Prison is not designed for older people, says Age UK

Age UK has warned the Justice Select Committee that the prison environment is not suitably designed for older people.

A range of experts attended a Justice Select Committee hearing on Tuesday to discuss the ageing prison population, including the Chief Inspector of Prisons Peter Clarke, National Chair of Independent Monitoring Boards Dame Anne Owers, CJA member RECOOP, the Care Quality Commission, and Age UK.

Professor Jennifer Shaw, Academic Lead at the University of Manchester’s Offender Health Research Network, told the Committee that prisoners in their 50s have similar healthcare needs to those in their 60s in the community.

Prof Shaw said that 85 percent of older prisoners have a physical health problem, compared with 65 percent in the community, and 45 percent of younger prisoners.

Prof Shaw added that there are higher rates of dementia in prison compared with the general population; seven percent of the prison population have possible dementia or cognitive impairment, compared to one percent in the community.

Emily McCarron, Equality and Human Rights Policy Manager at Age UK, told the Committee that the current prison environment is not suitable for older people.

She said: ‘They need alternatives that are suitable for their needs. That can be applied to the resettlement programmes as well, which are also not meeting the needs of older prisoners. If they have been in prison for a long time, they need specific resettlement training for when they leave prison.

‘It is about adjusting the regimes and making sure that they are suitable and adaptable, and specific to the needs of older prisoners.’

Ms McCarron also called for a national strategy for older prisoners, saying: ‘We need to bring things together so that we have a holistic approach across the board to cater for needs at every life stage of the prisoner’s experience.’

On the topic of COVID-19, Peter Clarke, Chief Inspector of Prisons, said that ‘about a third [of older prisoners] are not held in single-cell accommodation. With the current figures, that is somewhere just over 4,000.’

Dame Anne Owers, National Chair for the Independent Monitoring Boards, raised concerns about the extent to which older prisoners could be shielded. She said: ‘The prisons we would be most worried about would be the local prisons, where there are small numbers, and it is very difficult to create the headroom to shield vulnerable people properly.’

Mr Clarke added: ‘What we will be looking at very carefully is the treatment and the conditions for older prisoners who are being held in shared accommodation, and whether that is in any way compromising their safety and their health. I think there is a perfectly valid question about how we can make the more vulnerable prisoners as safe as humanely possible within the confines of the overall prison estate.’

Other key points include:

  • To support those with a significant cognitive impairment, prisons should introduce specific units within prisons.
  • There should also be a range of facilities in the community, such as secured nursing homes, if the risk is very low. There is a real need for development of this pathway. 
  • It can be difficult to find suitable accommodation specific to the health needs and index offences of older prisoners.
  • Voluntary sector organisations who are already running day centres delivering training on social interaction skills and technology should be involved in resettlement.

Last year, the Criminal Justice Alliance published a briefing on the ageing prison population, recommending a national strategy, specialist training for staff, and better prison design and end of life care for older prisoners. We also submitted evidence to the Justice Select Committee ahead of this inquiry.

The Justice Select Committee has published a full transcript of the hearing.

You can read our other policy briefings and consultations on our resources page.

COVID-19: Urgent action required to protect lives

This week, the Justice Select Committee met with Jo Farrar, Chief Executive of Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS), Amy Rees, the Director General of Probation and Wales, and MP Lucy Frazer, to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on prisons and probation. The Committee heard that despite plans to release 4,000 prisoners early to protect the lives of prisoners and prison staff, only 18 had been released so far. Given that 13 prisoners and 3 prison staff have now died, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) must ensure risk-assessed prisoners are released much more quickly to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The Criminal Justice Alliance has sent a second briefing to the Justice Select Committee with recommendations on sentencing, prisons, custodial monitoring and victims’ services. We have also published a tracker to monitor which of our recommendations have been implemented. We will continue to make recommendations to government to ensure the healthy and safety of prisoners, prison staff, and the general public.

Other key points from the evidence session include:

  • Jo Farrar announced that 700 prison staff were tested over the Easter weekend. HMPPS is working with the Department for Health and Social Care to deliver testing more routinely.
  • Lucy Frazer announced that the MoJ is training bail officers for every court, to reduce the number of people sent to prison.
  • The MoJ is working closely with the judiciary and CPS to ensure those on remand are released where possible. Lucy Frazer said: ‘The courts are hearing a significant number of cases where people are being held on remand and have already got their conviction but are awaiting sentence, because we suspect that when they get that sentence it might be found either that they have served their time or—this is less likely but possible—that they will be getting a non-custodial order.’

Napo, Nacro, User Voice, and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation also gave evidence. You can read a full transcript of all evidence sessions here.

