Policy

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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Today sees the publication of two briefings which present 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. 

These two briefings, authored by Jessica Jacobson and Helen Fair of the Institute for Criminal Policy Research, Birkbeck, University of London, highlight some of the learning from these Fellowships in maintaining contact between prisoners and their families and problem-solving approaches to criminal justice

Click 'read more' for the full story

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The former Secretary of State for Justice Michael Gove delivered the 15th Longford Lecture on Wednesday November 16th, 2016 at 6.30pm in the Assembly Hall of Church House, Great Smith Street, London. 

The lecture is organised by the Longford Trust in association with the Prison Reform Trust and is kindly sponsored by Unilink Technology Services.

Click 'read more' to read a copy of the speech.

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Ahead of today's government announcement on prison reform, Peter Dawson, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: 

“The time for aspirational rhetoric on prisons is over. We expect a White Paper that promises concrete standards, approved by Parliament, against which the Government must deliver, and a boost in resources to make that possible. All of that will be welcome. But the legacy is twenty five years of political failure to grip prison inflation and chronic overcrowding. Liz Truss will have to overturn that inheritance, and urgently reduce the demand for prison places, to make her plan work.”

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Radicalisation in prisons

22/08/2016 09:48:00

Commenting on the government's announcement on tackling Islamic radicalisation in prisons, Peter Dawson, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

"The review proposed small units for a very few prisoners—and as a temporary expedient, not a permanent regime. The goal must be to get people back into the main prison community, so that changes in their behaviour can be observed. Anything else is just storing up an even more difficult problem for when they are eventually released.

"Faith is overwhelmingly a constructive force within prisons and the prison Imams who undertake this most challenging role deserve the Government's complete support—they are part of the solution not the problem. Sensible, proportionate measures to deal with a small minority of extremist prisoners who seek to undermine that work are welcome. But they will all rely on adequate resourcing - better trained staff can only use new skills if prisoners are unlocked and engaging with them."

Peter appeared on BBC Radio 4's Today programme. You can listen to it by clicking here.

You can also read Peter's recent article in Counter Terror Business on how our justice system should respond to radicalisation by clicking here.

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Queen’s speech: Prisons Bill

18/05/2016 12:50:00

Commenting on today’s announcement of a Prisons Bill in the Queen’s Speech, Juliet Lyon director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“It's good that prison reform is at the top of the government’s agenda—for far too long prisons have been our most neglected, least visible public service. The most pressing priority is to restore prison safety and stem the catastrophic rise in suicides, violence and disorder.

More freedom for governors, long overdue access to modern IT, sensible plans for release on temporary licence and constructive use of tagging to curtail liberty should all be part of a modern justice system. 

But reform will run into the sand unless government is prepared to tackle prison numbers and introduce major sentencing reform as part of its groundbreaking Prisons Bill."

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In his budget George Osborne announce a potential devolution of criminal justice commissioning to Greater Manchester. In this article published in the Justice Gap Peter Dawson, PRT’s deputy director, examines what this might entail and what consequences such a move would have for the criminal justice system generally.

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