When a child is in trouble, we should do all that we can to give them the care and support they need. This may sound obvious, but as the Howard League has seen through its legal work, and as a long line of official inspection reports makes clear, prisons holding children fail routinely to reach this standard. Prison is no place for a child.
On Tuesday, the government published its delayed Prisons Strategy White Paper. It’s not all terrible. Some of the ideas in the White Paper could begin to address prisons’ dire record on safety, education, work and resettlement, and the Howard League has long supported more autonomy for prison governors. However, the overall strategic vision is one which will send more people to prison every year, compounding the very problems that the White Paper seeks to solve.
In Monday’s committee stage debate on the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, Members of the House of Lords discussed a series of amendments on the sentence of imprisonment for public protection (IPP). The Bill has been rightly viewed as an example of penal policy at its worst – punitive, illiberal and unevidenced. In contrast, Monday’s debate showed Parliament at its best.
When the vaccination programme started to be rolled out, we urged the Ministry of Justice to implement a prison-by-prison strategy. This is not what happened, and now it seems that the various authorities and experts are blaming each other for the low take-up.
The climate is changing. Some estimates indicate that the UK could experience summer days of 40 degrees. New prisons are not being built with this in mind. Environmental claims are being inflated and the huge expansion in prison-building will be environmentally damaging, as well as being unsuitable and possibly dangerous for prisoners and staff.
During a hearing of the Justice Committee in Parliament on 13 July, when the Minister and the head of HM Prisons and Probation Service were asked about how girls were going to be cared for now that Rainsbrook secure training centre (STC) was closing down, they indicated, perhaps inadvertently, that they were thinking of putting the young girls into prisons holding boys.