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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Using participation and legal work to help a child get a home on release from prison
We have been running sessions with children in custody on the concept of what ‘home’ means. After all, children in prisons are living there. And the Howard League legal team has worked with many hundreds of young people to help get them a home on release. About three weeks ago we asked a 15-year-old boy in …  Read more
Whitewash the dirty prison walls, but only system change will solve the problems in the long run
I am running out of fingers on which to count the secretaries of state as they come and go. David Gauke has followed David Lidington, Elizabeth Truss, Michael Gove, Chris Grayling and Ken Clarke in the last seven years. The prisons and probation ministers started with Crispin Blunt, then Jeremy Wright, Andrew Selous, Sam Gyimah, and now …  Read more
Enshrining children’s rights in policy and practice
The Howard League is working in partnership with Defence for Children International (DCI) Belgium, DCI Italy and the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, which is based in Poland. This international project is funded by the EU and aims to promote children’s rights by improving detention conditions for children and enhancing the legal protections for children …  Read more
Christmas in a children’s prison
I visited a prison holding 160 teenage boys aged 15 to 17 over the Christmas holidays. It was a depressing day. An inspection report, which I have not seen but fully expect will be critical, is due to be published soon, so I am not going to comment on the overall treatment of the children …  Read more
Another weekend, another prison disturbance
There was yet another prison disturbance at the weekend. Men in Swaleside prison, a Kent jail intended to be a training establishment, took over a wing for a short time on Sunday and the prison riot squad was called in to sort it out. There have been outbreaks of disorder in prisons across the country over …  Read more
Thoughts on the Metropolitan Police Commissioner’s address to the Howard League AGM
The Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick, was invited to give a lecture at the Howard League’s most important event of the year, our AGM. She used the opportunity to call for more young children, in effect more black boys, to be sent to prison and for longer. Each year a criminal justice luminary is invited to …  Read more
With food prices rising, should we prepare for civil dissent?
We held a lively meeting with trustees to review the charity’s strategy this week. We were looking at the work of the Howard League and how we should focus our (quite meagre) resources in future. One of our trustees raised an alarming prospect that could derail all our, and the government’s, best-laid plans. He works in …  Read more
IPP prisoners are tangled within a Kafka novel
I visited a local prison a couple of weeks ago, and as I always do, I chatted to people I met along the way. One conversation stuck with me and the man has since written to me to tell me his story. He was sentenced to an IPP in January 2006 with a tariff of 12 …  Read more
Children in the care system should be cared for and not criminalised
Last week the Howard League hosted an event for lawyers from different disciplines to come together to think about how to work together creatively to reduce the criminalisation of children in care. Children are being criminalised at excessively high rates in children's homes compared to other children in the community. There's a complex interplay of …  Read more
Our campaigning is making a real difference for children
Some three years ago the Howard League revealed that some youth offending teams were recommending punitive restrictions on children when they were released from prison, which set them up to fail and put them at risk of being sent back to prison. The restrictions included electronic monitoring and curfews alongside an intensive programme of up to …  Read more