Category Archives: News

A criminal justice system fit for the 21st century

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A criminal justice system fit for the 21st century

Twenty five years ago Tony Blair announced the new Labour criminal justice policy: ‘tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime’. It was a classic piece of triangulation that included the competing punitive and liberal approaches to dealing with crime and offenders that have long characterised criminal justice reform.

Quarter of a century later, despite a plethora of reforms and changes to the justice system by successive governments, the system is arguably neither ‘tough on crime’ nor on its ‘causes’. That is the conclusion of the first part of a Crest research project funded by the Hadley Trust looking at our current system of punishment and rehabilitation, analysing each component of the system and the extent to which it meets its objectives.

The challenges facing justice
Our justice system is facing very different challenges to twenty five years ago. Crime is more harmful, offenders are more prolific and there is less money available.

But unlike other public services, the justice system has failed to adapt. Many of the assumptions underpinning how justice is delivered have remained unchanged. Despite decades of change, there is too little punishment in the community and too little rehabilitation in prison. Failures remain at every stage of the system:

Low level offending is tolerated, rather than challenged
Punishment within the community is virtually non-existent – meaning prisons are over-utilised
Prisons and probation are over-stretched and lack the levers to address the social causes of crime, meaning rehabilitation is neglected
Nothing epitomises the centralising monolith more than prison. It remains the only ‘real punishment’ in the public’s eyes. All other initiatives are built around the presumption that they are ‘alternatives’ to custody, which will always be there as a last resort if things go wrong. Prisons are incredibly expensive to run and manage, they suck up criminal justice resources and in doing so prevent experimentation elsewhere. Increasingly dangerous places to be held, there is little suggestion they are able to tackle the kinds of complex problems that are held within their walls.

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The limitations of national policy reforms
The major reforms of the last twenty five years – from the creation of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) to ‘Transforming Rehabilitation’ – have relied on outdated ‘new public management’ principles of top-down targets and market incentives.

Such approaches were arguably suitable for transactional services (such as refuse collection or hip operations) responding to relatively ‘tame’ problems, which could be dealt with within functional silos, where providers and users respond rationally to incentives. But they are insufficient to deal with the growing complexity of managing offenders, who are increasingly harmful, prolific and chaotic.
Traditional models of reform

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As a result, the criminal justice system does not operate as a 21st century public service. Processes are prioritised over relationships; offenders are treated as homogeneous, rather than a diverse group of people with complex needs. Innovation is neglected at the expense of off-the-peg solutions and the system remains isolated from other public services, which are better able to address the root cause of crime and offending (through access to health, training, housing and skills).

The need for a new model
For years, the UK has been stuck in a stale debate between those in favour of a more liberal/ welfare-oriented justice system (focused on rehabilitation) and those in favour of a more punitive approach (emphasising punishment). This is a false choice. The solution is not to prioritise punishment and/ or rehabilitation over the other – but to combine both.

And we need to look to other systems that are transforming themselves to deal with modern challenges. For example, the new NHS alternative care systems or ‘vanguards’ are aiming to reconfigure the system, reducing the reliance on hospitals (which absorb both budgets and talent) in order to integrate services around the needs of individuals with complex and changing health needs, who drive much of the demand.

    We need a new model for the justice system, one which balances punishment and rehabilitation, and which is underpinned by three core principles:

  • Devolving power to shift money money upstream, so we can address the root causes of crime and strengthen punishments in the community
  • Integrating services around the lives of those who use the justice system, rather than according to Whitehall silos treating offenders as a homogenous group.
  • Deepening relationships with professionals given the resources and incentives to genuinely transform lives, rather than simply processing people through the system.

In the coming months we will be testing practical ideas for change and the principles underpinning them with practitioners, providers and users. In particular we are interested in how prolific offenders – who continue to drive much of the demand across the criminal justice system – could be dealt with in a different way. We are keen to hear your views so please do get in touch if you have insights to share. And keep an eye out for the final report on this project in the summer.

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Government on track to hit target of 2,500 new prison officers ahead of schedule

Government on track to hit target of 2,500 new prison officers ahead of schedule

Almost 2,000 prison officers have been recruited since the launch of a campaign to bring in 2,500 additional officers by the end of 2018.

