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.
Prisons have been pretty grim places in the last couple of months. The young people who have managed to phone through to the Howard League legal advice line tell us they are locked up almost all day and we know that this is the same for adults.
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.
The justice secretary is to announce plans to change the law so that men (almost all of them will be men) who are serving long sentences for serious sex and violent crimes will have to serve at least two thirds of their sentence, instead of half.
The new prisons minister, Robert Buckland MP, recently replied to a Parliamentary Question from Richard Burgon MP, the shadow justice secretary, concerning the number of people received into prison who are homeless. This was interesting because most debate has centred around people being homeless on release from prison, which is, of course, still a major problem.
More prisoners will be given the opportunity for early release on temporary licence. This is another undoing of a Chris Grayling decision, which was taken six years ago and meant that thousands of men and women spent longer in prison and were denied the opportunity to find work, spend time with families prior to release and acclimatise themselves to the real world.
We submitted evidence to the United Nations Committee Against Torture, setting out how the UK fails to live up to its obligations under the Convention, and I was invited to go to Geneva to give a briefing to the Committee before it grilled our government representatives.