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The 3 Rs of Prison Reform: Rules in Prison

How the rules that operate in prisons are contributing to the crisis behind bars.

As prison conditions have deteriorated due to overcrowding and lack of staff, prisons have resorted to the use of draconian punishments in a desperate and counter-productive attempt to maintain control.

Our latest report details the rising tide of additional days and reveals how the disciplinary system in prisons has become unsustainable. The use of additional days has soared from fewer than 160,000 in 2014 to almost 360,000 last year. Punishments totalling almost 1,000 years were handed down in 2017.

Additional days, which are overwhelmingly imposed for non-violent infractions of rules, contribute to the deterioration of the prison system by exacerbating overcrowding and producing a sense of unfairness among prisoners.

Our latest report also reveals vast disparities in how frequently additional days are imposed at different prisons. Between 2016 and 2017, the number of additional days rose in 85 prisons and fell in 30. Differences between prisons cannot be explained in terms of their size, populations or locations.

Instead it appears to come down to prison leadership and institutional culture. There are pockets of good practice in prisons that have managed to buck the trend – either by using restorative approaches or by training and empowering staff to respond to conflict in other ways.

The Howard League is calling for England and Wales to follow Scotland’s lead and scrap the imposition of additional imprisonment for rule-breaking in prisons.

For more information on additional days, read our previous reports:

Out of Control: punishment in prison

A Million Days: The world of prison discipline

Our briefing on Preventing Prison Suicide discusses the need to reform the rules around incentives and earned privileges.

In the video above, Colin McConnell, Chief Executive of the Scottish Prison Service, discusses the abolition of additional days in Scottish prisons. This video was recorded for a solutions summit on the issue of additional days imposed as punishment hosted by the Howard League in December 2017.

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