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Frances Crook’s blog

Frances Crook in front of office bookshelves

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, provides informal comments on the issues of the day.

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  • 22 Jun 2016
    Magistrates, sentencing and race

    The Howard League has long argued that justice is not served by conferring the awesome power to incarcerate a citizen on magistrates. As well as the moral argument, the practical implications of short prison sentences are devastating on the individual, counter-productive and costly to the public. Last week I had a very interesting meeting with David …  Read more

  • 21 Jun 2016
    Stafford prison

    Surprisingly, rather lost in today’s inspection report of Stafford prison is the finding that men convicted of sex offences are being released on the streets, homeless, with no support or supervision. The report reveals that 126 men – including more than 100 assessed as presenting a high risk of serious harm to others – were released …  Read more

  • 24 May 2016
    Legal aid for prisoners

    In 2013 the Howard League for Penal Reform and the Prisoners Advice Service launched a legal challenge to the government’s decision to cut legal aid for prisoners. The case will be heard by the Court of Appeal in January 2017. During the last year, the Lord Chancellor has made a series of small concessions in response to …  Read more

  • 23 May 2016
    Reform prisons

    Michael Gove’s plans include six ‘reform’ prisons and this concept has generated more heat than light. Some commentators have expressed concern that it is the first step toward either privatisation or academisation. I don’t think this is the case. Bear with me while I do a quick jog through the various structures developed for public services over …  Read more

  • 16 May 2016
    Prison is not a moral crusade

    Michael Gove gave an interesting speech to prison governors last week, ahead of the Queen’s Speech which is expected to focus on prison reform. He focused on the moral mission of prisons to change lives and spoke in positive terms about the vision he has for prison leaders to rehabilitate people in prison. Whilst I welcome …  Read more

  • 6 May 2016
    Rainsbrook: more children being failed

    This is the third inspection report in the space of a year following the disastrous inspection last spring and the follow-up that found some improvements.  Read more

  • 19 Apr 2016
    Elmley prison: How low our expectations have sunk

    The prisons inspectorate published a report on Elmley prison today. Not a high-profile jail, but nevertheless important because it illustrates the dreadful state of prisons across the country and how low our expectations have sunk. The press release accompanying today’s report praises the prison for improving. Indeed it has improved since 2014, when it was just …  Read more

  • 14 Apr 2016
    Bronzefield, Downview and Holloway: The maths simply do not add up

    The inspection report published today on Bronzefield prison shows that a prison with empty beds and full staffing can deliver a decent regime for women, and the same would be true for men. As we know, most men’s prisons are grossly overcrowded and understaffed so they are not providing a decent regime. Future plans for Bronzefield …  Read more

  • 22 Mar 2016
    Ending mass incarceration

    The last session of the we hosted last week in Oxford discussed how to end mass incarceration. The great prison experiment in the United States that started in the 1970s and saw the number of men, women and children in various forms of incarceration explode to more than 1.5 million by 2010 is, finally, coming …  Read more

  • 9 Mar 2016
    Doncaster prison: What Michael Gove should do next

    The inspection report on Doncaster prison reveals once again the disaster that is the prison system. The relatively newly built jail is simply not safe for the men, some only teenagers, and it is not safe for staff. Prisons have become hotbeds of festering violence and misery. They are feeding the crime problem, not solving it. A …  Read more

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