Almost 2,000 prison officers have been recruited since the launch of a campaign to bring in 2,500 additional officers by the end of this year, new figures released by Justice Secretary David Gauke have revealed today (15 February 2018).

And a further 1,582 new recruitsghave been offered roles and are booked onto Prison Officer Training (POELT) courses, meaning the Government is on target to recruit the 2,500 officers nine months ahead of schedule.

Figures released today show there was a net increase of 1,970 officers from October 2016 to December last year, up from 17,955 to 19,925. The boost in staffing numbers will help deliver our new Offender Management in Custody model which will provide prisoners with a keyworker to support them in custody.

The recruitment efforts form part of a wider drive to ensure that all prisons are fully staffed so that they can deliver safe and decent regimes. Prison officer recruitment will continue over the coming months and new recruits, alongside existing staff, are being given improved Suicide and Self Harm (SASH) prevention training, with 14,300 staff members having now received it.

Justice Secretary David Gauke said:

I want to commend our hard-working prison officers who do a vital job in protecting the public every day, often in very challenging, difficult and dangerous circumstances. These figures show we are on target to recruit 2,500 additional prison officers.

I am determined to tackle the issues in our prisons head on and I am committed to getting the basics right so we can focus on making them safe and decent places to support rehabilitation. Staffing is the golden thread that links the solutions we need to put in place to drive improvement, so I am delighted our recruitment efforts are working.

Today’s announcement shows that the government’s nationwide drive to recruit the best talent from around the country into the prison service – regardless of age or background – is working.

Governors are being given greater flexibility over their local recruitment and encouraged to engage with new schemes and initiatives to attract the best and most committed talent.

By having more staff on the ground, staff will be better supported to do the job they came into the prison service to do, and spend more time reforming offenders.

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Soldier On: A new play by Jonathan Lewis


Solider On A new play written and directed by Jonathan Guy Lewis
A new play written and directed by Jonathan Guy Lewis

Soldier On – a new stage play written by soldier turned actor turned writer and director Jonathan Guy Lewis will tour and have its London run during spring 2018.Currently about to enter rehearsals a passionate group of individuals, many of them army veterans, will bring to life through a combination of storytelling and dance, hard-hitting, poignant and close to their own hearts experiences.It’s their words that do the talking in what one veteran, filmmaker Neil Davies, has named, The Full Military Monty. This play, through its humour, warmth and searing honesty, will undoubtedly entertain it’s audiences and lay bare many shocking and sometimes heart-warming truths. Most importantly Soldier On will put every cast, crew and audience member in touch with some very real and often disturbing facts of life about the world we live in – specifically Britain in 2018.As Jonathan allows the story to unfold through the accounts of his characters here below are heartfelt words from the people who are making this special theatrical event happen….Their passion for Soldier On and the work of The Soldiers’ Arts Academy is palpable.What happens when a company of ex-soldiers becomes a company of actors? A theatrical band of brothers. Although it’s not a cure all, the bonding, the humour, the theatre of war helps to put them back together again – as a company of veterans and actors rehearse a play about a company of veterans and actors. Although worlds apart they begin to realize there are more similarities between military life and the theatre than they bargained for, building a powerful new world of their own. This is a heart warming story about surviving the forces and PTSD and what happens when you leave the military ‘family”.

Jonathan Lewis – Director/writer

Having been an Army Scholar, invalided out of the army and then playing Sgt Chris McCleod in two series of ITV’s Soldier, Soldier back in the ’90’s, I think it’s safe to say that the military and the themes that arise out of serving Queen & Country are never far away from me. And now more than ever we need to support the thousands of people who’ve served and returned – to validate and affirm them, in a world that seems to be turning upside down.
We now have much more of an understanding of the existence of PTSD than we ever did, so how do we get better at moving beyond knowing and acknowledging to creating opportunities for veterans to process these complex emotions in a positive and life enhancing way. I’ve written Soldier On for exactly this purpose – to create a piece of theatre that can sit alongside the other great creative work that is happening, that is both entertaining and cathartic for it’s actors and its audiences. The ancient world knew all about the horrors of war. After a battle was fought, traditionally, the survivors would make a big fire, stand around it and talk about their experience of the fight. They would create a shared narrative which helped to process the trauma and bring the warriors together. The modern warrior, even with support networks, often feels isolated and neglected, and on returning to the communities from whence they came there is a disconnect. No longer need. Surplus to requirements. Soldier On is my contribution to help warriors with the daily battles they face on their return.

