The CJA has today sent a briefing with recommendations to the Justice Select Committee regarding COVID-19, at their request. When the significant impact of COVID-19 became apparent two weeks ago, we worked with some of our members to establish pragmatic recommendations for policy and practice to reduce the burden on the criminal justice system, and ultimately, to protect the lives of those working in or affected by it. These were communicated privately to the government and to officials. However, progress remains frustratingly and dangerously slow. We urge the Select Committee to press government to make decisions immediately, to protect the health and safety of those who work and are supported and managed through the criminal justice system.
Read the briefing here.
Key recommendations for the Ministry of Justice include:
- Reduce overcrowding and prevent spread by managed early release of low-risk cohorts of prisoners.
- Reduce the churn of new entrants into prisons by reducing short sentences, recall and remand.
- Provide emergency funding to victims’ services, including domestic violence services.
- Provide in-cell phones to all prisoners to contact family and helplines at this time.
- Ensure front line staff have access to personal protective equipment (PPE) and increase testing for COVID-19 and antibodies.
- Guarantee accommodation, financial and practical support to all prison leavers and fund organisations to adapt their services.
- Ensure monitoring of custodial settings continues, and allow prisoners to call Independent Monitoring Boards (IMBs) directly.