COVID-19: HMPPS says prisoner release is not the only plan in place

This week, justice secretary Robert Buckland appeared before the Justice Select Committee again to discuss the Ministry of Justice’s (MoJ) response to COVID-19. Jo Farrar, Chief Executive, HM Prisons and Probation Service and Susan Acland-Hood, Chief Executive, HM Courts and Tribunals Service, were also in attendance. They discussed courts, prisoner release, and resettlement of prison leavers. See some key points below.

  • Jo Farrar conceded that 10,000 and 15,000 prisoners would need to be released to ensure one prisoner per cell
  • However, prisoner release is not the only plan in place; there will be new accommodation in some prisons from next week to provide enhanced facilities for vulnerable people, with better health care provision and more isolation and shielding
  • Only six pregnant prisoners have been released so far
  • The proposals on temporary release extend to youth estate
  • The government is also looking at prisoners with acute health issues who might be vulnerable on a case by-case basis
  • There will be a quicker pace of release after Easter weekend
  • There are no current plans to release category D prisoners; the MoJ is focusing on category B prisons, where the COVID-19 risk is more acute
  • The MoJ is working with the Department of Work and Pensions on universal credit provision. People are being sent out with extra £80 provision
  • When asked whether tagging is necessary for those due to be released within two weeks under normal circumstances, Robert Buckland said this gives the public peace of mind
  • The work of courts is proceeding in ‘novel, transformative ways’; there has been a tenfold rise in the number of cases dealt with by phone or video
  • HMPPS are interested in working with local probation and community providers who could volunteer to help deliver services
  • Robert Buckland said that if there were opportunities to allow bail on conditions addressing Bail Act concerns, courts were ready to hear them and deal with them expeditiously. He said that a combined approach of listing and hearing bail applications would ease the prison population but not make a substantial difference
  • Robert Buckland also said that he is not persuaded short sentences should be abolished

The meeting was held in private and as such there is no recording on Parliament TV. However, the Justice Select Committee has published a summary note.

Last week, the Criminal Justice Alliance made a number of recommendations on how the MoJ can ease the burden of COVID-19 on the criminal justice system and save lives.

Justice secretary discusses COVID-19 plans

Justice secretary Robert Buckland discussed plans for courts, prisons and probation in light of COVID-19 with the Justice Select Committee yesterday. He noted that prison overcrowding presents a “huge challenge” to isolate the prisoners most at risk and that the churn of prisoners in Category B prisons presents particular problems.

We welcome his commitment to “look expansively at what we can do to alleviate some of the pressures that exist within the system at the moment”, and his mention of prisoners on remand, pregnant prisoners and mothers with babies in particular. However time is of the essence for the government to take these vital decisions for the safety and wellbeing of prisoners and staff, as daily updates from the MoJ show concerning, but unfortunately predictable, increases in positive cases and tragically, the first two deaths.

As members are telling us, prisoners being released at the current time have even greater resettlement challenges than normal, with many services now operating via phone or online. The justice secretary confirmed they are working to “develop at pace an accommodation plan.” The CJA will continue collaborating with members and other key partners to raise practical and policy suggestions with government and decision-makers regarding prisons and resettlement, but also issues such as remand and recall, victim and family services, women’s centres and policing.

Key points from the evidence session include:

  • 13 prisoners had tested positive for COVID-19 at the time of speaking.
  • Around 3,500 prison staff, or 10 percent of the workforce, are off work due to being ill or self-isolating.
  • Prisoners are now spending more time in their cells to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • 900 phones have been provided to prisons across the UK to allow prisoners to stay in touch with their families. These phones do not have internet access and only enable the prisoner to call pre-authorised contacts.
  • Prisoners unable to go to work are still being paid.
  • The MoJ is working on an accommodation plan for all those scheduled for release in the coming and is ‘looking carefully’ at pregnant prisoners. It is also considering moving some remand prisoners into bail accommodation. See Robert Buckland discuss the possible release of prisoners in the video here.

