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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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  • 28 Apr 2017
    Scotland’s plan to reform (and reduce) women’s imprisonment

    Yesterday I wrote about our visit to Scotland. We went to explore three particular issues: Scotland’s plan to reform (and reduce) women’s imprisonment, the punishment system that does not include imposing additional days, and the new structure for independent monitors of prisons. Plans for women are, on the face of it, offering serious reform. On 23 April …  Read more

  • 27 Apr 2017
    Lessons from Scotland

    There is rarely much to applaud in the criminal justice system, so it was exhilarating to spend two days in Scotland hearing about good practice and principled leadership. We met with lots of key people and visited Edinburgh prison. Colin McConnell, CEO of the Scottish Prison Service, told us he saw it as a ‘citizen recovery service’. …  Read more

  • 19 Apr 2017
    The general election

    I am not pleased about the general election as it will be a bad thing for the justice system. Goodness knows, things could hardly get worse, but the election means that nothing will happen for weeks and then a new justice secretary will want to have a think. This means we will be in a state …  Read more

  • 13 Apr 2017
    How to reduce the death toll in prisons

    Yesterday I attended a roundtable meeting to discuss prison safety convened by the prisons minister, Sam Gyimah. It brought together the key experts in prison safety, from NHS to voluntary groups, from the Ministry of Justice officials to academics. The people missing were former prisoners or serving prisoners and staff. The stated purpose of the event …  Read more

  • 7 Apr 2017
    Liz Truss has inherited a mess. Be careful what you wish for

    The Secretary of State for Justice, Liz Truss, is coming under increasing pressure from the media and commentators. Some of it is personal. The question that needs answering is whether she is achieving all she can to reform the failing prison system and if not, why not. It is worth looking back at some of her …  Read more

  • 5 Apr 2017
    Wellingborough: A mega prison will create mega problems

    Today the local council in Wellingborough will consider an application from the Ministry of Justice to construct a mega-jail on the site of a much smaller prison that was closed five years ago. The proposed new prison will cost a minimum of £143million to construct and around £20million to £30million a year to run. It will …  Read more

  • 13 Mar 2017
    Concordat on children in custody

    A year ago, the Home Office and the Department of Education produced a draft concordat to prevent the detention of children in police stations following charge. It was never published, but it has been implemented. I thought it should be published and we are putting it on our website to make it available to everyone …  Read more

  • 7 Mar 2017
    Children first

    The sentencing council published its revised guidance on sentencing children today.  For the first time, the guidance refers to children as children. The previous edition referred to children as “youths”. This is a huge and welcome step forward and something we raised in our consultation response and discussed with their staff repeatedly. Language matters and the …  Read more

  • 23 Feb 2017
    Our evidence to Parliament’s inquiry into mental health and deaths in prisons

    I gave evidence to Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights on 22 February as part of its inquiry into mental health and deaths in prisons. We had already submitted written evidence setting out our concern, but I raised an additional issue in my oral evidence. In 2016, 196 men and women died in prison due to …  Read more

  • 20 Feb 2017
    Problems with the complaints system – taking a decade is unacceptable

    Almost ten years after the event, the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) has completed his investigation into the use of force by staff on a 15 year old child with learning difficulties at Hassockfield secure training centre (STC) in 2007. Hassockfield has since been closed down but it had been run by Serco for more …  Read more

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