The Prison Reform Trust (PRT) have recently published a report, "Strangeways: 25 Years On", which assesses progress made in penal reform against Lord Woolf's 12 recommendations for a more fair and just prison system.
The Report concludes that despite heroic efforts made on behalf of the prison service in improving prison conditions in some areas, familiar problems of overcrowding and a notable punitive shift in penal policy in the years following the Woolf Report have presented problems for the effective implementation of Lord Woolf's recommendations for reform.
The following highlight some of the findings of the Report, in light of the 25th anniversary of Lord Woolf's recommendations:
- Despite Lord Woolf's call for prisons to accommodate no more than 400 prisoners to ensure effective performance, statistics show that 4 out of 10 prisoners in the UK are held in establishments of 1,000 or more.
- Remand prisoners continue to be held in conditions unsuitable to their innocent until proven guilty status as well as the growth of multi-purpose establishments resulting in other vulnerable groups such as young adults being mixed in with the adult prison population.
- The Prison Reform Trust argue that improvements to the arrangement for family contact do not go far enough in recognising the central importance that family plays in effective rehabilitation and resettlement and that larger prisons have undermined the emphasis Lord Woolf placed on smaller, community-style prisons.
- Although the official "end" to slopping out was announced 20 years ago, parts of the prison estate still suffer from a lack of in cell sanitation, a thoroughly unacceptable state of affairs.
The Report concludes by calling for "a decent, humane prison system underpinned by an experienced and valued workforce, proper discretion for prison governors, a halt to chronic prison overcrowding and the establishment of a truly independent prison inspectorate".
It is hoped that by highlighting the ongoing challenges faced by the prison system at present that "prison can be restored to its proper function as an important place of last resort in a balanced justice system as the basis upon which to create a just, fair and effective penal system".
The full text of the Report can be read in full here. (1st April 15)