Conservative Manifesto

The Conservative Party published its manifesto and manifesto costings for the 2019 General Election this afternoon. This is a summary of their proposed criminal justice policies:


Recruit 20,000 new police officers

Back the increased use of stop and search as long as it is fair and proportionate

Put the Police Covenant into law

Equip officers with additional powers and tools including tasers and body cameras

Introduce a new court order to make it easier for officers to stop and search those convicted of knife crime

Ensure anyone charged with knife possession will appear before magistrates within days

Strengthen the accountability of elected Police and Crime Commissioners and expand their role

Use additional police resources to tackle rural crime


Create a prisoner education service focused on work-based training and skills

Improve employment opportunities for ex-offenders, including a job coach in each prison

Improve prison security to protect staff, stop drug smuggling and reduce violence

Add 10,000 more prison places, with £2.75 billion already committed to refurbishing and creating modern prisons

Maintain the ban on prisoners voting from prison


Conduct a root-and-branch review of the parole system

Give victims the right to attend hearings

Establish a Royal Commission on the criminal justice process


Introduce tougher sentencing for serious offenders

End automatic halfway release from prison for serious crimes

For people convicted of murder of a child, there will be life imprisonment without parole

Pass the Police Protection Bill

Consult on doubling the maximum sentence for assaulting workers in emergency services such as police officers, firefighters and paramedics

Double the maximum prison term to 14 years for individuals convicted of the most serious examples of tax fraud

Introduce tougher sentences for animal cruelty

Vulnerable children:

Review the care system to make sure that all care placements and settings are providing children and young adults with the support they need

Improve the Troubled Families programme and champion Family Hubs to serve vulnerable families with intensive, integrated support

Young people and children:

Invest £500 million in youth services for young people

If they endanger others, we will put them in new alternative provision schools

Trial Secure Schools for young people who offend

Introduce new laws requiring schools, police, councils and health authorities to work together through Violence Reduction Units to prevent serious crime


Tackle drug-related crime and take a new approach to treatment

Foreign nationals:

Prevent more foreign national offenders entering our country

Cut the number of foreign nationals in prison and increase penalties to stop them returning

Prevent serious criminals from entering the country


Expand electronic tagging for offenders serving time outside prison, including the use of sobriety tags for those whose offending is fuelled by alcohol

Toughen community sentences, for example by tightening curfews and making people with convictions do more hours of community payback to clean up parks and streets

Modern crime prevention:

Embrace new technologies and crack down on online crimes

Create a new national cyber crime force

Empower the police to safely use new technologies like biometrics and artificial intelligence, along with the use of DNA, within a strict legal framework

Create a National Crime Laboratory

Strengthen the National Crime Agency so to tackle fraud, county lines gangs, child sexual abuse, illicit finance, modern slavery and people trafficking

Victims of crime:

Pass and implement a Victims’ Law that guarantees victims’ rights and the level of support they can expect

Violence against women and girls:

Support all victims of domestic abuse and pass the Domestic Abuse Bill

Increase support for refuges and community support for victims of rape and sexual abuse

Pilot integrated domestic abuse courts that address criminal and family matters in parallel


End rough sleeping by the end of the next Parliament

Expand pilots and programmes such as the Rough Sleeping Initiative and Housing First

Work to bring together local services to meet the health and housing needs of people sleeping on the streets

Renew the Affordable Homes Programme

Fully enforce the Homelessness Reduction Act

Labour Manifesto

The Labour Party published its manifesto and manifesto costings for the 2019 General Election this afternoon. This is a summary of their proposed criminal justice policies:


Champion a joined-up approach, fostering close working relationships between criminal justice agencies with education authorities, health services and others


Enforce the laws protecting police and other emergency workers from violent assault

Re-establish neighbourhood policing and recruit more frontline officers

Work with Police and Crime Commissioners to reform police funding and share new resources fairly

Work with police forces to invest in a modern workforce to tackle the rise in violent crime and cybercrime

Retain local democratic accountability for police forces

Work to eliminate institutional biases against BAME communities

Ensure better police training on domestic abuse and offences arising from coercive control and historical abuses

Youth Justice:

Rebuild youth services and guarantee young people’s access to youth workers

Invest in a youth justice system where schools, local authorities, health authorities and youth services work together to divert young people from pathways towards crime


Restore total prison officer numbers to 2010 levels

Phase out lone working in prisons

Bring PFI prisons back in-house

Tackle the prison maintenance backlog and develop a long-term estate strategy

Alternatives to prison:

Set new standards for community sentences

Consider the evidence for effective alternatives and rehabilitation of prolific offenders

Introduce a presumption against prison sentences of six months or less for non-violent and non-sexual offences

Expand problem-solving courts


Reunify probation and guarantee a publicly run, locally accountable probation service

Women in the CJS:

Plug the funding gap in the Female Offender Strategy

Invest in proven alternatives to custody, including women’s centres

Legal aid:

Restore all early legal aid advice, including for housing, social security, family and immigration cases

Recruit hundreds of new community lawyers

Promote public legal education and build an expanded network of law centres

Ensure legal aid for inquests into deaths in state custody and the preparation of judicial review cases


Halt court closures and cuts to staff

Undertake a review of the courts reform programme

Facilitate a more representative judiciary while upholding its independence

Review funding for the Crown Prosecution Service

Equalities and Diversity:

