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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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  • 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

  • 8 Feb 2017
    Attending a funeral

    Before Christmas, I wrote about a lad whose mother died whilst he was in custody. He had not been allowed to see his dying mother in hospital. Howard League lawyers were then trying to get the prison to agree to him attending his mother’s funeral. Four days before the funeral it was confirmed that he would …  Read more

  • 27 Jan 2017
    Yesterday was a bad day, but there is some hope on the horizon

    Yesterday was a bad day. The Ministry of Justice admitted that 119 people had died by suicide in prisons over the last year. The figures of self-injury and assaults also published yesterday revealed the chaos in the system. It happens that I had a meeting with the Secretary of State, Liz Truss, on Wednesday to discuss …  Read more

  • 20 Jan 2017
    Missed opportunity to provide real employment for prisoners

    The ‘super prison’ for over 2,000 men in Wrexham is due to start taking prisoners next month. It will include a bizarre model of keeping men occupied in the prison that will serve the private sector running the ‘workshops’ very well but is not a proper model of employment. It is disappointing that the opportunity …  Read more

  • 19 Jan 2017
    Radical overhaul of the magistracy is urgently needed

    The High Court has ruled that magistrates unlawfully jailed a women for 81 days because she was unable to pay her council tax. Sam Genen and the law firm Ahmed Rahman Carr took the case. About 100 people are imprisoned by magistrates for failing to pay council tax debts and the Centre for Criminal Appeals has …  Read more

  • 21 Dec 2016
    What Christmas is really like for people behind bars

    Regular as clockwork the stories about 'convicts' enjoying 'belly-busting' feasts at Christmas appear. The clichéd stories always conjure up the poverty-stricken Dickensian pension as an emotional ploy to make everyone hate these nasty prisoners dining out in luxury. So what is the truth? The daily budget for an adult man in prison is around £2 and this …  Read more

  • 20 Dec 2016
    The answer to the prison crisis is simple: less is better

    Yesterday, Liz Truss made a statement and answered questions in Parliament following the riot in Birmingham prison. She reiterated her plan to recruit more staff, although this will only replace a quarter of those who were got rid of by her predecessor-but-one. Other plans involve curtailing the use of mobile phones and testing for drugs. I …  Read more

  • 12 Dec 2016
    Secure schools are not the answer

    I applaud the aims of Liz Truss. If we have to incarcerate children, they should be safe, be educated and be able to thrive. But I do not think secure schools will be the answer. There are around 875 children in custody at any one time, only 30 of whom are girls. We should have far …  Read more

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