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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A young person prevented from saying goodbye to his dying mother
Yesterday I tweeted about the work one of our lawyers was doing to try and get a prison to escort a young person to see his dying mother. The prison refused. It appears it is so short-staffed it could not escort him. We did everything we could to try and persuade the prison that this was …  Read more
Guidance issued to magistrates following Howard League legal case
Some weeks ago Howard League lawyers took legal action against two magistrates courts for unlawfully ordering the police to arrest a child for not paying a fine. As a result the 15-year-old boy was detained for two nights at the police station. I am extremely pleased to report that following this case new guidance has been …  Read more
Turning off the prison treadmill
Today HM Chief Inspector of Prisons has published his report on people on an indeterminate sentence for public protection (IPP) who are still in prison years past their tariff. This Kafka-esque sentence was introduced by Labour in 2003 and caught 8,711 men and women in its net until it was abolished by Ken Clarke in …  Read more
Recruit 2,500 more prison officers? Balderdash
The central plank of the government’s plan to deal with the prison crisis is the recruitment of more officers. They claim they are going to recruit an additional 2,500 front line officers, and this will allow staff to be responsible for six prisoners each, forming relationships and overseeing their journey through the prison system. Balderdash. Government …  Read more
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
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
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
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
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
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