Amanda Faber – Producer
I have been working with injured veterans and their local communities since 2012 to explore the ways in which the arts can facilitate transition and recovery for returning service personnel. Often PTSD can take years to surface and the impact it can have on the lives of the soldiers and their families is profound. Soldier On by Jonathan Lewis is a brilliant play – funny and honest and heart-warming. The cast includes veterans working alongside civilian actors and the plot revolves around a group of injured veterans putting on a play. The Soldiers’ Arts Academy is launching a seven-week national tour in Spring 2018 to raise awareness of the difficulties currently faced by around 66,000 veterans injured mentally and /or physically or those experiencing transitional difficulties. The tour will also bring the clear message to local communities that the arts can provide a viable alternative to sport as a recovery route. The tour will also announce a national initiative called “Art Force” which will aim to encourage veterans to build art hubs where they can get together with their local community as a chance to learn new skills, to recover and to transition back into the local community and into work. The tour will be accompanied by workshops for veterans and schools. Contact to book or to find out more.

Cassidy Little – Ex Royal Marine turned actor/dancer

Like rehabilitation, the arts are always moving forward.  New ideas compliment old ideas and fresh ideas revitalize dated concepts.  I am so pleased to continue my recovery in a project like Soldier On, created by the Soldiers Arts academy, allowing me access and opportunity with actors, writers, creators, and like-minded people on a similar path of recovery.

Shaun Johnson – Army Veteran turned actor

‘Soldier On’ is an excellent opportunity for the audience to spend time in our REAL world. This play gives us a voice to highlight physical, mental or transitional difficulty challenges often faced when leaving the military.

The making of the play bonded our cast, formed trusting relationships and injected long lost confidence back into the soul. We invite you to come along and join in with us as we, laugh, cry, and dance together telling you our story.

Tour/ venue dates


Northcott theatre Exeter Thursday 22nd/ 23rd February

Woodville theatre Gravesend Thursday 1st March

Playground Theatre London

Tuesday 13th March to Saturday 31st March

York Theatre Royal studio

Wednesday 4th – 7th April

The North Wall Oxford

Thursday 19th and 20th April

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The World’s Most Overcrowded Prison Systems

The World’s Most Overcrowded Prison Systems

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A global problem
In England and Wales, prison overcrowding is defined by the prison service as a prison containing more prisoners than the establishment’s Certified Normal Accommodation (CNA). CNA represents “the good, decent standard of accommodation that the [prison] service aspires to provide all prisoners.”

According to the Prison Reform Trust’s latest Bromley Briefing, the prison system as a whole has been overcrowded in every year since 1994. Overcrowding affects whether activities, staff and other resources are available to reduce risk of reoffending, as well as distance from families and other support networks.

In 2016–17, two-thirds of prisons in England and Wales were overcrowded (79 of the 119 prisons). Nearly 21,000 people were held in overcrowded accommodation—almost a quarter of the prison population. The majority were doubling up in cells designed for one. This level of overcrowding has remained broadly unchanged for the last 14 years.

According to Bureau of Justice Statistics, the U.S. has a prison population of 2.2 million, 481 inmates per 100,000 of the population. The U.S. prison system has attracted headlines for overcrowding with 18 states reporting they were operating at over 100 percent capacity at the end of 2014.

According to the World Prison Brief, England and Wales has an occupancy level of 111.6 per cent and is rated as 93rd worst in the worldwhen it comes to overcrowding in prisons, while the U.S. has an an occupancy level of 103.9% and comes 113th.

Somebody who gets arrested and jailed in Haiti will have to endure far tougher conditions. The Caribbean nation has the most overcrowded prisons of any country worldwide and its institutions are operating at 454 percent capacity. That has resulted in 80 to 100 men being crammed into a single cell at once, malnutrition and the spread of disease. Many of Haiti’s inmates have not been convicted of a crime and the UN has condemned the situtation, saying inmates are subject to daily violations of their human rights.

