News this week that the prisons inspectorate has resumed full inspections is very welcome.
Prisons do not magically become safe, healthy and decent places merely as a result of inspection. Inspectors can identify problems, but they do not have any enforcement powers. Implementation of inspectors' recommendations is at best patchy, as we pointed out a few years ago in one of our UK Justice Policy Review reports.
Yet, without independent inspection, problems in prison can fester and grow unseen.
While the failure of ministers to agree to the vaccination of all prisoners and staff will unnecessarily prolong the lockdown in prisons, the return of full inspection is a small sign that some, at least, of the lockdown restrictions are starting to ease.
The third and final of our COVID-19 in prisons webinars will be on 16 June, 9.30am - 11.30am (BST). This event will focus on preparedness for future pandemics in prisons. To find out more, including our line-up of speakers, head to our events page and register.
We are a member of a coalition - Is it a crime to be poor - working to tackle the criminalisation of poverty in the UK. The coalition will be running a webinar with the Socialist Health Association on 24 May, 19.00 - 20.30. The webinar will explore how stark inequalities in society have been highlighted by COVID-19 and how to stop the criminalisation of poverty.
News and Commentary
Have you read the latest Prison Service Journal yet? This edition presents a diverse range of views on different issues affecting the prison system and includes an interview with David Lammy MP.
This month, Mike Guilfoyle ponders on his supervision of Lucas, who had made positive steps towards transitioning to release. After nearly ten years inside, marked by progress and prospects, his client's resettlement had been undermined by what appeared an ill-judged and 'brutal' politically motivated clampdown on a model prison lauded for its rehabilitative success. Mike concludes that when punishment trumps rehabilitation, prisoners suffer.
Joint enterprise is a tool used to charge and convict people for crimes considered collectively committed. Where one person is accused of committing a crime, joint enterprise can be used to prosecute others, purely on the basis of association with the alleged perpetrator. Those prosecuted under joint enterprise may have just been in the vicinity whilst the crime was committed. In other cases, they didn't even need to have been there at all. Just being associated with the alleged perpetrator can be enough.
We've started a new project with Joint Enterprise Not Guilty by Assocation (JENGbA) to find out more about who is being targeted by this controversial tool and how we can push back against unjust joint enterprise convictions.
Read more from Helen on our joint enterprise work and find out how you can get involved.
An eye on criminal justice
The latest Safety in Custody Statistics, according to Russell Webster, show a 42 per cent increase in the number of people dying in prison in the year to March 2021. Read more of Russell's analysis here.
Hospice UK recently published a report on how to support an ageing prison population with end of life and palliative care. The report emphasises the inequality of access to adequate and humane support for those in prison to end of life care. In 2016, Kenny MacAskill wrote for us about the challenges of an ageing prison population and offered humane solutions to address such challenges.
Global Prisons Trends 2021 was released on Wednesday by Penal Reform International (PRI). Whilst we have been tracking the impact of COVID-19 in prison populations across Europe, PRI's latest report has provided an account of how prisons globally have dealt with the challenges of dealing with the pandemic, whilst being both under-resourced and overcrowded.
The Undercover Policing Inquiry continues with further revelations this week. Tom Fowler is on Twitter providing ongoing updates on the proceedings.
We're finishing two reports coming to you this summer. Stay tuned for more information on these.
We're busy organising a new monthly webinar series beginning in September. We have some exciting speakers lined up to talk which we'll announce over the coming months.