Publications

It Doesn’t Have To Be Like This

01/12/2021 00:01:00

Life in most prisons is still a very long way from what anyone would consider “normal”, but the Ministry of Justice and HMPPS are actively considering what life in prison should be like in the future. There is little consensus in this debate which, as yet, has not been opened up for the formal consultation that is certainly required. We hope this report will help set the context for that wider consultation – it is not a substitute for it.

With this in mind, Prison Reform Trust (PRT) consulted with members of its Prisoner Policy Network (PPN) to explore what a future regime might look like.

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Prisons, by their very nature, are likely to be associated with sadness, discomfort and deprivations. But with self-inflicted deaths over six times more likely to occur amongst prisoners than in the general population, it is a sad and troubling fact that they remain an enduring part of prison life.

By exploring distress in prison from the perspective of those who live there, and drawing from a range of other sources including television documentaries and podcasts, newspaper articles, academic and grey literature, this report focuses on how aspects of the prison environment can interact with well-known self-harm and suicide risk factors to either reduce or increase risk further.

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Safety from physical assault is an essential requirement of an effective and humane penal system. In our third PPN briefing we asked our members "How can we reduce tensions, conflict and violence in prison?".

This report, following consultation with over 1,000 serving prisoners, as well as former prisoners, family members and members of staff, makes clear that despite discontent there are initiatives, practices and approaches that prisoners feel are effective.

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For the second report of the Prisoner Policy Network, we asked members 'What do you need to make the best use of your time in prison?'. Prisoners who responded to our call for evidence told us overwhelmingly that they need to feel a sense of hope for the future and to be given meaningful opportunities which allow them to develop and thrive, with prisons promoting personal growth as an end in itself, not just a means to reduced reoffending.

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The first report of the Prisoner Policy Network, an emerging network of current serving prisoners, ex-prisoners and connected organisations who want to share their expertise and experience with policy makers. ‘What incentives work in prison?’ is the result of an extensive consultation exercise with over 1,250 people with experience of prison. Ensuring basic standards of decency in prison conditions; restoring trust in the incentives scheme; developing supportive prisoner and staff relationships; providing meaningful incentives; and giving prisoners the opportunities to rebuild trust, were all identified as key solutions.

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