Tackle the disproportionate levels of BAME children in custody

Review the youth custody estate

Strengthen youth courts

Build on the Lammy Review

Violence against women and girls:

Set new standards for tackling domestic and sexual abuse and violence

Appoint a Commissioner for Violence against Women and Girls

Establish an independent review into low rape prosecution rates

Establish a National Refuge Fund

Ensure financial stability for rape crisis centres

Reintroduce a Domestic Abuse Bill

Improve the safety of the family court system for domestic violence victims and prohibit their cross-examination by their abuser

Make misogyny and violence against women and girls hate crimes


End rough sleeping within five years

Introduce a national plan driven by a prime minister-led taskforce

Expand and upgrade hostels

Make available 8,000 additional homes for people with a history of rough sleeping

Repeal the Vagrancy Act and amend antisocial behaviour legislation to stop the law being used against people because they are homeless

Drugs policy:

Establish a Royal Commission to develop a public health approach to substance misuse, focusing on harm reduction rather than criminalisation


Introduce minimum legal standards of service for all victims of crime

Modern crime prevention:

Create a co-ordinating minister for cybersecurity and conduct regular reviews of cyber-readiness

Review the structures and roles of the National Crime Agency, to strengthen the response to all types of economic crime, including cybercrime and fraud

Create a new national strategy on cybercrime and fraud

Liberal Democrat Manifesto

The Liberal Democrats published their manifesto and manifesto costings for the 2019 General Election this afternoon. This is a summary of their proposed criminal justice policies:


Fully fund an immediate two per cent pay-rise for police officers

Resource the National Crime Agency to combat serious and organised crime, and tackle modern slavery and human trafficking

Create a new Online Crime Agency to tackle illegal content and activity online, such as personal fraud, revenge porn and threats and incitement to violence on social media

End the disproportionate use of Stop and Search

Replace Police and Crime Commissioners with accountable Police Boards made up of local councillors

Immediately halt the use of facial recognition surveillance by the police

Serious Violence:

Adopt a public health approach to serious violence

Support community policing and youth services to work together with other services

Invest £1 billion in community policing

Provide a £500m ring-fenced youth services fund to local authorities

Embed Trauma-informed Youth Intervention Specialists in all Major Trauma Centres

Prisons and Probation:

Recruit 2,000 more prison officers

Improve the provision of training, education and work opportunities

Introduce a presumption against short prison sentences

End prison sentences for the possession of drugs for personal use

Increase the use of community sentences and restorative justice where appropriate

Improve and properly fund the supervision of offenders in the community

Increase coordination between the prison service, probation service providers,
the voluntary and private sectors and local authorities

Ensure all prison-leavers have a suitably timed release and are supported with:

  • suitable accommodation
  • a bank account
  • employment or training
Ensure all prison-leavers are registered with a local GP

Equalities and Diversity:

Reduce the overrepresentation of people from BAME backgrounds throughout the criminal justice system

Uniformly record and publish data on ethnicity across the criminal justice system

Introduce a principle of ‘explain or reform’: if the criminal justice system cannot explain disparities between ethnic groups, then it must be reformed to address them

Ensure the police, prison service and judiciary all adopt ambitious targets for improving the diversity of their workforce and require regular reports on progress to parliament.

Develop a free unconscious bias training toolkit and make the provision of unconscious bias training to all members of staff a condition of the receipt of public funds

Develop a government-wide plan to tackle BAME inequalities

Establish a national fund for projects that work in schools to raise the aspirations of ethnic minority children and young people

Women in the CJS:

Establish a Women’s Justice Board

Provide specialist training for all staff in contact with women in the criminal justice system

Violence against women and girls:

Ratify and bring into law the Istanbul Convention

Legislate for a statutory definition of domestic abuse that includes its effects on children

Expand the number of refuges and rape crisis centres to meet demand

Ensure sustainable grant-funding for specialist independent support services

Give local authorities the duty and funding to provide accommodation and support for survivors of abuse

Establish a national rape crisis helpline

Ensure access to special measures for survivors in all courts

Prevent direct cross-examination in court of survivors by their abusers

Mental Health:

Improve mental health support and treatment within the criminal justice system

Ensure continuity of mental health care and addiction treatment in prison
and the community

End the use of police cells for people facing a mental health crisis

Make mental health services 24-hour

Place mental health liaison teams in all hospitals

Introduce a target of one hour for handover of people suffering from mental health crisis from police to mental health services

Support the police to achieve adequate levels of training in mental health response

Drugs Policy:

Move drugs policy to the Department of Health and Social Care

Invest in more addiction services and support for drug users

Divert people arrested for possession of drugs for personal use into treatment and impose civil penalties rather than imprisonment

