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Prison closure confusion

16/10/2017 15:30:00

Last week, the Ministry of Justice’s programme for modernising the prison estate was thrown into confusion, with justice minister Sam Gyimah MP, appearing to contradict the head of HM Prisons and Probation Service, Michael Spurr, about planned prison closures. Speaking at the Prison Governor’s Association Annual Conference on Wednesday, Michael Spurr said that he anticipated that “we won’t close any prisons this parliament”. However, just the following day, when responding to a question in Parliament, Sam Gyimah said that the commitment to close prisons over the next few years “very much remains”.

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The Prison Reform Trust has launched a briefing today exclusively with BBC Radio 5 Live Drive on the contribution of women’s centres to reducing women’s offending. The one page briefing condenses the important evidence underpinning women’s centres, and had been launched on the same day as the Ministry of Justice’s independent advisory board for female offenders met.

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Commenting on today's thematic report on living conditions in prison by HM Inspectorate of Prisons, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

“This report describes a stain on our national reputation and reveals the dreadful truth about conditions in much of our overcrowded prison system. This is a system that “demoralises and embitters” the people for whom it purports to care, encourages drug taking in prison and undermines rehabilitation on release. Incredibly, enforced inactivity is worst for the young adults with most energy to burn.  As the Chief Inspector makes clear, reform cannot be delivered against this backdrop. A significant reduction in our unnecessary and unmerciful resort to this most severe of punishments is an essential first step to a prison system of which we can feel proud rather than ashamed.”

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We are delighted that the National Council of Women Great Britain (NCW) has reaffirmed their commitment to seeing fewer women in prison, with a motion passed unanimously at their annual conference on 7 October. The Prison Reform Trust’s Programme Director for Reducing Women’s Imprisonment, Jenny Earle, spoke in favour of the motion alongside NCW members Heather Carter and Coralyn Burge, drawing attention to the high levels of non-violent, acquisitive crime committed by women, addictions, primary caring responsibilities and histories of abuse. 

Commenting, Jenny Earle said:

"NCW is an influential organisation and Prison Reform Trust is proud to be affiliated. The NCW’s call to ensure that fewer women are sent to prison and that the provision of community-based solutions is improved, especially for women with dependent children is timely, and one the Government should take heed of ahead of the publication of the forthcoming strategy for women offenders.”

Find out more about why we should focus on reducing the number of women in prison by clicking here

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The Prison Reform Trust has today (25 September) published its response to HM Treasury’s consultation on this year’s Budget, which highlights concerns about the viability of the Ministry of Justice’s prison building programme in light of the projected increase in prison numbers.

An additional and unanticipated rise in prison numbers, together with alarming new population projections, raise serious doubts about the sustainability of the prison estate transforming programme. Without the option of closing older prisons, as now appears inevitable under the current population projections, no funds are released to run the new prisons planned—still less to finance the building and running of new prisons that will be required over and above the 10 committed by the previous government.

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Photo: Stacey Oliver

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