Frances Crook’s blog
Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, provides informal comments on the issues of the day.
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Children deserve better than a flawed inspection of a failing service
An inspection of the Surrey youth offending team (YOT) rated it as ‘inadequate’ and among the ten worst-performing in the country. It is my view that children who are in conflict with the criminal law should be seen and treated as children first, and children’s services should be responsible for all children, no matter who they are …  Read more
Recruiting prison officers is about to get even tougher
I spent yesterday in a prison holding adult men. It is a complex place, with a wing holding men convicted of sex offences who have to be moved and provided with activities separate to the other wings, and another wing with vulnerable men who also have to be separated. The prison is twice as big …  Read more
Reviewing the Unduly Lenient Scheme
The Victims Commissioner has written an open letter to the Attorney General asking him to undertake a comprehensive review of the Unduly Lenient Scheme, which provides for the public to ask the Attorney General to refer a sentence to the Court of Appeal for being too low. I support the call for a comprehensive review but …  Read more
Why short prison sentences must go
David Gauke has indicated he will resign as Justice Secretary when we have a new Prime Minister. He was hoping to have abolished short prison sentences but we now learn that the consultation on how to enact this has been delayed. Last week he published research showing that short prison sentences are counter-productive, so now …  Read more
Berwyn prison: are we tolerating the intolerable?
I am still very angry about Berwyn prison. I was furious when it was proposed, furious when it was built and now it’s two years since it opened and I’m furious because I have been proved right. Berwyn prison is built on a former industrial estate in Wrexham, an area that desperately needs infrastructure and employment …  Read more
What really happens when someone is asked to do unpaid work
Community service, or unpaid work, had been a success story for decades; that is until Chris Grayling destroyed the probation service and split it, incorporating it into the private community rehabilitation companies. The idea of getting people who have committed a crime to make amends by doing some community work and perhaps learning a skill that …  Read more
Homelessness and the penal system
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 …  Read more
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 …  Read more
Extending release on temporary licence is a decision based on evidence
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 …  Read more
Sentencing young adults
Back in January, the Howard League launched a briefing paper based on more than a year of work with judges and young people. The publication, Sentencing Principles for Young Adults, sets out how the sentencing of young people, typically aged between 18 and 25, could be improved. Working with the Barrow Cadbury coalition, T2A, we drew …  Read more