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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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
We should support Liz Truss
There have been some rather nasty personal social media attacks against the new Secretary of State. My view is that it is legitimate to critique what ministers do and their leadership, but not to make it personal. Liz Truss has only been in post a few months and has had a steep learning curve, as most …  Read more
A young person being held in a state of limbo over a decision to allow him to attend his mother’s funeral
Two weeks ago I wrote about the efforts of our legal team to persuade a prison to escort a young person to see his dying mother. The prison had told the lad it was too short-staffed to take him. His mother died before he got the opportunity to visit her. I am pleased to report that …  Read more
On Sunday, the government announced plans to increase to life imprisonment the sentence for dangerous driving when someone has been killed. I understand, and sympathise with, public concern when people have been killed or seriously injured by drivers who are then apparently not given a serious penalty. However, governments too readily reach for the simple tool …  Read more
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