Our latest e-Bulletin, sent out on 10 December, 2021.
The ongoing Justice Committee inquiry into the dreadful Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) sentence this week heard from its architect, David Blunkett, and Lord Thomas, the former Lord Chief Justice.
The IPP sentence was abolished in 2012, after parliament recognised it was cruel and unjust. Yet thousands who received the the IPP sentence remain trapped in an Orwellian nightmare of imprisonment or threat of imprisonment, because the sentence was not abolished retrospectively.
When the Committee reports next year, it will hopefully come out strongly in favour of urgent reform. In the meantime, important evidence is coming to light in the written evidence submitted to the Committee, and the oral evidence sessions.
Lord Thomas, for instance, told the Committee that "It was evident there was a problem" with the sentence some fifteen years ago, in early 2006, only months after the sentence came into force.
The former Home Secretary, David Blunkett, enthusiastic architect of the sentence back in the 2003, but who has since become one of its strongest critics, told the Committee that we were "in a really dangerous moment". It was difficult to see how we would get out of the current situation without taking "urgent measures", he said.
Through our IPP project, we are tracking the progress of the Committee, and supporting the work of campaigners, such as UNGRIPP, who are making the case for fundamental reform.
If you are signed up to our free eBulletins, you'll receive ongoing updates on this work.
And you can join me in February next year, when I'll be in discussion with UNGRIPP's Donna Mooney and Shirley Debono.
Thanks to everybody who attended our 2021 events. We've had so many enlightening conversations with a range of expert and engaging guest speakers. If you missed any of our webinars, don't forget that they're all freely available to watch alongside our shorter clips here.
Our first webinar of 2022 will be 'Lunch with...Whitney Iles' on 19 January. Find out more about Whitney and register for the webinar here.
Our February and March episodes of 'Last month in criminal justice' are open for registration now too. We'll announce our speakers in January and reveal our topics for discussion in due course. You can register for those webinars here.
In each bulletin we like to update you all on what we're up to in our projects. The end of the year is the perfect time to let you in on what we've spent 2021 doing and what we've achieved. Consider this a bumper project update edition.
Our short prison sentencing project is managed by Helen Mills. Helen produced this handy infographic earlier this year reviewing the project's highlights.
We supported an amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill to reduce the use of custodial sentences for less serious offending, which Alex Cunningham MP thanked us for in July. More recently, our proposed amendment was debated in the House of Lords.
Our 'After Prison' project aims to empower local communities to envision what they'd like to see on their local prison site, instead of a prison. We produced a map to allow you to explore the prison in your local area, the footprint it occupies and how it relates to its surroundings. This is the first of its kind and we wanted to get an idea of the overall land taken up by imprisonment, where the land could be used for more socially useful purposes. Watch Matt Ford explain what the project is about here.
Prison lockdown was imposed in March 2020 and continued into this year. Our 'Coronavirus in prisons' project continued to track the impact of lockdown on prisons and prisoners through webinars and commentary. Our webinars explored this impact, asked what went wrong and what went right in approaches to lockdown in prisons and asked how we can be better prepared for future pandemics in prisons.
We've started work on Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP). We'll highlight emerging issues over the coming period and make the case for a radical and far-reaching reform, with the aim of bringing to an end all existing IPP sentences. Watch IPP campaigner Donna Mooney (a future 'Lunch with...' guest) talk about the impact of IPP on prisoners, their friends and families here.
It’s been five years since we published Dangerous Associations, a collaboration between academics, campaigners and us on joint enterprise convictions. We re-commenced work on joint enterprise laws recently. We've been working with JENGbA to obtain and analyse information about current practices in joint enterprise convictions, building up a picture about who is being prosecuted, and working alongside others to clarify ongoing concerns and injustices in this controversial area and shape responses to these. We'll have more to reveal in 2022 but take a look at our commentary on this from 2021 and our previous work on this.
Our Research Director, Roger Grimshaw and our Director Richard Garside have been working on a major overview of the criminal justice systems across the UK. It's been a bit of a journey, but we're expecting to publish it in the spring of 2022.
Way back in January this year we published a report by Phil Mike Jones, Emily Gray and Stephen Farrall exploring the relationship between the establishment of prisons, economic decline and de-industrialisation. Coal today, gone tomorrow: How jobs were replaced with prison places finds a strong concentration of new prison capacity in former coal-mining areas, associated with the traumatic economic restructuring and deindustrialisation of the 1980s.
In February, we held an online conference over five days marking the thirtieth anniversary of the Woolf Report into the Strangeways prison protest, which attracted over 1,500 individual registrations. Watch the videos here.
Eye on criminal justice
The Prisons Strategy White Paper was published this week. The government remains committed to prison expansion, pledging to increase capacity by 18,000 places with a price tag of £3.5 billion and £250 million earmarked for 2,000 temporary places.
There has been a concerted effort by a range of charities and researchers lately to pressure the government to stop sending pregnant women to prison. The new strategy paper promises to provide trauma-informed support for women in custodial settings and explicitly mentions support for pregnant women in prison. Yet, it has been well-argued that pregnant women do not need to be and should not be in prison at all and there is a campaign led by Women in Prison to scrap the 500 extra places the government is creating in the women's estate.
The Prisons Strategy White Paper also stated the importance of improving transition between the youth and adult estate, mentioning the need for smoother transition for men in particular. But should children and young people be in prison in the first place, particularly after recent revelations of urgent notifications issued to Rainsbrook and Oakhill? Watch our speakers discuss this very issue on our last episode of 'Last month in criminal justice'.
If you're interested in reading more about the White Paper, take a look at Russell Webster's summary.
We've been blown away by your generosity this year. To those of you who have been able to contribute any amount, we'd like to thank you for your support. Because of you, we've been able to start two new webinar series' and push on with our work on IPP, joint enterprise, electronic monitoring, short sentencing and much more.
If you like what we do, if you are an academic who shows our work to your students or if you're a student who finds our accessible work useful, if you're a campaigner or activist who thinks our work helps your cause, or simply someone who shares our values and mission, and you can afford it, why not set up a monthly donation?