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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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  • 7 Apr 2017
    Liz Truss has inherited a mess. Be careful what you wish for

    The Secretary of State for Justice, Liz Truss, is coming under increasing pressure from the media and commentators. Some of it is personal. The question that needs answering is whether she is achieving all she can to reform the failing prison system and if not, why not. It is worth looking back at some of her …  Read more

  • 5 Apr 2017
    Wellingborough: A mega prison will create mega problems

    Today the local council in Wellingborough will consider an application from the Ministry of Justice to construct a mega-jail on the site of a much smaller prison that was closed five years ago. The proposed new prison will cost a minimum of £143million to construct and around £20million to £30million a year to run. It will …  Read more

  • 13 Mar 2017
    Concordat on children in custody

    A year ago, the Home Office and the Department of Education produced a draft concordat to prevent the detention of children in police stations following charge. It was never published, but it has been implemented. I thought it should be published and we are putting it on our website to make it available to everyone …  Read more

  • 7 Mar 2017
    Children first

    The sentencing council published its revised guidance on sentencing children today.  For the first time, the guidance refers to children as children. The previous edition referred to children as “youths”. This is a huge and welcome step forward and something we raised in our consultation response and discussed with their staff repeatedly. Language matters and the …  Read more

  • 23 Feb 2017
    Our evidence to Parliament’s inquiry into mental health and deaths in prisons

    I gave evidence to Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights on 22 February as part of its inquiry into mental health and deaths in prisons. We had already submitted written evidence setting out our concern, but I raised an additional issue in my oral evidence. In 2016, 196 men and women died in prison due to …  Read more

  • 20 Feb 2017
    Problems with the complaints system – taking a decade is unacceptable

    Almost ten years after the event, the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) has completed his investigation into the use of force by staff on a 15 year old child with learning difficulties at Hassockfield secure training centre (STC) in 2007. Hassockfield has since been closed down but it had been run by Serco for more …  Read more

  • 8 Feb 2017
    Attending a funeral

    Before Christmas, I wrote about a lad whose mother died whilst he was in custody. He had not been allowed to see his dying mother in hospital. Howard League lawyers were then trying to get the prison to agree to him attending his mother’s funeral. Four days before the funeral it was confirmed that he would …  Read more

  • 27 Jan 2017
    Yesterday was a bad day, but there is some hope on the horizon

    Yesterday was a bad day. The Ministry of Justice admitted that 119 people had died by suicide in prisons over the last year. The figures of self-injury and assaults also published yesterday revealed the chaos in the system. It happens that I had a meeting with the Secretary of State, Liz Truss, on Wednesday to discuss …  Read more

  • 20 Jan 2017
    Missed opportunity to provide real employment for prisoners

    The ‘super prison’ for over 2,000 men in Wrexham is due to start taking prisoners next month. It will include a bizarre model of keeping men occupied in the prison that will serve the private sector running the ‘workshops’ very well but is not a proper model of employment. It is disappointing that the opportunity …  Read more

  • 19 Jan 2017
    Radical overhaul of the magistracy is urgently needed

    The High Court has ruled that magistrates unlawfully jailed a women for 81 days because she was unable to pay her council tax. Sam Genen and the law firm Ahmed Rahman Carr took the case. About 100 people are imprisoned by magistrates for failing to pay council tax debts and the Centre for Criminal Appeals has …  Read more

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