Commenting on the HM Chief Inspector of Prisons' Annual Report 2016–17, published today, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:
“The Chief Inspector of Prisons could not put it any more clearly—political rhetoric on prison reform counts for nothing when so many prisons lack the most basic elements of a civilised way of life for either prisoners or staff. A dramatic reduction in staffing numbers prompted this crisis, but its solution lies in a similarly dramatic change in the way we use prison. Ending the use of pointless short sentences and needless recalls would ease pressure quickly on the worst affected prisons. But a timetabled plan to end overcrowding, reserving prison to only the most serious offences, and for periods that punish without destroying hope, is essential to achieving a permanent improvement in the longer term.”

Following the publication of the Chief Inspector's report, our Head of Policy and Communications, Mark Day, published this letter in the Evening Standard.

"Your editorial rightly highlights the deplorable state of our prisons but skirts one of the chief factors behind their deterioration. Of the 70,000 people received into custody each year, almost half will spend less than three months inside. Around three quarters will have committed non-violent offences. Many will have an unmet mental health need or learning disability or suffer from addictions to drugs or alcohol. The pressure of managing this high turnover and often vulnerable "revolving door" population is particularly felt in many of London's large local prisons, such as Pentonville and Wandsworth. Here, too many prisoners will endure the squalid experience of sharing a cell designed for one, and many will spend most of their sentence in enforced idleness, punctuated by illicit drug taking or calls home on an illegal mobile. 

"Newer prisons, better education and mental healthcare, and more governor autonomy cannot on their own be expected to solve the current crisis in our prison system, particularly when resources and budgets are stretched. Only when politicians are brave enough to engage the public in a proper debate on who should be in prison and for how long, and commit to investment in and promotion of effective community alternatives, can the current dire state of our prisons begin to be addressed."