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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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
Conservative Party Conference 2017: Notes from the Howard League fringe event
The Howard League has hosted fringe meetings at the various political party conferences for many years. This gives a platform to ministers and shadow ministers to talk less formally about their penal policies and gives an opportunity to engage with party activists and community leaders. I chaired a meeting yesterday at the Conservative Conference that Sam …  Read more
Books For Prisoners: Erlestoke
I have been contacted by a mother of a prisoner in Erlestoke. She was told she was not permitted to send her son books. She wanted to give him novels and he had asked for a dictionary. She lodged a complaint and got her local MP involved. Eventually the governor, in an illiterate and barely comprehensible …  Read more
We can reduce reoffending by cutting the prison population
I am pleased that the new Secretary of State for Justice, David Lidington, has said, several times, that he wants to see fewer prisoners. I am a little concerned, however, that he is repeating the old mantra that the way to achieve this is by reducing reoffending. I had a meeting with him recently and …  Read more
Ending the injustice of IPPs
The recent high profile public concern about the people languishing in prison on the long discredited IPP sentence is welcome, as is the pressure to get them eased through the system and released back into the community. The problem is that they are being recalled to prison. There were 8,711 men and a handful of women …  Read more