13 Apr 2016
Bronzefield prison: A good report but underlying concerns
The Howard League for Penal Reform has responded to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons’ report on Bronzefield prison, published today (Wednesday 13 April).
Inspectors visited the women’s prison in November last year and found that it was well-led with committed staff and had continued to improve.
At the time of the inspection, the prison was holding fewer women than it was designed to hold – in stark contrast to the majority of jails in England and Wales, which are affected by chronic overcrowding.
The prison’s population is expected to rise by up to 50 per cent, however, following the planned closure of Holloway prison in north London.
Worryingly, the inspection report states that the proportion of women leaving Bronzefield with settled accommodation is falling. In the six months prior to the inspection, 103 women had left with no fixed address.
The report states: “The prison had issued tents to two women who were released without anywhere to go to and the chaplaincy often gave out sleeping bags.”
The report also points to a rise in the number of women being recalled to prison following the introduction of the government’s Transforming Rehabilitation programme.
The prison works with Community Rehabilitation Companies led by private firms Seetec and MTCnovo.
Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “This report shows what can be achieved by a prison that is well-staffed and holding fewer people than its designation. Whether Bronzefield’s improvement can be sustained after the arrival of hundreds of women from Holloway remains to be seen. Already the prison has been forced to look after more prisoners who have been recalled – a direct consequence of the government’s misjudged Transforming Rehabilitation programme.
“It is alarming that women are being released from prison with tents and sleeping bags because they have nowhere to go. A lack of social housing is a major problem, and there must be serious doubts as to how the private companies now running resettlement services in Bronzefield and elsewhere will be able to help women find somewhere safe and secure to live. Yesterday’s revelation that two in five men released from Wormwood Scrubs are being made homeless should fill people with trepidation.”
Notes to editors
- The Howard League for Penal Reform is the oldest penal reform charity in the world. It is a national charity working for less crime, safer communities and fewer people in prison.
- A copy of the Bronzefield inspection report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from Wednesday 13 April at: http://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons
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