Introduce a legal, regulated market for cannabis


Publish a cross-Whitehall plan to end all forms of homelessness

Introduce a ‘somewhere safe to stay’ legal duty to ensure anyone at risk of sleeping rough is provided with emergency accommodation and a needs assessment

Sufficiently finance local authorities to deliver the Homelessness Reduction Act and provide accommodation for survivors of domestic abuse

De-criminalise rough sleeping by scrapping the Vagrancy Act

Criminal Records:

Reform criminal record disclosure rules so that people do not have to declare irrelevant old and minor convictions

Remove questions about criminal convictions from initial application forms for all public-sector jobs

Hate Crime:

Make all hate crimes aggravated offences

Giving law enforcement resources and training to identify and prevent hate crimes


Devolve powers over youth justice, probation services, prisons and policing

PM announced justice policy changes

In a string of announcements from No 10, the government revealed proposals to create an additional 10,000 prison places through a £2.5b prison building programme, to increase prison security with a £100m investment in new technology including x-ray scanners and metal detectors, and to award £85m to the Crown Prosecution Service to assist with caseload.

Boris Johnson also ordered a review of the sentencing of ‘dangerous and prolific offenders’, which will consider changes in legislation including removing automatic release at the half-way point of a custodial sentence. This review comes despite a long-term trend of increasing sentence lengths for serious crimes and the lack of evidence that increasing sentence length reduces reoffending.

Probation services to be returned to the public sector

The Ministry of Justice announced that responsibility for offender management will be returned to the public sector. From Spring 2021, the National Probation Service will manage 11 probation regions across England and Wales. Each NPS region will have a private or voluntary sector ‘Innovation Partner’ who will be responsible for providing unpaid work and accredited programmes – up to £280m will be made available each year for this work. However, the core functions of supervision and management will be carried out by the NPS.

The Ministry of Justice published these proposals in its response to its consultation on the future of probation services. Specific proposals include:

  • Dynamic framework to award contracts for resettlement and rehabilitation programmes, similar to the DPS in place for prison education.
  • A statutory professional regulatory framework across the probation system with continual professional development standards and a practise and ethical framework.
  • An emphasis on equalities in both training and the continuous professional development offer, and a focus on improving workforce diversity and progression for under-represented groups.

NAO expresses concern about probation reforms

The National Audit Office published its latest progress review of the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms. The report concludes the Ministry of Justice ‘set itself up to fail in how it approached the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms’ and identifies of a litany of poor outcomes, including a lack of the much-promised innovation, a significant increase in the average number of reoffences committed by reoffenders and increased costs paid by the Ministry to CRCs to keep them afloat.

Justice Secretary announces new Victims Strategy

The Justice Secretary announced a new cross-government Victims Strategy, focusing on strengthening the Victims’ Code, improving access to compensation and information and streamlining support services for victims of crime. The Strategy will also take measures to require PCCs to make sure that restorative justice services are available in their areas. The Government will open a consultation on a revised Victims’ Code and a Victims’ Law to underpin it.

New female offender strategy launched

The Ministry of Justice has published its Female Offender Strategy, announcing pilots for five residential women’s centres and a greater focus on innovative community provisions. The full strategy can be read here.

New employment strategy in prisons announced

Justice Secretary David Gauke today announced a new policy intervention aimed at putting offenders  on the path to employment from the day they enter prison. The Education and Employment strategy sets out new measures to boost prisoners’ skills while in custody and improve their chances of securing work on release. In this strategy, education and training, work in custody, and the availability of employment opportunities in the community are highlighted as the key areas of focus in achieving this. Further information on the new strategy can be found here.

Inspection highlights failures of probation reforms

On 17 April, HMI Probation published a thematic report on Probation Supply Chains. Dame Glenys Stacey, HM Chief Inspector of Probation, found that probation reforms have failed to deliver the aim of ensuring that voluntary and third sector organisations play a central role in providing specialist support to offenders. The full report can be viewed here.

Parole Board Chair Nick Hardwick resigns following Worboys decision

On 28 March, Nick Hardwick – Chair of Parole Board – resigned after Justice Secretary David Gauke told him his position was ‘untenable’ following the court overturning the Parole Board’s decision to release John Worboys. A copy of his letter of resignation can be found here.

Secretary of State responds to first Urgent Notification issued for HMP Nottingham

On 17 January 2018, Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, issued the first Urgent Notification after an inspection of HMP Nottingham, requiring the Secretary of State for Justice to take public responsibility for improvements in a jail found to have serious and significant problems. Mr Clarke wrote to David Gauke demanding intervention to save lives and protect fearful prisoners in the “fundamentally unsafe” HMP Nottingham.

