5 Jun 2020
Howard League responds to short scrutiny visit report on women’s prisons
The Howard League for Penal Reform has responded to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons’ short scrutiny visit report on women’s prisons, published today (Friday 5 June).
Inspectors visited Bronzefield, Eastwood Park and Foston Hall prisons on the same day (Tuesday 19 May) during the coronavirus pandemic. The prisons had imposed restricted daily regimes. Video calls had yet to start and some women had not seen their children for two months.
Women in Foston Hall prison received only half an hour of exercise each day; women at Bronzefield and most women at Eastwood Park received an hour. Face-to-face education had been largely suspended. Rates of self-injury had risen at Bronzefield and Foston Hall.
Across the three prisons, 120 women had been reviewed as potential candidates for the end of custody temporary release scheme, but only two had been released.
Inspectors found that, since the start of the restrictions, two in five women released from Bronzefield and Eastwood Park and one in five from Foston Hall had nowhere to live on the day of their release.
Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “When children go months without seeing their mothers, it brings home the cruelty of keeping women in prison unnecessarily.
“In its attempt to restrict the spread of the virus, the government is holding women in conditions of solitary confinement, putting their physical and mental health at risk.
“Ministers must act now to ensure that women can return to the community safely, with somewhere to live and support in place.”
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.
- In May, more than 40 MPs, peers and bishops signed a letter from the All Party Parliamentary Group for Women in the Penal System, calling for more women to be released from prison during the coronavirus pandemic. The letter can be read online: https://howardleague.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Final-APPG-letter-to-Secretary-of-State-for-Justice.pdf
- The short scrutiny visit report on women’s prisons is available from the Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons website at: justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons/inspections
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