Today, the report stage of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill in the House of Lords comes to an end. The amended bill will now go to a third reading in the House of Lords, followed by a “ping pong” stage where both Houses of Parliament must agree on the wording of the Bill.
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.
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.