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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Might it be time to hold ministers to account?
Most businesses and charities assess how effective they are being at delivering their objectives and they hold individuals to account. If staff do not deliver or do work that damages the business they are dismissed. Indeed, in public service, people can be held accountable many years after they have left – look at Hillsborough. Ministers, however, …  Read more
The end of sex offender treatment programmes
A few weeks ago I discovered that the prison service had quietly abandoned sex offender treatment programmes. These courses have been a mainstay of dealing with men convicted of a range of sex crimes and have been a prerequisite for securing transfer to open conditions and eventual release from prison. Tens of thousands of men have …  Read more
The Queen’s Speech and prison reform
The first duty of government is to keep citizens safe. Over the past few years this has happened as crime has fallen. But there are still intractable problems and the Queen’s Speech singularly ignored one of the most corrosive and potentially explosive – prisons. Prisons are in a shambles. They are riven with violence, drugs, assaults …  Read more
Reform prisons – just a title
There were reports in the media that Wandsworth prison has officially lost ‘reform' status. Actually it never really had it. Neither did any of the other prisons that were given the title. For, title was all it really was. Of course, there were also the highly paid additional governors who were imposed on top of the …  Read more
Reviewing the Manifestos: Labour
The last Labour government presided over an explosion in the number of men, women and children sent to prison and the length of time those people were incarcerated. People in prison are generally from economically poor families, with experience of mental health and social deprivation. The sort of people that Labour has claimed to represent. This …  Read more
Reviewing the Manifestos: Conservatives
The Conservative Party manifesto broadly continues the direction the government has been taking over the past couple of years under Michael Gove and Liz Truss. The big spending commitment is the £1billion building programme already being put in place to expand the system, obviously something we oppose. The last thing we need is more prisons. Whilst the …  Read more
Reviewing the Manifestos: Liberal Democrats
I am going to review each of the main party manifestos, starting with the Liberal Democrats. I welcome the fact the party manifesto clearly states that there are too many people in prison. This is an important and principled statement. However, there is no indication of how the party would really address and solve the problem. …  Read more
Our lawyers speak to children and young people in prison, as well as their loved ones and professionals who work with them every day. More and more often, what we are told causes us concern that they have either been harmed or are at risk of being seriously harmed. This can include self-harm, harm by another …  Read more
Healthcare in prisons
The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman has published a report into the death of Daniel Adewole, a 16-year-old boy who died at Cookham Wood prison in July 2015. The report raised concerns about the procedures and staff responses at the prison, which only holds children. These replicated systems applied in adult prisons – for example, "a paediatric …  Read more
Smoking in prisons
More prisons are due to ban smoking over the summer. It is difficult to argue that anyone should continue smoking as we all know that it kills, and kills painfully and prematurely. However, smoking tobacco is a highly addictive habit that is incredibly difficult to kick and people need a great deal of help to stop …  Read more