Our latest eBulletin, sent out to those on our mailing list on Friday, 27 May. Sign-up for our free eBulletins here.
I was at Pentonville prison earlier this week, the first time I had been to a prison since before the Covid-19 lockdown.
Opened in 1842, Pentonville is one of the oldest prisons in the country. From the outside, the cracked and crumbling plasterwork, the plants growing out of the wall, are symptomatic of the deteriorating physical conditions within. I was there to participate in a short film being put together by the charity, User Voice, as part of a report it is launching next month on the impact of Covid-19 on people in prison.
The impact of Covid-19 on prisons and the wider criminal justice system across England and Wales is explored in a report out this month from the criminal justice inspectorates. The criminal justice system "is a long way from recovery and in some parts continues to operate at unacceptable levels", the report notes, with thousands of prisoners still confined to their cells for more than 22 hours a day. We'll be discussing the faltering Covid-19 recovery, among other topics, in the next edition of Last month in criminal justice on Wednesday 8 June.
Pentonville prison was built as a replacement for Millbank prison, a crisis-prone prison originally opened in 1822. Millbank was demolished in the early 20th Century. Its site is now occupied by the wonderful Tate Britain art gallery.
Every prison that exists today will one day be torn down. Closing down prisons like Pentonville, building something in their place that lift spirits, rather than destroy lives, would be a fitting post-Covid-19 lockdown project for a visionary government.
On Wednesday 22 June we'll be having Lunch with Khatuna Tsintsadze, co-director of the Zahid Mubarek Trust. We'll be discussing Khatuna's previous work with a national human rights organisation in Georgia and her international human rights work with the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Council of Europe and the European Commission. We will also be discussing her more recent work with the Zahid Mubarek Trust and the challenge of pressing for systemic change.
Before that, our colleague Helen Mills and Dr Claire Fitzpatrick of Lancaster University will be among the panellists on the 8 June edition of Last month in criminal justice. Among topics up for discussion are:
- Why are women and girls with a background in care ending up in prison?
- What's next in the long campaign against joint enterprise prosecutions?
- The Queen's Speech: The good, the bad and the ugly
- The impact of Covid-19 on the criminal justice system
- Latest developments in the spy cops inquiry
The June editions of Last month in criminal justice and Lunch with... will be the last two programmes in our current monthly webinar series. We'll be taking a break over the summer period and plan to return with new series of both programmes in the autumn.
Earlier this month, we had a memorable Lunch with the author of the best-selling The End of Policing, Alex S. Vitale. In a wide-ranging conversation, we covered the problems with 'broken windows' crime reduction approaches, why the police should not be in schools, the problems with Taser use, strategies for de-escalating conflict, and what has been happening in the US since the murder of George Floyd, among other topics.
You can watch the programme here.
Since we launched the series last year, we have had Lunch with... Frances Crook, Pragna Patel and Suresh Grover, Whitney Iles, Shirley Debono and Donna Mooney, Gloria Morrison and Jan Cunliffe, Charlie Weinberg, and Alex S. Vitale.
On the May edition of Last month in criminal justice, Dr Hannah Quirk, Deborah Sangster and Andrew Neilson joined Richard to discuss, among other topics, the expected increase in the number of child prisoners, reforming stop and search, whether prisons have a terrorism problem, and the courts backlog. Watch the programme here.
We've produced nine Last month in criminal justice programmes since their launch last year. You can access them all here.
Prison Service Journal
The Centre for Crime and Justice Studies is proud to host the online archive of Prison Service Journal, on behalf of the editorial board.
The latest edition, published earlier this month, includes articles on preventing prison staff assaults, mental health care in prisons during the Covid pandemic, criminal justice in Wales, and good practice in prisons and probation.
From the archive: Prison Service Journal 243, published in April 2019, had a special focus on the prison crisis. It included:
- A guest editorial by Dr Anastasia Chamberlen, Charlotte Weinberg and Anita Dockley on thinking creatively and dialogically about prison crises.
- An article by Dr Henrique Carvalho on joint enterprise convictions as an example of hostile criminalisation.
- A piece by our director, Richard Garside, on getting out of the prison crisis.
Access all the articles from Prison Service Journal 243 here.
Eye on criminal justice
A new report by five criminal justice inspection bodies, out this month, warns that the criminal justice system in England and Wales risks a disjointed and fractured recovery from the Covid-19 lockdown. "The impact of the pandemic on the criminal justice system... was unprecedented", the report notes. "However, now that restrictions have eased, some parts of the CJS are not responding quickly enough to reverse changes or restore performance to pre-pandemic levels".
One of the UK's most senior police officers, the Chief Inspector of Police, Andy Cooke, this month called on the police to use their "discretion" when faced with people stealing in order to eat. Speaking to The Guardian, he said the police should consider what was the "best thing for the community". His comments prompted a rebuke from both Conservative and Labour politicians. Home Office minister Kit Malthouse told The Times (£££) that the police should enforce the law consistently. The Labour Shadow Attorney-General, Emily Thornberry, went further, telling the paper: "I can’t say anything other than the law is there for a purpose, and it should apply to everybody equally. And if the law is broken, then it is up to the police to enforce that law".
Some 100 family members and campaigners met at parliament on May 16, for an event organised by our friends at JENGbA (Joint Enterprise Not Guilty by Association). The Conservative MP, Andrew Mitchell, reminded the audience that good campaigns often take a long time to achieve their objects and this should not put them off. Among other MPs attending were the former shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer and former Shadow Home Secretary, John McDonnell and Diane Abbott. You can read the short Twitter thread we put out on the day here.
Our head of programmes, Helen Mills, was one of the speakers at the JENGbA event. You can read her speech here.
Our report on joint enterprise convictions, The Usual Suspects, was published in April. The report findings were raised in the House of Commons this week by the Labour MP Kim Johnson. She pressed the government on miscarriages of justice as a result of joint enterprise convictions. It was a great question. Shame about the government response. Watch it here.
We'll be discussing these developments, and others, on the June edition of Last month in criminal justice.
Support our work
In 2021, we received twice as many small donations, averaging £15 per donation, compared with 2020. We are so appreciative of the support from all our donors and supporters.
If you like what we do, and can afford to make a donation to support our important work, we would be very grateful.
You can also spread the word about our work by sharing this bulletin and encouraging others to sign up for our regular updates.