20 November 2020

They show that after months of cases appearing to drop to low levels and no deaths since June, there was a surge in confirmed cases in October, as well as a number of deaths.

13 November 2020

The words of a woman who spent six years in an intimate relationship with undercover police officer Mark Kennedy. She is one of at least 30 women tricked into relationships with undercover police officers.

All told, the police are estimated to have infiltrated more than 1,000 activist and campaigning groups since the late-1960s.

11 November 2020

I start with an observation made in 1867 by Karl Marx, towards the end of volume 1 of Capital:

The fathers of the present working class were chastised for their enforced transformation into vagabonds and paupers. Legislation treated them as ‘voluntary’ criminals, and assumed that it was entirely within their powers to go on working under the old conditions which in fact no longer existed

5 November 2020

A phrase drawn from the book caught my attention and offered an evocative memory of a particular supervisory experience at the beginning of my time as a probation officer. When I was first introduced to Santiago (not his real name) in the waiting area of the probation office, I was settling into my induction period in an area of the capital that was then marked by economic hardship and at times volatile community/police relations.

30 October 2020

These are the words of Alison, a nurse at a prison in Wales, talking to The Guardian about the physical impact of extreme lockdown. Many prisoners across the UK are confined to their cells for 23 hours a day, with drastic curbs on exercise and family contact.

28 October 2020

Lockdown has widely been acknowledged as creating a new de facto system of solitary confinement. Whilst the current lockdown restrictions have been criticised, for example, by Peter Clarke, the outgoing HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, as inherently harmful to prisoner wellbeing and mental health, the Prison Officers' Association (POA) continue to endorse the prison lockdown, arguing that it has resulted in increased safety, reduced violence and ‘more stable prison environments’.

13 October 2020

Last month the government published A Smarter Approach to Sentencing setting out proposals for sentencing reform which it intends to legislate for next year. A good summary of all the proposals in the 115 page document is here. Here I offer a few themes.

5 October 2020

Secretaries of State for Justice have come and gone, and political debate has been consumed by Brexit, Covid-19 and other pressing issues. Now we have a White Paper, A Smarter Approach to Sentencing, whose title may even be said to under-state its scope. It does contain proposals for changes to the sentencing system.

2 October 2020

Whilst I do recall an irate prisoner during a prison visit threatening to dispatch my then line manager in similar tones, what clicked into place, when reading this moving and vivid collection of stories, was a routine interview for a pre-sentence report that almost brought the court to a halt!

25 September 2020

Speaking in parliament, the Women and Equalities Minister, Liz Truss, explained calmly and patiently why the government had decided against legislating to enable transgender people to change their legal sex by a simple declaration.

17 September 2020

The phrase, 'all coppers are bastards' often shortened to a pejorative acronym, was very much a piece of wall graffiti I recall from the 1970s.

15 September 2020

The Woolf Report (1991) was commissioned in the aftermath of the disturbances at HMP Strangeways between 1 – 25 April 1990. The Strangeways disturbances were the longest in UK penal history and sparked riots in twenty-five further institutions, including Glen Parva, Dartmoor, Cardiff, Bristol and Pucklechurch. On publication the Woolf Report was acclaimed as the blueprint for prison policy for the next three decades.