So wrote Gus John on the Centre's website around this time last year, as he reflected, twenty years on from the MacPherson inquiry into institutional racism in the police, on the lack of progress over the past two decades.
That is, how to manage in the first few weeks in the community on a meagre allowance of £46, known as the prison discharge grant. This perennial issue of how to survive on such an allowance, turned into one particularly memorable day, after I was contacted by the late and highly esteemed BBC Newsnight journalist, Liz MacKean.
In some respects they do.
Early on in the crisis, many feared that coronavirus would sweep through the prison system, putting hundreds, if not thousands, of prisoners at risk of death and serious illness. I was among them.
To date, an estimated 23 prisoners and 10 prison staff have lost their lives to coronavirus. It could have been a lot worse.
In July 2018 we completed work to establish the use of three antisocial behaviour (ASB) tools to sanction young adults in England and Wales. This project was the first to consider young adults and ASB tools since their overhaul in 2014, which created new mechanisms for the potentially more extensive use of ASB enforcement by local authorities and the police.
According to the same report, 16 prisoners have taken their own lives since the beginning of lockdown in late March.
Close to two prisoners kill themselves each week in England and Wales in 'normal' times, if, that is, imprisonment can be considered a normal thing to impose on a fellow human being. But we live, of course, in abnormal times, and this is as true of our prisons as anywhere else.
This is the grim reality behind the apparent success, at least in the short-term, in preventing a devastating spread of coronavirus across the prison system.
In England and Wales, as in many other countries, it has been roundly acknowledged that the number of people held in our overcrowded prison estate needs to be reduced to slow the spread of COVID-19.
As Rona Epstein points out in this powerful piece, none of the numerous investigations set up into the death – at least seven by her reckoning – asked the most important question of all: why was this woman on remand in prison at all? Should, indeed, pregnant women be in prison?
On 27 September 2019, a woman held in HMP Bronzefield on remand gave birth alone in her cell. When prison staff visited the woman’s cell in the morning the baby had died. Following this tragic event a number of investigations were set up, including:
At least 11 European countries have restricted new arrivals into prison since March. As the grid below details, governments have opted to postpone or suspend new prison sentences for some, or in some jurisdictions, all of those sentenced to immediate custody.
At the beginning of April, the government announced plans for the early release of up to 4,000 prisoners in England and Wales, to reduce prison overcrowding and slow the rate of infection among prisoners and staff.
The target was unambitious. The Prison Governors Association and Public Health England have argued that releasing 10,000 - 15,000 prisoners is needed. But it was a small step in the right direction.