The situation in the Philippines is similar and conditions in its prisons have deteriorated steadily since President Rodrigo Duterte launched his war on drugs. That has seen the number of arrests skyrocket with thousands of people thrown into prison. That has seen occupancy rates stretched to 436 percent of capacity and Quezon City Jail is a good example. An ABC News report claims the facility was built to house 262 prisoners and it now hosts over 3,000. El Salvador comes third for prison overcrowding with its institutions operating at 348.2 percent of their capacity.

For full details, see the infographic below from Statista.

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Prison conditions—is the worst still yet to come?


Prison conditions—is the worst still yet to come?

Prison conditions

This month saw the publication of yet more figures showing the continuing slide in safety and decency in our prisons. Despite a small and welcome decline in the numbers of deaths in custody, the Ministry of Justice’s Safety in Custody statistics show that all other indicators have reached record highs—with record levels of self harm and record levels of assaults on both prisoners and staff.

The findings are likely to come as little surprise to supporters of the Prison Reform Trust. Our Bromley Briefings Prison Factfile has repeatedly raised the alarm over deteriorating conditions over the last five years.

The publication of the figures coincide with the appointment of a new ministerial team at the Ministry of Justice, with David Gauke replacing David Lidington as Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice; Rory Stewart replacing Sam Gyimah as prisons minister; and Lucy Frazer taking on the portfolio of Dominic Raab. Rory Stewart met PRT director, Peter Dawson, this week and David Gauke has also agreed to meet Peter and PRT’s chair, James Timpson.

Whilst ministers will be rapidly getting to grips with their new briefs, the publication of the findings of an unannounced inspection at HMP Liverpool by HM Inspectorate of Prisons, and the issuing of the first ever urgent notification by the Chief Inspector following an inspection visit to HMP Nottingham, have thrown ministers in at the deep end; charged with rectifying the mistakes of their predecessors. Writing in the Huffington Post and The Times (£), Peter Dawson cautioned that the worst may yet still be to come, with impending cuts of £600m to the Ministry of Justice’s budget.

Giving evidence to the House of Commons Justice Committee following the inspection of HMP Liverpool, Rory Stewart committed to restoring decency to prisons and getting “back to basics”. Whilst undoubtedly welcome, back to basics on prison reform cannot just mean fixing broken windows and cleaning dirty and infested accommodation, necessary though this is. It must also include a concerted and sustained effort to take the pressure off overstretched prisons by reducing prison numbers to a sustainable level.

Maternal imprisonment

In an innovative partnership, supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Oxford University and the Prison Reform Trust have come together to create new resources, including films and briefings, for criminal justice professionals to help improve their understanding of the impacts of maternal imprisonment.

It is estimated that 17,000 children every year are affected by maternal imprisonment in England and Wales. 95% (16,000) of these children are forced to leave their homes as their mother’s imprisonment leaves them without an adult to take care of them.

Despite this, no government agency has responsibility for ensuring the welfare of these children is safeguarded and their rights are protected.

Dr Shona Minson, a Research Associate at the Centre for Criminology at Oxford University has conducted research on the implications of maternal imprisonment for children. The research findings show that the experience of having a mother in prison not only negatively impacts a child’s relationship with their mother, but can affect every area of their lives including their education, health, and well being. The knock-on effects of stigmatisation may also lead to social isolation and discrimination.

The resource includes short films and briefing papers, which will be used across the criminal justice professions including by the Judicial College, Magistrates Association, Law Society, Criminal Bar Association and probation services.

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New ministerial team at the MoJ

New Ministerial Team at the MOJ

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Who’s who at the MoJ?

Not only did Theresa May replace David Lidington with David Gauke but she promoted two of the MoJ’s junior ministers too, Dominic Raab was promoted to housing minister while Sam Gyimah was promoted to Universities Minister, Minister of State at the Department for Education. Their replacements are Rory Stewart as Minister of State and Lucy Frazer, whose role is not yet specified.

