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Are prisons fair and effective?

In England and Wales, we rely too heavily on prisons, which rather than tackling the root causes of offending, pull individuals deeper into a powerful current of crime. Prisons are severely overcrowded, and there are very high rates of violence, self-harm and suicideSome demographics within prisons face particularly poor outcomes, such as Black, Asian and minority ethnic people, older people and women. 

We set out how the prison population could be reduced, and show how education, training and rehabilitative opportunities could be improved within prisons to help people build a brighter future. We call for better conditions within prisons and investigate how outcomes can be improved for Black, Asian and minority ethnic people, older people, women and other groups with protected characteristics.

Women in prison talking to a prison guard

© Andy Aitchison

Our recent work:

Purpose and connection: A briefing in advance of the Prisons White Paper

In this briefing, we set out what the government should include in its Prisons White Paper. We map the practical steps necessary to ensure everyone in prison or leaving prison has access to meaningful education and employment, as well as support to maintain family ties and positive social relationships. We also call for the government to use the proposed investment for new prisons to level up the existing prison estate, while introducing measures to reduce the prison population.

Read the briefing

Education: Are prisoners being left behind?

In response to an inquiry by the Education Select Committee, we worked with members to set out how prison education can better deliver the skills needed by employers; how the infrastructure and regimes within prisons prevents learning; and how apprenticeships in custody might work.  

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Strengthening independent scrutiny within prisons

There are several independent bodies, such as Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons and Independent Monitoring Boards, which scrutinise conditions and treatment of people in prisons. In this response to a Ministry of Justice inquiry, we set out how these independent bodies could be strengthened to more effectively hold prisons to account. 

Read the response

Routes to recovery

The pandemic has had a devastating impact on people in prison, who have been locked up in their cells for up to 23 and a half hours a day, with little access to their families, rehabilitation and fresh air. In the summer of 2020, we brought members together to discuss challenges during the pandemic and what is needed for recovery. Members discussed the experiences of people in prison and their families, and how they have continued supporting them at this time. 

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The ageing prison population

The number of older people in prison is growing rapidly, and yet prisons are ill-suited to their needs. We worked with members to call for a national strategy for older people in prison, alternatives to custody for older people, better end of life care and more. 

Read the briefing