The pandemic: One year on

24/03/2021 09:00:00

Today marks a year since the announcement that prisons in England and Wales were to temporarily close to visitors, following government instructions for people to stay at home.

At that time, few could have imagined that the dramatic restrictions, introduced to safeguard against the predicted widespread loss of life in prisons, would still be in place a year on.

Our CAPPTIVE project, created in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, has heard from hundreds of people in prison about the reality of daily life and near total isolation behind cell doors for the last 12 months.

The stoicism and solidarity between prisoners and staff, often under intolerable pressures, have provided light in the darkness. But nothing can dull the pain of full days spent in isolation and inactivity.

No-one yet knows what the lasting damage to people’s mental and physical health of that unprecedented regime will be. As the lockdown in prisons has stretched on— whilst the wider community outside looks ahead to the easing of restrictions—those in prison remain fearful and unsure of what the future holds.

Prisons will face huge challenges as they work to re-establish normal regimes. But one thing the pandemic has shown is that rehabilitation and public safety don’t come from locking people up in 9 by 6ft cells all day, every day. These come only from a way of life in prison that allows relationships between staff and prisoners to form and for trust to be built.

As we mark this most unhappy of anniversaries the Prison Reform Trust remains here for people in prison and their families at this extraordinary time, and will continue to be there for as long as it takes.

You can find out more about our work during the pandemic by clicking here.