Roles and responsibilities

As you can see, Rory Stewart is Minister of State replacing Dominic Raab. The roles and responsibilities of Phillip Lee and Lucy Frazer have not been clarified. To the outsider, it would make sense if Mr Lee continues to be Minister for Victims, Youth and Family Justice and Ms Frazer takes over as Minister for Prisons and Probation (the post previously held by Sam Gyimah). However, it is entirely possible that roles will be re-allocated. I have requested this information from the MoJ and will update the post on receipt. Finally, Lord Keen of Elie remains MoJ spokesperson in the House of Lords. I have included the new ministers’ Twitter feeds in case you want to follow them.

Rory Stewart – Minister of State

Roderick James Nugent “Rory” Stewart, (born 3 January 1973) is a British diplomat, politician, and writer. Stewart was a senior coalition official in Iraq in 2003–04. He is known for his book about this experience, The Prince of the Marshes (also published under the title Occupational Hazards), and for his 2002 walk across Afghanistan (one part of a larger walk across Asia), which served as the basis for another book, The Places in Between. In July 2008, he was appointed Ryan Family Professor of Human Rights at Harvard University.

Since May 2010, he has been the Member of Parliament for Penrith and The Border; he is a former Chair of the House of Commons Defence Select Committee and moved from being Minister of State at the Department for International Development and as Minister of State for Africa at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

The Parliament UK website lists his political interests as local democracy, rural affairs, broadband and foreign affairs. He led a review on the reasons why a number of British veterans become criminal offenders after returning to civilian life but stepped down before it was complete when he was appointed Chair of the Defence Committee. Many commentators were surprised that he was moved from a department where he had considerable expertise to one where he has none.

Lucy Frazer – Role as yet unspecified

Lucy Frazer (born 17 May 1972) studied at Cambridge where she was President of the Cambridge Union. She worked as a barrister in commercial law, and went on to become a QC at the age of forty. She won the South East Cambridgeshire seat in the 2015 general election with 28,845 votes (48.5%), a margin of victory of 16,837. and was elected to sit on the Education Select Committee in the same year. She also sat on the Policing and Crime Bill Committee in 2016. Ms Frazer was also David Lidington’s (the previous Justice Secretary) Parliamentary Private Secretary and sat in on a number of his meetings which will make her perhaps the best prepared of the new ministerial team.

Phillip Lee – Currently victims, youth and family justice

Phillip Lee is a qualified GP who was elected to parliament in 2010; he continues to work as a GP (for about 20-30 hours per month, see details on the theyworkforyou site), and he remains the sole Minister to remain in place at Petty France following this reshuffle. We must wait and see whether he retains responsibility for victims, youth and family justice.

Lord Keen – Advocate General for Scotland and MoJ spokeperson for the Lords

Richard Sanderson Keen has a long-standing involvement in the law having been an advocate (the equivalent of a barrister in England and Wales) in Scotland since 1980. He was chairman of the Scottish Conservative Party in 2014 and was ennobled in June 2015 when he became Advocate General for Scotland. He was the Lords spokesperson for the Home Office from April 2016 until moving to the MoJ later that year.

As an advocate he was involved in many high level cases representing Rangers Football Club and Andy Coulson among others. Lord Keen is not on Twitter.


Overall, the main problem facing the new MoJ team is the lack of continuity. In addition to frequent changes of Justice Secretary (5 postholders in the last three years), there is also a new Minister of State in Rory Stewart with little or no apparent knowledge of criminal justice and Sam Gyimah, the prisons and probation minister has moved on. Both David Gauke (solicitor) and Lucy Frazer (barrister and QC) are legally trained but had careers in commercial law.

Given the current parlous state of the prison and probation services, it’s a shame that a political reshuffle has delayed the momentum of reform and snuffed out again any chance of badly needed leadership in the justice arena

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Yet another 10 shocking facts about our prisons

Yet Another 10 shocking facts about our prisons

The state of our prison system

Just before Christmas (18 December 2017), the Prison Reform Trust published its most recent “Bromley Briefing” – an up-to-date compendium of facts that give an accurate, if depressing account of the state of our prison system.

If you ever need the latest, official information on anything to do with the penal system, the most recent briefing is always your best source.

Below are ten headline facts from the latest edition; for regular readers I’ve tried to pick the less obvious ones.

