Justice Select Committee: Prison Population 2022
WIP's response to a new report from the Justice Select Committee
The Justice Committee have confirmed what those working on the frontline of the criminal justice system have known for years – we are “in the depths of an enduring crisis in prison safety and decency … the Government’s current approach is inefficient, ineffective and unsustainable.” (1)
The only way forward is for the Ministry of Justice to invest the £80m it will receive from the sale of HMP Holloway into the network of specialist community-based women’s centres which are proven to more effective at reducing reoffending than a prison sentence. (2)
We support the recommendations of the committee including the introduction of a presumption against short prison sentences and investment in community alternatives to prison. This includes women’s centres that enable women to tackle the root causes of offending such as domestic abuse, substance misuse, mental ill-health, poverty and homelessness.
Without this investment the committee confirms what those of us working in the system know too well, that the situation is “grave and worsening”. Austerity and disastrous probation reforms have led to a system where individuals are perpetually trapped in a cycle of imprisonment, too often for technical and administrative breaches not reoffending. (3) We are pleased the Committee has highlighted the shameful injustice, institutionalization and catastrophic harm facing IPP prisoners trying to survive long periods in prison, often many years more than the sentence for the original offence. (4)
Dr Kate Paradine, CEO of Women in Prison said:
“The Justice Select Committee is right to conclude that the failure of consecutive governments to fund women’s centres is a “grossly wasted opportunity”. The exorbitant costs of prison are sucking up resources that could be used for community alternatives that work. We were pleased to give verbal evidence and written submission to the Inquiry - and to have been listened to by the committee.
“Failure to listen led the Government to implement the disastrous privatization of the probation service. We urge the Ministry of Justice to act on the Select Committee’s warnings and invest in the approach, set out by the Government’s own Female Offender Strategy, of reducing the women’s prison population through investment in community support services.
“The good news is that £80m is due to come to the Treasury from the sale of the site of Holloway Prison. The 2019 Spending Review is a perfect opportunity to invest that money in women’s centres and specialist services that reduce reoffending and the prison population, while ending the harm prison causes to women, their children and our communities.”
1) Justice Select Committee Report and read WIP’s written submission to the Inquiry
2) Article on the sale of Holloway Prison
3) Recall Rates have over doubled since the introduction of Post-Sentence Supervision and the probation reforms. See Huffington Post Article: Why are more women being returned to prison than ever before?
4) Griffins Society Report, Sarah Smart (2019): Too many bends in the tunnel? Women serving Indeterminate Sentences of IPP - what are the barriers to risk reduction, release and resettlement?