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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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  • 4 Nov 2019
    A story that illustrates the craziness of the criminal justice system

    This is too shocking not to share. A friend, a police officer, told me he was in a car with three colleagues for the whole day, cruising round aimlessly ‘looking for burglars’. As if this wasn’t a total waste of taxpayers’ money and a total waste of police time, it gets worse.  Read more

  • 31 Oct 2019
    The nation deserves better

    I just got a text from our Comms Manager, Rob Preece, because I was out of the office when the safety in prisons statistics were published. He said: “Self-injury among children in custody has almost doubled. It is my job to come up with the words, but there aren’t many that do this justice”.  Read more

  • 17 Oct 2019
    ‘Law-and-order’ proposals in the Queen’s Speech are performative politics at their most risible

    The government has been trumpeting its focus on ‘law and order’, but it is not in fact concerned either with promoting the rule of law or in creating a more orderly society.  Read more

  • 14 Oct 2019
    There is always money for locking up children, but none to clean up the mess afterwards

    While the government is banging the ‘law-and-order’ drum, it is worth remembering that when people go into prison they also come out. The longer they are inside, the more institutionalised they become and the bigger the challenges they face on release.  Read more

  • 1 Oct 2019
    It is just as irresponsible to promote short prison sentences as it is to oppose vaccination

    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.  Read more

  • 26 Sep 2019
    Toilets in prisons

    Most prisoners sleep in a toilet. Around 20,000 men sleep in a shared toilet.  Read more

  • 23 Aug 2019
    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.  Read more

  • 9 Aug 2019
    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 as it should be, dilapidated and seriously in need of repair and investment. Despite this, I met enthusiastic, committed and thoughtful staff and managers, working hard to do the very best they could.  Read more

  • 29 Jul 2019
    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.  Read more

  • 22 Jul 2019
    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 the challenge will be fairly placed on whoever takes over as to whether evidence or cheap politics is the primary purpose of his or her decisions.  Read more

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