1. England & Wales has the highest rate of imprisonment in western Europe


2: We are sentencing people to longer prison sentences

More than three times as many people were sentenced to 10 years or more in the 12 months to June 2017 than at the same time in 2007. For more serious, indictable offences, the average prison sentence is now 56.6 months—23 and a half months longer than 10 years ago.

3: There has been a big increase in the number of recalls

8,309 people serving a sentence of less than 12 months were recalled to prison in the year to June 2017.

4: Prison conditions are deteriorating

More than two-fifths (42%) of our prisons are rated “of concern” or “of serious concern” by HM Prisons and Probation Service—the highest level ever recorded.

There are now more prisons rated “of serious concern” than “exceptional”. The number of prisons rated “exceptional” has plummeted from 43 in 2011–12 to only nine in 2016–17.

Three-quarters (74%) of people told inspectors that most staff treated them with respect. However, significantly reduced staffing in most prisons mean that many prisoners report felt unsupported and frustrated at not being able to get day-to-day concerns addressed.

Only one in seven people said they spent 10 hours or more out of their cell each day and nearly one in three people (31%) held in a local prison said they spent less than two hours out of their cell each day.


5: Prison food is not nutritious

The daily prison food budget within public sector prisons for 2015–16 was £2.02 per person.

7: Our prison population has multiple and complex needs


8: Remand

People on remand currently make up 12% of the total prison population—9,902 people. The majority are awaiting trial (70%), whilst the rest await sentencing.

More than one in ten people (9,765) remanded in custody during the year to June 2017 were subsequently acquitted. A further 14% of people (12,593) received a non-custodial sentence.

Nearly three in 10 (28%) self-inflicted deaths in 2016 were by people held on remand.

9: Older prisoners

16% of the prison population are aged 50 or over—13,601 people. Of these 3,251 are in their 60s and a further 1,601 people are 70 or older.

The number of over 50s in prison is projected to rise to 14,800 by 2021—an increase of 11%. The most significant change is anticipated in the over 70s, projected to rise by 31%.

45% of men in prison aged over 50 have been convicted of sex offences. The next highest offence category is violence against the person (23%) followed by drug offences (9%).

Six out of 10 older prisoners (59%) report having a long-standing illness or disability. This compares with just over a quarter (27%) of younger prisoners.


10: Prisoners with learning disabilities

Nearly three in 10 people (29%) were identified as having a learning disability or difficulty following assessment on entry to prison in 2015–16.

7% of people in contact with the criminal justice system have a learning disability—this compares with around 2% of the general population.

Prisoners with learning disabilities or difficulties are more likely than other prisoners to have broken a prison rule; they are five times as likely to have been subject to control and restraint, and around three times as likely to report having spent time in segregation.

Despite isolated good practice, for example at HMPs Parc and Littlehey, inspectors found that there has been a lack of focus and leadership from central government which has meant that little discernible progress has been made in improving the lives of this vulnerable group of offenders.

Inspectors have found that “little thought was given to the need to adapt regimes to meet the needs of prisoners with learning disabilities who may find understanding and following prison routines very difficult.”

However, more than half of prisons inspected this year were actively identifying and supporting prisoners with learning disabilities—a marked improvement on previous years.

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December newsletter

Newsletter December 2017


It would have been great to say that 2017 was the year that the prison service turned a corner and conditions started to improve. But as the new edition of the Bromley Briefings shows, that hasn’t happened. The statistics and a succession of crushing inspection reports show that life for many people in prison is neither safe nor decent, still less a preparation for successful resettlement. The recruitment of some additional staff is welcome, but expert analysis of the Ministry of Justice accounts shows that it faces a major financial crisis, and the prospect of closing prisons that are plainly not fit for purpose continues to recede.

So your support for PRT and, through us, the people who live and work in prison continues to be vital, never more so than at Christmas when the reality of what the loss of liberty means is very stark indeed. There is a mountain still to climb.

Peter Dawson, Director of the Prison Reform Trust

Bromley Briefings published

The latest edition of the Prison Reform Trust’s Bromley Briefings Prison Factfile has been published this week, the annual bumper edition of facts and figures about prisons and the people in them.

