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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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  • 15 Aug 2017
    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

  • 8 Aug 2017
    Girl X

    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

  • 3 Aug 2017
    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

  • 31 Jul 2017
    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

  • 24 Jul 2017
    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

  • 28 Jun 2017
    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

  • 22 Jun 2017
    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

  • 5 Jun 2017
    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

  • 31 May 2017
    Reviewing the Manifestos: Labour

    The last Labour government presided over an explosion in the number of men, women and children sent to prison and the length of time those people were incarcerated. People in prison are generally from economically poor families, with experience of mental health and social deprivation. The sort of people that Labour has claimed to represent. This …  Read more

  • 25 May 2017
    Reviewing the Manifestos: Conservatives

    The Conservative Party manifesto broadly continues the direction the government has been taking over the past couple of years under Michael Gove and Liz Truss. The big spending commitment is the £1billion building programme already being put in place to expand the system, obviously something we oppose. The last thing we need is more prisons. Whilst the …  Read more

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