Policy

Reforming our prisons

16/11/2015 11:54:00

As we begin Prisons Week (15–21 November) Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, has written an article in this month's edition of The Friend magazine. You can read the full article by clicking 'read more'.

“Prison is a place where people are sent as a punishment, not for further punishments...Human beings whose lives have been reckoned so far in costs—to society, to the criminal justice system, to victims and to themselves—can become assets—citizens who can contribute and demonstrate the human capacity for redemption.”

These were the words of the incoming Secretary of State for Justice, Michael Gove, in July this year. For Friends, and others with a longstanding commitment to prison reform, this was a welcome reassertion of the principles which should underpin any civilised penal system. So far so good. However, the Justice Secretary has inherited a system that is deteriorating both on internal and external measures, and a requirement to carve anything from 25% to 40% out of its budget over the next five years.

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Commenting on today’s (9 November 2015) announcement that the Ministry of Justice will build nine new prisons, Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

“The Justice Secretary’s commitment to better conditions and more effective rehabilitation are welcome. Many of our prisons need to be shut down.

"But prison reform is about more than replacing old buildings.  The crisis he faces now is with prisons that have deteriorated sharply as budgets have been slashed and staff numbers cut. Pressure on the system has to be relieved by revising the sentencing framework and curbing ever lengthening sentence lengths , investing now in diverting addicts and people with mental health needs into treatment and dealing with the forgotten thousands of prisoners still held long beyond terms set by courts.

"To live within his means, Michael Gove needs to close many more prisons than he builds. He can do that safely and the time has come to set out how.”

You can also read our response to the Spending Review by clicking here.

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Too many women, many of whom are mothers, are sent to prison every year to serve short sentences for non-violent crimes, often for a first offence, a new Prison Reform Trust (PRT) briefing reveals.

The briefing marks the launch of a drive by the Prison Reform Trust,  supported by a £1.2 million grant from the Big Lottery Fund, to reduce the number of women who are sent to prison for minor non-violent offences.

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Putting Prisons Right

17/07/2015 13:50:00

This week the outgoing Chief Inspector reports on prisons in severe decline. On Wednesday, without using the crisis word, the incoming Secretary of State for Justice in his first meeting with the new Justice Committee admits there are difficulties to be faced. On Friday Michael Gove gives his first speech on prisons.

Read the rest of Juliet Lyon's blog by clicking 'read more'.

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Commenting on the HM Chief Inspector of Prisons annual report 2014-15, Juliet Lyon, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“No mystery that violence, self-harm and suicide rise when you overcrowd prisons, reduce staff by almost one third, cut time out of cell and purposeful activity. The backdrop is a more punitive climate, increased injustice and uncertainty which have sucked hope out of the system for prisoners and staff. Solutions lie in good strong leadership from the new Secretary of State through to prison governors, a commitment to treat people in prison with humanity and respect and a determination to make prison an effective place of last resort.”

Read the report by clicking here

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Commenting on Changing Prisons, Saving Lives: Report of the Independent Review into Self-inflicted Deaths in Custody of 18-24 year olds (The Harris Review), Juliet Lyon, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“Too many vulnerable young people are slipping through the net of mental health and welfare services and ending up behind bars. Very many of the tragic deaths described in this sobering report could have been prevented by thorough assessment and intervention at an earlier stage in these young peoples’ lives. Time and again this is what bereaved families say after struggling for years to get the help they need. The stark recommendation for the Minister to telephone families when a loved one has died in custody will come as a shock but it may well be that that only when this conversation takes place that change will result and true accountability be achieved.
 

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Lord Laming chairs independent review into links between care and custody 

An independent review of children in care, chaired by the crossbench peer Lord Laming and established by the Prison Reform Trust, is launched today to consider the reasons behind, and how best to tackle, the over representation of looked after children in the criminal justice system in England and Wales.


Following a number of requests, the deadline for written submissions to the care review has been extended until 5.00pm on Tuesday 25 August 2015.


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