It highlights the consequences of a punitive political arms race over criminal justice policy over the past three decades. Steep cuts to prison staff and budgets in recent years have exposed the fault lines of a failed approach. The result is an overcrowded and overstretched prison system where standards of safety and decency are way below international expectations.

This year’s Bromley Briefings opens with a brand new section which we have called “The long view”. The evidence shows that the core of the current government’s approach—to spend more building more prison spaces—is identical to the actions of all its predecessors since the early 1990s. There is every possible indication that it will meet the same fate.

There is an affordable and practical route to reform, but it requires a fundamental rethink of who goes to prison, and for how long. A wise secretary of state should choose no other foundation on which to build.

Domestic violence

Women in prison have often been victims of much more serious offences than those of which they have been convicted, a new report “There’s a reason we’re in trouble”, published this month by the Prison Reform Trust reveals.

Fifty-seven per cent of women in prison report having been victims of domestic violence. More than half (53%) report having experienced emotional, physical or sexual abuse as a child compared to 27% of men.

Because many women fear disclosing abuse, both figures are likely to be an underestimate. The charity Women in Prison report that 79% of the women who use their services have experienced domestic violence and/or sexual abuse.

The report is timely in light of the forthcoming Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill and development of the forthcoming government’s strategy on women offenders—which has been delayed until spring next year.

The report identifies strong links between women’s experience of domestic and sexual abuse and coercive relationships, and their offending. Research has confirmed that women often encounter a culture of disbelief in the criminal justice system about the violence and exploitation to which they may have been exposed.

Prison reform and the Lammy review

This week, as Parliament approached recess, and government departments rush to publish announcements before the Christmas break, David Lidington made a speech outling his plans for prison reform, and the government response to David Lammy’s review was launched.

Whilst both described welcome ambitions to reduce prisoner numbers and improved outcomes for people in trouble with the law, it was disappointing that both contained few tangible commitments or deadlines for completion.

Press coverage of David Lidington’s speech focused on his call to ban the sale of small mobile phones. It is right that communication between prisons and the outside world requires careful and proportionate monitoring. However, when a person living and working in prison can spend their total weekly wages phoning home for just half an hour, or they are unable to access a phone on the landing because they’re locked up for 23 hours a day, it’s little wonder that a black market in illicit phones has developed. The justice secretary should focus on changing those things that are within his control. Reducing unacceptably high costs and improving access to phones would let people keep in touch with their support networks, and allow them to prepare themselves for release.

Whilst the government’s response to the Lammy review aims to meet the spirit as well as the letter of his report, there are notable omissions. Key recommendations on the judiciary have been rejected, outcomes for women are neglected, and very few of the promises of action have deadlines for completion. No new resources are promised to support any of this work, and the degree of external scrutiny proposed is very modest.

Equality requires perpetual vigilance. The Lammy Review’s recommendation of an ‘explain or reform’ discipline must become a permanent foundation, running throughout every stage of criminal justice. We are a long way from that, and trust will only develop if people from BAME communities, including those in prison, see good words turned into action.

Women in the justice system—new resource

Earlier this year we updated our popular web resource that provides information about mental health, autism and learning disabilities in the criminal courts, and included a new section on women in the justice system.

This reflects our programme of work, Transforming Lives, which seeks to reduce the number of women being sent to prison.

The first of two new film clips, featuring women with direct experience of the justice system, has now been uploaded and can be viewed by clicking here. A second film clip will be available in January.


We continue to submit evidence to a wide range of government consultations and Parliamentary inquiries. This month, the House of Commons Justice Committee has published our evidence to their inquiry on Transforming Rehabilitation. We have also responded to the Department for Communities and Local Government draft homelessness code of guidance for local authorities; and the Home Office’s consultation on revising PACE codes C, H, E and F.

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Chief Probation Inspector draws line in the sand

Chief Probation Inspector draws line in the sand

Current probation system is not evidence-based

It’s a safe bet that today’s first Chief Inspector of Probation annual report by Dame Glenys Stacey will get much more media coverage than those of most of her predecessors.

In a now familiar, direct style, Dame Glenys provides a surgical analysis of the extent to which the new probation system brought in by the government’s Transforming Rehabilitation programme is failing to rehabilitate offenders and protect the public.

