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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 Oct 2019
    It is just as irresponsible to promote short prison sentences as it is to oppose vaccination

    The justice secretary is to announce plans to change the law so that men (almost all of them will be men) who are serving long sentences for serious sex and violent crimes will have to serve at least two thirds of their sentence, instead of half.  Read more

  • 26 Sep 2019
    Toilets in prisons

    Most prisoners sleep in a toilet. Around 20,000 men sleep in a shared toilet.  Read more

  • 23 Aug 2019
    Children deserve better than a flawed inspection of a failing service

    An inspection of the Surrey youth offending team (YOT) rated it as ‘inadequate’ and among the ten worst-performing in the country.  Read more

  • 9 Aug 2019
    Recruiting prison officers is about to get even tougher

    I spent yesterday in a prison holding adult men. It is a complex place, with a wing holding men convicted of sex offences who have to be moved and provided with activities separate to the other wings, and another wing with vulnerable men who also have to be separated. The prison is twice as big as it should be, dilapidated and seriously in need of repair and investment. Despite this, I met enthusiastic, committed and thoughtful staff and managers, working hard to do the very best they could.  Read more

  • 29 Jul 2019
    Reviewing the Unduly Lenient Scheme

    The Victims Commissioner has written an open letter to the Attorney General asking him to undertake a comprehensive review of the Unduly Lenient Scheme, which provides for the public to ask the Attorney General to refer a sentence to the Court of Appeal for being too low.  Read more

  • 22 Jul 2019
    Why short prison sentences must go

    David Gauke has indicated he will resign as Justice Secretary when we have a new Prime Minister. He was hoping to have abolished short prison sentences but we now learn that the consultation on how to enact this has been delayed. Last week he published research showing that short prison sentences are counter-productive, so now the challenge will be fairly placed on whoever takes over as to whether evidence or cheap politics is the primary purpose of his or her decisions.  Read more

  • 11 Jul 2019
    Berwyn prison: are we tolerating the intolerable?

    I am still very angry about Berwyn prison. I was furious when it was proposed, furious when it was built and now it’s two years since it opened and I’m furious because I have been proved right.  Read more

  • 17 Jun 2019
    What really happens when someone is asked to do unpaid work

    Community service, or unpaid work, had been a success story for decades; that is until Chris Grayling destroyed the probation service and split it, incorporating it into the private community rehabilitation companies.  Read more

  • 14 Jun 2019
    Homelessness and the penal system

    The new prisons minister, Robert Buckland MP, recently replied to a Parliamentary Question from Richard Burgon MP, the shadow justice secretary, concerning the number of people received into prison who are homeless. This was interesting because most debate has centred around people being homeless on release from prison, which is, of course, still a major problem.  Read more

  • 4 Jun 2019

    Last year I wrote about the history of Feltham, showing how it has never been a safe place for children, never cared for challenging children well, and never helped them on the road to a good and useful life. The failure of Feltham prison with children is a national scandal. Now yet another report tells how the children are subjected to violent restraint by staff, while self-injury has increased, and often return to the community with little or no support.  Read more

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