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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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  • 15 Jul 2016
    Double punishment

    The Howard League had to issue a judicial review recently on behalf of someone I shall call ‘Michael’, a young deaf person in prison, to make sure he got the medical treatment and support he is entitled to. Michael had not had a functioning hearing aid for around six months. During this time, he was unable …  Read more

  • 13 Jul 2016
    Secure schools are the wrong answer to the wrong question

    Charlie Taylor’s review of the youth justice system is complete and is currently sitting on a desk in the Ministry of Justice. When it will be released is hard to say in the current political turmoil, but we are hopeful that it will be published in the next week or so. From his interim findings in …  Read more

  • 12 Jul 2016
    Women’s centres and Transforming Rehabilitation

    Last week the All Party Parliamentary Group on Women in the Penal System, supported by the Howard League, held its AGM and heard from three women’s centres about what is happening to community sentences for women. It is a very depressing picture. The centres giving evidence to MPs and Peers were: Anawim in Birmingham, Alana House …  Read more

  • 4 Jul 2016
    Visiting children’s homes

    I recently visited four residential children’s homes in a city in the Midlands. I am obviously being cautious and not identifying either the place, the company running the homes, and, most importantly, the children. I was invited to visit the homes and was therefore expecting to see good practice, which I did. The homes each had …  Read more

  • 1 Jul 2016
    Women on community sentences are being failed by the system

    The last big change put in place by Chris Grayling still standing is the break up of the 100 year old successful probation service. The impact on women has been catastrophic and something needs to be done urgently to change the system to protect women. Women given a short prison term now have to be handed …  Read more

  • 22 Jun 2016
    Magistrates, sentencing and race

    The Howard League has long argued that justice is not served by conferring the awesome power to incarcerate a citizen on magistrates. As well as the moral argument, the practical implications of short prison sentences are devastating on the individual, counter-productive and costly to the public. Last week I had a very interesting meeting with David …  Read more

  • 21 Jun 2016
    Stafford prison

    Surprisingly, rather lost in today’s inspection report of Stafford prison is the finding that men convicted of sex offences are being released on the streets, homeless, with no support or supervision. The report reveals that 126 men – including more than 100 assessed as presenting a high risk of serious harm to others – were released …  Read more

  • 24 May 2016
    Legal aid for prisoners

    In 2013 the Howard League for Penal Reform and the Prisoners Advice Service launched a legal challenge to the government’s decision to cut legal aid for prisoners. The case will be heard by the Court of Appeal in January 2017. During the last year, the Lord Chancellor has made a series of small concessions in response to …  Read more

  • 23 May 2016
    Reform prisons

    Michael Gove’s plans include six ‘reform’ prisons and this concept has generated more heat than light. Some commentators have expressed concern that it is the first step toward either privatisation or academisation. I don’t think this is the case. Bear with me while I do a quick jog through the various structures developed for public services over …  Read more

  • 16 May 2016
    Prison is not a moral crusade

    Michael Gove gave an interesting speech to prison governors last week, ahead of the Queen’s Speech which is expected to focus on prison reform. He focused on the moral mission of prisons to change lives and spoke in positive terms about the vision he has for prison leaders to rehabilitate people in prison. Whilst I welcome …  Read more

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