If you work in any way for or with the public or private branches of the probation service, I strongly recommend that you invest the time to read the report in full.

In this post, I have picked out some key assessments to give you a flavour of the whole.

The [TR] teething problems we identified in a series of early inspection reports have largely been resolved. More deep-rooted problems now prevail.


The report provides a useful graphic summarising the inspectors’ findings:

Key assessments

Below are some of the key assessments that the Chief Inspector and her team have made of the current performance of the probation system.
A two-tier service

We see clearly that there is now a two-tier and fragmented service, with individuals being supervised by the NPS more effectively overall. Of course, the NPS is funded differently, and more generously.

IT holding back modernisation

Most CRCs are struggling. Those owners ambitious to remodel services have found probation difficult to reconfigure or re-engineer. Delivering probation services is more difficult than first appears, particularly in prisons and rural areas. There have been serious setbacks. Despite significant CRC investment, implementation of new IT systems so central to most CRCs’ transformation plans is stalled, awaiting the essential connectivity with other justice systems, yet to be provided by the Ministry of Justice.

Resourcing & Staffing

Unanticipated changes in sentencing and the nature of work coming to CRCs have seriously affected their income and indeed their commercial viability, causing them to curtail or change their transformation plans. Many have reduced staff numbers more than once:
in some, we find staff with exceptional workloads working long hours and still unable to deliver to the professional standards that they know are right.

Lack of consistent, face-to-face supervision

I question whether the current model for probation can deliver sufficiently well. Above all, a close, forthcoming and productive relationship between an individual and their probation worker is key. This is where skilled probation staff add most value, by motivating offenders, working continuously with them to bring about change, and at the same time protecting the public from harm. Yet in some CRCs, individuals meet with their probation worker in places that lack privacy, when sensitive and difficult conversations must take place. Some do not meet with their probation worker face-to face. Instead, they are supervised by telephone calls every six weeks or so from junior professional staff carrying 200 cases or more.


In simple terms, Dame Glenys makes the following key points:

    • TR is not working.
    • The Community Rehabilitation Companies in particular are under-funded.
    • Any probation system which does not guarantee consistency in offender manager-offender relationships is unlikely to work

Any model which abandons specialist interventions for offenders which have been proved to be effective is flawed.

      The full report makes a number of clear recommendations about particular issues and problems in probation and effectively invites the Justice Secretary to take action.

We know David Lidington is making a speech on prison reform at the Reform Think Tank next Monday 18 December. We also know that he is interested in sentence reform. Sentence reform can only be an effective response to our growing prison population if the probation service is working effectively.

Here’s hoping for some major announcements on probation reform in early 2018.

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Prison cost us £3billion last year

Prison cost us £3billion last year


How much does prison cost?

Three billion pounds is the short answer.

£2,997,687,957 is the official number for 2016/17 published in an addendum to the HMPPS annual report and accounts last month (26 October 2017).

That’s the overall figure (which includes “net expenditure met at regional or national level and recorded in the annual accounts of the National Offender Management Service”), the direct resource expenditure (which only includes net expenditure at a prison level) is a billion pounds less: £1,943,546,987.

These two different calculations generate two different costs:

The overall cost per prison place last year was £38,042 a big jump on the previous year’s £36,720. The cost per prisoner shows a similar jump (4.2%) from £33,931 in 2016/17 to £35,371 last year.

The direct cost per prison place last year was £24,664 compared to the previous year’s £24,249. The cost per prisoner was £22,933 in 2016/17 compared to £22,407 last year — this is a smaller increase of 2.3%, showing that it is head office expenditure behind most of the rise in the costs of imprisonment. This is unsurprising given the range of problems the prison service has been trying to respond to in terms of recruitment, riots etc.

Public vs private

The accounts also show comparative figures for public and private sector prisons (which the MoJ calls “contracted prisons”).

The table below shows the comparison in terms of direct resource expenditure. The MoJ classifies two types of private prison: Private Finance Initiative (PFI) for prisons which are designed, constructed, managed and financed by the private sector and Operate and Maintain for prisons which are leased to a private sector operator who contracts directly to run the prison and maintain the buildings.

[CNA stands for Certified Normal Accommodation, the number of prisoners an establishment should hold.]

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