David Gauke today has responded to the Urgent Notification, setting out immediate actions to be taken to address the most serious and urgent issues. A copy of this letter and the action plan can be found here.




Sadiq Khan announces stop and search increases in London

The Mayor of London has said he will tackle knife crime in the capital through a number of measures, including a ‘significant increase in the use of targeted stop and search’. The move has been criticised by a number of politicians, including David Lammy MP, who labelled the controversial tactic a ‘political football’.

Government’s response to Lammy Review

The Government has today responded to the review of Black, Asian and minority ethnic people’s treatment and outcomes in the criminal justice system, outlining the actions it has taken or will take in relation to each recommendation. As a key principle from the review, the Government has adopted “explain or change” as an approach to identify and objectively assess disparities, and then decide whether and how changes need to be applied. The response is available here and a copy of the Lammy Review, published in Sept 2017, is available here.

Police Legitimacy report raises concerns over use of stop and search

As part of the annual inspections of police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy, for the third year HMICFRS have assessed how legitimate police forces are at keeping people safe and reducing crime. Their national report, based on inspections carried out between April and July 2017, found that forces are committed to improving the trust and confidence of the public, but they risk damage to relationships with local communities by continuing to be unable to demonstrate fair use of stop and search. The full report is available here and is published alongside individual reports on the legitimacy of each Home Office-funded police force in England and Wales.

Justice Select Committee inquiries

The Justice Select Committee has announced two new inquiries. Written submissions for the Transforming Rehabilitation inquiry should be made by 17 November. The ‘Prison Population 2022’ inquiry is open until 4 December. More information about both inquiries and how to make a submission is available here.

Lammy Review

The Lammy Review, chaired by David Lammy MP, has published its final report on the treatment of, and outcome for, BAME people in the criminal justice system. People from minority ethnic communities continue to be charged, tried and punished and higher rates than white people. The report is available here.

Farmer Review on prisoners and families

Lord Farmer’s review of prisoners’ family ties has called them the ‘golden thread’ that should tie together any rehabilitation policy framework. The Farmer Review was commissioned in 2016 in partnership with Clinks to explore how the nature of relationships between prisoners and their families can improve rehabilitation.

New Lord Chief Justice

Following the retirement of Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, Sir Ian Burnett has been appointed the new Lord Chief Justice. He was called to the Bar in 1980, was appointed a Judge of the High Court, Queen’s Bench Division, in 2008 and has sat in the Court of Appeal since 2014.

Queen’s Speech 2017

On Wednesday the Queen delivered to both Houses of Parliament a speech outlining the Government’s proposed legislative programme for the forthcoming two-year parliamentary session. While proposals include bills on domestic violence and modernising the courts, prison reform is notably absent. The Government’s full background briefing notes to the Queen’s Speech are available online.

Prisons and Courts Bill scrapped

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement of a General Election to take place on 8 June, the Prisons and Courts Bill has been scrapped by a unanimous vote of MPs on the bill committee. It will be up to the next government to decide whether to take forward  important proposals on prison reform, the treatment of victims of domestic abuse in court and a new online courts system.

MoJ announces prison building programme

The Justice Secretary unveiled plans for four new prisons in Yorkshire, Wigan, Rochester and Port Talbot. The new prisons will provide an additional 5,000 prison places.

Restorative Justice Action Plan

The Government published its Restorative Justice Action Plan for November 2016 – March 2018. The vision is for victims to have equal access irrespective of their location, the age of the offender or the offence committed against them. A progress report setting out key achievements against the previous Action Plan was also released.

Prisons and Courts Bill

Liz Truss has unveiled the Prisons and Courts Bill. It sets in law that a key purpose of prisons is to reform offenders. Governors will take control of budgets for education, employment and health and they will be held to account for getting people off drugs, into jobs and learning English and maths. In a statement to Parliament the Justice Secretary stated that new three year performance agreements will be signed by each governor, the first on 1 April 2017, with the other two thirds moving to this approach by 1 April 2019.

Safety in Custody Statistics

The Ministry of Justice has published Safety in Custody statistics showing a record high of 119 self-inflicted deaths last year, up 29, 12 of which were female. The rate of self-inflicted deaths in prison has doubled since 2012. The likelihood is 8.6 times higher than in the general population.

Justice Select Committee: Young Adults

The Justice Select Committee has released a report on the treatment of young adults in the criminal justice system. It argues that there should be a distinct approach to the treatment of them while in the system in order to make successful transitions to a crime-free adulthood.

