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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Children and education in prison
The Howard League made a complaint on behalf of a fifteen year old boy who was not getting sufficient education in prison. The child, who wishes to remain anonymous, had been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and Attention Deficit Disorder before he went to jail as a young teenager. His local authority issued him with a …  Read more
Building massive jails in remote locations is a recipe for disaster
This government, as with so many of its predecessors, is trying to build its way out of a prison crisis. It has never worked in the past and it will not work this time. I do not need to rehearse the facts about the dire state of prisons and it is now generally agreed that something …  Read more
David Lidington and Aylesbury prison
There has been much public concern about the state of prisons recently, and justifiably so, as people are dying, being beaten up and harming themselves. I wrote to the Secretary of State for Justice, David Lidington, as soon as he was appointed just after the general election. I suggested several steps he could take to ease …  Read more
I don’t know anything more about the background story of Girl X than anyone else, but I think what we do know raises some serious questions for various authorities about the decisions they made and their responsibility for her plight. First off, she is far from alone. Over the years Howard League lawyers and caseworkers have …  Read more
Monitoring isolation of children in prison
On 4 July 2017 the High Court ruled that AB, a child represented by the Howard League legal team, had been treated unlawfully. The boy had been isolated and deprived of education by Feltham prison over several months. As the Chief Inspector of prisons reported recently, the routine isolation of children in prisons is no …  Read more
Peterborough prison and social impact bonds
The final evaluation of the Peterborough prison Payment by Results (PbR) pilot was published last week. This was a scheme to provide support for people released from Peterborough prison after serving short sentences aimed at reducing reoffending. Services were provided by charitable organisations in the main, were tailored to individuals needs and, most crucially, people volunteered …  Read more
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