkbeck, University of London, which highlight some of the learning from these Fellowships in maintaining contact between prisoners and their families and problem-solving approaches to criminal justice.  

Attendees include WCMT fellows, senior policymakers and practitioners. For more information please contact Justin Elder justin.elder@prisonreformtrust.org.uk 

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The House of Commons Justice Committee was today (18 January) taking oral evidence for its inquiry into prison reform. Prison Reform Trust Director, Peter Dawson, was alongside Andrea Albutt of the Prison Governors' Association and Ralph Valerio of the Prison Officers' Association, to outline his views on the government's proposals so far for improving prison performance and governor empowerment.

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Prison safety and reform

10/01/2017 08:00:00

The long awaited Ministry of Justice's white paper on prison safety and reform was published in November.

Whilst there is much to welcome, the aspirations in the white paper can only be met through the delivery of very detailed policy development, most of which has yet to be undertaken.

There are also some critical elements of reform missing, including measures to reduce the demand for prison places; standards for decency and fairness; and providing a role for prisoners in designing and delivering reform.

You can read our full response to the white paper by clicking here.

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