Justice Select Committee: Role of the magistracy

The Justice Select Committee has released a report on the role of the magistracy recommending the Ministry of Justice; takes steps to increase the diversity of magistrates; carries out a comprehensive review of their training needs; and develops a timetable for increasing their sentencing powers to 12 months’ custody.

HMI Probation Through the Gate Inspection

HMI Probation thematic inspection of through the gate resettlement services for short-term prisoners. There was little evidence of the anticipated creativity or innovation in the new services being delivered by the CRCs. Payment by results isn’t in anyway incentivising the work when compared with direct contractual requirements. Too many prisoners are reaching their release date without their immediate resettlement needs having been met, or even recognised.

CJA Awards Shortlists 2016

The shortlisted nominees for the CJA Awards 2016 have been announced. Judges include Baroness Young of Hornsey, journalist Joshua Rozenberg, Director of Anawim Joy Doal and Mark Johnson, Chief Executive of User Voice.

PCC Elections 2016

Elections for Police and Crime Commissioners were held on Thursday 5 May for 41 out of the 43 police forces in England and Wales. The Mayor of London is the de facto PCC for the Metropolitan Police, the City of London Police do not have a PCC and the role of the PCC for Greater Manchester has been subsumed into the responsibilities of the Mayor, for which elections will take place in May 2017.

A full list of the new PCCs is available here.

Prime Minister announces prison reform

David Cameron confirmed government plans to overhaul the way prisons are run and how prisoners are treated. The speech was the first from a Prime Minister in over 20 years specifically to address prisons, and follows on from announcements made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the Spending Review.


Mr Cameron said he now recognised that, given the high rates of re-offending amongst prisoners upon release and the current levels of self-harm, violence and suicide in prison, the system requires ‘wholesale reform’. He stated that the system as it currently stands is ‘failing’ victims, offenders and prison staff and hurting the public purse.


The full speech is available here.


Justice and Home Affairs Appointments

The Labour Party have appointed their shadow ministers for Justice and Home Affairs. The Liberal Democrats have also appointed spokespersons.


The full list is here, along with the list of Government ministers.

Chief Prisons Inspector’s Annual Report 2014/15

The annual report of the Chief Inspector of Prisons, Nick Hardwick, shows that the performance of the prison estate for 2014/15 was the worst in a decade. The decline in standards was most pronounced in the men’s estate where the cuts to staffing, prison overcrowding and wider policy changes have had a significant effect on safety. The report also found a serious deficiency in both the quality and quantity of purposeful activity for prisoners.

In what is his final report as Chief Inspector, Nick Hardwick writes:

Three broad themes emerge from this report and review – not just of the last year but of the five years since I was appointed. First, the increased vulnerability of those held across the range of establishments we inspect and the challenge establishments have in meeting these individuals’ needs. Too often locking someone up out of sight provides a short-term solution, but fails to provide the long-term answers more effective multi-agency community solutions would provide. Second, there is a real need to match the demand for custodial services to the resources available. Detention is one of the public services where demand can be managed. Alternatives to the use of custody may be unpalatable but so, no doubt, are the other public expenditure choices that government has to make. Third, the case for the independent inspection of custody remains as strong as ever and that independence needs to be preserved.

Read the full report here.

New report on self-inflicted deaths of young adults in custody

The report is a result of the independent review that began in February 2014, led by Lord Toby Harris. The review examined self-inflicted deaths in custody since April 2007 with the purpose of assessing whether lessons had been learned from those deaths and if not, what steps should be taken. The report states:

‘The 87 cases we examined in detail demonstrated that many of the young people’s problems and vulnerabilities, including mental health issues, had been evident from an early age. We had to ask the question, why were so many of these young adults in custody in the first place? Prison should be used as a last resort. Much more needs to be done to address these problems and to divert these young people from the criminal justice system at an earlier stage in their lives. What is more a reduction in the overall prison population would make it easier for prisons to provide an environment that meets appropriate standards of decency, safety and respect.’

The report can be read in full here.

Government report on self-inflicted deaths in prison custody

The Ministry of Justice has released a statistical notice on self-inflicted deaths in prison custody from 1978 to 2014. Here are some of the key findings:

– The rate of self-inflicted deaths increased by over 30 per cent from 2010 to 2013.

– Almost a quarter of deaths occur within a week of arriving in prison.

– 40 per cent of self-inflicted deaths were of prisoners on remand.

– The rate of self-inflicted deaths tends to increase with the age of the prisoner.

College of Policing Leadership Review

The College of Policing Leadership Review makes recommendations that, taken together, attempt to  equip leaders of the future with the skills and knowledge to succeed. It is relevant at all levels in policing, for both officers and staff.

