Skip Content

20 Jul 2021

Howard League responds to Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons’ Annual Report for 2020-21

The Howard League for Penal Reform has responded to Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons’ Annual Report for 2020-21, published today (Tuesday 20 July).

The report sets out the impact that the pandemic has had on people living and working in prisons, emphasising that “continuing severe lock-up cannot be the answer in a post-Covid-19 world”. It states that the priority for the Prison Service must be to end restricted regimes as soon as is safe.

The Chief Inspector, Charlie Taylor, also draws attention to entrenched problems within the system and warns that, while the number of assaults has reduced during the pandemic, the root causes of violence have not gone away and must still be addressed.

The Howard League runs a free and confidential legal advice line for children and young adults in custody. The charity has been inundated with calls throughout the pandemic as strict restrictions have impacted on prisoners’ physical and mental health.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “This has been a particularly grim year for prisons. Hundreds of families are grieving. Thousands more have been denied the chance to see their loved ones. Tens of thousands of people have been held in overcrowded conditions or solitary confinement with nothing to do for months on end.

“The wider effect that this will have on communities will only become clear in the years to come. The Chief Inspector is right to emphasise that restrictions in prisons must be eased as safely and swiftly as possible, with prisoners given access to meaningful and productive education, training and work.

“With the prison population at a lower level, mainly due to restricted court business, the government should seize the chance to properly stabilise regimes, eliminate overcrowding and reform sentencing to reduce demand on the system. Instead, ministers appear to be looking the other way, which will lead to more crime.”

The Howard League has been engaged in correspondence with the government throughout the pandemic, urging ministers to ease restrictions in prisons safely to provide a decent and purposeful regime and enable people to have contact with their families.

The charity has also written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, to recommend moving away from a strategy of prison-building to one that invests in the community, to reduce crime and help more people reach their potential.

Notes to editors

  1. 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.
  2. All Howard League briefings, submissions and correspondence about the Covid-19 pandemic and prisons can be found on the charity’s website.
  3. The Howard League’s letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, can be found on the charity’s website.
  4. Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons’ Annual Report for 2020-21 can be downloaded from the Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons website.


Rob Preece
Campaigns and Communications Manager
Mobile: +44 (0)7714 604955

  • Join the Howard League

    We are the world's oldest prison charity, bringing people together to advocate for change.

    Join us and make your voice heard
  • Support our work

    We safeguard our independence and do not accept any funding from government.

    Make a donation