Earlier this year, we invited Howard League members in prison – and members with a loved one in prison – to share their experiences of imprisonment during the pandemic. In April, we built on this by asking young people on our advice line what the past two years had been like for them.
As we come to the end of another challenging year, I would like to thank all Howard League members for your support in 2021.
Christmas is a difficult period for many, and particularly so for people in prison and their families. The calls this week to our legal advice line, from children and young adults, are a stark reminder of how life inside is very different from life outside at this time of year.
Our legal service works with children and young adults prison, supporting them with a wide spectrum of unmet legal need, from helping them find somewhere safe to live on release to challenging their conditions in prison.
In the past few weeks our legal team has been working hard to help children and young adults in prison. At a time when young people are being locked in their cells almost all day, we are working to get them safely released wherever possible.
Alongside our wider legal challenge to the government on the issue of early release of selected prisoners, our lawyers have had to continue fighting for individual young people in prison who are suitable for release to be let out of prison.
Aylesbury prison holds young adults, mainly teenagers, and it has been one of the worst prisons in the country for years. It was so awful that it was put into emergency special measures and half the young men were shipped out to other jails – many of which are only marginally better. Despite the extra help, a new inspection shows it is still desperately awful.
While the government is banging the ‘law-and-order’ drum, it is worth remembering that when people go into prison they also come out. The longer they are inside, the more institutionalised they become and the bigger the challenges they face on release.
Last year I wrote about the history of Feltham, showing how it has never been a safe place for children, never cared for challenging children well, and never helped them on the road to a good and useful life. The failure of Feltham prison with children is a national scandal. Now yet another report tells how the children are subjected to violent restraint by staff, while self-injury has increased, and often return to the community with little or no support.