UN adoption of Standard Minimum Rules for Treatment of Prisoners

The United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice adopted revised Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, to be known as the Mandela Rules. The revision focused on nine thematic areas, including healthcare in prisons, investigations of deaths in custody, disciplinary measures, professionalisation of prison staff and independent inspections. You can read more on the resolution here.

Theresa May’s speech to the Police Federation

Theresa May addressed the Police Federation annual conference. The Home Secretary was critical of the conference’s theme “cuts have consequences”, and called for the Federation to stop “crying wolf”, as crime is substantially down over the past ten years despite protests. You can read her speech in full here

Joint review of disability hate crime

In March 2013 the criminal justice inspectorates published a joint review of disability hate crime, looking at how the police, CPS and probation trusts dealt with disability hate crime. Seven recommendations were made to improve performance. This follow-up review has assessed the progress that has been made against the them and concludes performance has not improved sufficiently. You can read the full report here.

Chief Inspector of Probation Resigns

The chief inspector of the probation service in England and Wales has resigned because of a “potential perceived conflict of interest”. Paul McDowell’s decision relates to his wife’s role as a senior manager at Sodexo, which has taken over the management of a number of probation contracts. Mr McDowell said it was “imperative that any inspectorate is independent and seen to be so”.

IPCC: 2012/13 and 2013/14 Police Complaint Statistics

Publication of official statistics showing a rise in police complaints and appeals in England and Wales. During this period, police forces were not handling complaints sufficiently well. The IPCC upheld 49% of appeals by those whose complaints were not even recorded in the first place and upheld 44% of appeals from those whose complaints had been investigated by the local force. Overall, that amounted to a 46% uphold rate – a figure that has steadily risen over recent years. The number of complaints itself continued to rise by 15%.  That would not be a cause for concern if it reflected a greater public confidence in the complaints system, or improved access to it.  This is unlikely to be the case: in a recent survey commissioned by the IPCC, 38% of those surveyed did not have confidence in the fairness of the police complaints system, and that was even higher among young people. Read the report here.

ECHR: Whole life tariffs

Strasbourg judges have said they were “satisfied that the Justice Secretary’s power to release a whole life prisoner was sufficient to comply with Article 3” of the European Convention on Human Rights, which bars “inhuman and degrading” treatment. A ruling by the Court of Appeal, in London, last year “provided a whole life prisoner hope and the possibility of release in the event of circumstances in which the punishment was no longer justified”, the Strasbourg judges said.

Home Affairs Committee: Policing and mental health

The Home Affairs Committee says the prevalence of people with mental health illness in the criminal justice system is a scandal, as it publishes its report on policing and mental health. The Mental Health Act 1983 should be amended so that police cells are no longer stated as a place of safety for those detained under section 136. The police need to make sure they use their powers in relation to mental health correctly, to reduce the numbers detained and so reduce pressure on both the police and the NHS. Frontline staff need to learn from one another, and each organisation needs to understand the priorities of others. Keith Vaz MP, Chairman of the Committee, said: “The prevalence of people with mental health illnesses in the criminal justice system is a scandal. It is unacceptable that the police should be filling the gap because the NHS does not have the facilities to look after mentally ill people. The detention of over 6000 adults under s.136 in police cells in England last year is far too high. These people are not criminals, they are ill and often are experiencing a great deal of trauma. The full statistics are available here.

Commission on Sex in Prisons: Healthy sexual development of children in prison

The Commission on Sex in Prison released the fourth report in their series on sex in prison earlier this week. The majority of children in custody are adolescent boys aged 15 to 17. They are likely to have reached physical sexual maturity and may be sexually active. They have not yet reached cognitive, emotional and social maturity. Children in custody are vulnerable and most will have experienced disadvantage. Some will have been sexually abused prior to custody. Prison severely restricts children’s opportunities to form normal healthy relationships and can damage or delay the maturation process. LGBT children are more isolated in prison and more vulnerable to bullying or abuse by other children or by staff. Sexual abuse by other children or by staff does happen in prison. Children in prison should have access to sexual health services. The high levels of violence in prison might be a risk factor for the development of sexual aggression among boys. The needs of vulnerable children with complex needs cannot be met in large prisons with low staff to child ratios.

Home Secretary: Independent review of policies and procedures affecting welfare of those held in immigration removal centres

The review will seek to identify whether improvements can be made to safeguard the health and wellbeing of detainees, and those being escorted in the UK. Stephen Shaw CBE, a former Prisons and Probation Ombudsman for England and Wales, has agreed to lead the review and will inspect detention facilities, review healthcare provision and scrutinise all Home Office policies and operational practices. Read the Terms of Reference for the review.