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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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
Earlier this month, to mark the Howard League’s 150th birthday, we invited prisoners to tell us what life is really like in prison by keeping a diary for a day. The day we chose – Friday 2 September – was significant as it would have been the 290th birthday of John Howard, the 18th-century penal reformer …  Read more
A depressing week
It has been a depressing week for those of us involved in prisons. The inquest into a teenager who took his own life in troubled Glen Parva prison heard from the governor that she did not have sufficient staff even to keep people alive. Lincoln prison was in lockdown following a violent incident that resulted in men …  Read more
World Suicide Prevention Day
It is a terrible thing to lose a family member to suicide; even worse when they take their own life inside a prison. I remember the mother of a 19-year-old who hanged himself in Leeds prison telling me that he had been a troubled boy but at least she now thought he would be safe. …  Read more
The Children and Social Work Bill
The Children and Social Work Bill is currently being considered by Parliament. The legislation was touted as implementing a range of additional safeguards but it contains a number of frankly terrifying ‘exemption clauses’ which would allow local authorities to seek permission to disapply a wide range of legal duties in the name of ‘innovation’. It is …  Read more
An impossible position: Stay in solitary confinement or get beaten up in a cell?
Last year the Howard League revealed that thousands of years of additional imprisonment had been imposed on prisoners for misbehaviour in prison. Additional days, imposed on prisoners by visiting district judges, place additional strain on a prison system under unprecedented stress. Last week our legal team represented a young adult in prison who was charged, for the …  Read more
Transforming Rehabilitation is having a disastrous impact on women
The Howard League provides support to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Women in the Penal System chaired by Baroness Corston. The APPG has been looking at the treatment of women in the new landscape of privatised community penalties. Later this year it will be publishing research based on oral hearings and written submissions. Kate Green …  Read more
The manifest injustice of the IPP
The Chair of the Parole Board, Nick Hardwick, suggested this week that the people serving indeterminate sentences should be released once their tariff has expired unless it can be proved they continue to be a risk. This is a reversal of the current burden of proof that requires people to prove they are safe. This is …  Read more