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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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  • 1 Nov 2016
    What is Liz Truss going to do?

    The (relatively) new Secretary of State, Liz Truss, is to give her first speech on prisons policy on Thursday. At Justice Questions in Parliament on Tuesday she batted away calls from all sides of the House for action to reduce suicides and violence by saying there is going to be a White Paper very soon, presumably …  Read more

  • 31 Oct 2016
    A plan to save lives in prison

    Since the new Secretary of State for Justice was appointed in July, 26 men and women have taken their own lives in prison. They all hanged themselves. Suicides in prison are now at epidemic proportions with someone dying every three days and it is getting worse day by day. The Secretary of State is about to announce her …  Read more

  • 24 Oct 2016
    We’ve tried expecting prisons to rehabilitate and they just don’t

    The RSA has today published a report suggesting the purpose of prison should be changed to one that is truly about rehabilitation. Whilst I recognise this is a well-meaning report that makes some interesting recommendations around devolving criminal justice budgets, it seems to be in danger of perpetuating the failure that has been at the heart …  Read more

  • 18 Oct 2016
    Helping prisoners into work after Brexit

    We all know that getting a job on release from prison is one of the best ways of staying away from crime. But prisons do not equip you to get work-ready. In fact, they do the opposite. I have tramped round prisons for 30 years and seen lots of excellent training in bricklaying, industrial cleaning, light …  Read more

  • 14 Oct 2016
    Dying in prison

    It always used to be the case that prisons were full of young men. Nowadays, prisons hold a lot more older men. People are considered old in prison at 50, partly because the environment is so unhealthy and partly because they have probably led unhealthy lives with precarious housing, a poor diet and a history of …  Read more

  • 3 Oct 2016
    Distance from home for children in custody

    Last week a report commissioned by the Youth Justice Board into distance from home for children in custody was published by HM Inspectorate of Prisons. It found that children held further away from home get fewer visits from families and professionals. No link was found between distance from home and feelings of safety, but half the …  Read more

  • 30 Sep 2016
    Prison Diaries

    Earlier this month, to mark the Howard League’s 150th birthday, we invited prisoners to tell us what life is really like in prison by keeping a diary for a day. The day we chose – Friday 2 September – was significant as it would have been the 290th birthday of John Howard, the 18th-century penal reformer …  Read more

  • 16 Sep 2016
    A depressing week

    It has been a depressing week for those of us involved in prisons. The inquest into a teenager who took his own life in troubled Glen Parva prison heard from the governor that she did not have sufficient staff even to keep people alive. Lincoln prison was in lockdown following a violent incident that resulted in men …  Read more

  • 9 Sep 2016
    World Suicide Prevention Day

    It is a terrible thing to lose a family member to suicide; even worse when they take their own life inside a prison. I remember the mother of a 19-year-old who hanged himself in Leeds prison telling me that he had been a troubled boy but at least she now thought he would be safe. …  Read more

  • 8 Sep 2016
    The Children and Social Work Bill

    The Children and Social Work Bill is currently being considered by Parliament. The legislation was touted as implementing a range of additional safeguards but it contains a number of frankly terrifying ‘exemption clauses’ which would allow local authorities to seek permission to disapply a wide range of legal duties in the name of ‘innovation’. It is …  Read more

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