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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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  • 19 Mar 2018
    Isolation in the snow

    While snow has laid a blanket over the country, children have enjoyed the experience. But not all children. Children in prison have been locked up in isolation, and refused permission to go out in the snow – even to touch it as they were escorted about the jail. On the first Monday after the snow fell …  Read more

  • 13 Mar 2018
    How to stop mobile phones being smuggled into prisons

    The new justice secretary, David Gauke, has given his first speech on prisons. He focused on security, drugs and gangs and indicated that he would confront these scourges which, he suggested, were at the root of the problems faced in prisons. Leaving aside that I think they are symptoms of a system in meltdown – and I …  Read more

  • 26 Feb 2018
    Animal magic in prison

    I visited a women’s prison last week and met a woman who had been inside many years. There is so much wrong with our sentencing structure, but the point of this blogpost is to look at what can be done to mitigate some of the cruelties of the system today, while we are campaigning for …  Read more

  • 23 Feb 2018
    Words and labels, and why they matter

    I tweeted this morning about a sports report on BBC Radio 4's Today programme. The reporter talked repeatedly of the ‘girls’ in the Great Britain – yes, I know the country is the UK, but for some reason we get that wrong, too – curling team. I wondered if perhaps the team comprised children. It seems …  Read more

  • 16 Feb 2018
    How the Howard League legal team battles hard to get young prisoners released on time

    The Times front page story today says that prisoners who are eligible for supervised release will be given the opportunity in greater numbers. This is to be welcomed. The Howard League legal team has battled hard to get young prisoners released on time and with support – it has been an uphill fight. Some recent examples …  Read more

  • 14 Feb 2018
    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

  • 7 Feb 2018
    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

  • 10 Jan 2018
    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

  • 3 Jan 2018
    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

  • 5 Dec 2017
    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

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