Nacro was a key contributor to the Justice Committee’s session on: Coronavirus (COVID-19): The impact on prisons. The Committee has released a report on this session and will now launch an inquiry into ongoing reforms. Read the report here.
Prison Regime Changes
We agree that continuing to lock people in their cells for 23 hours a day is unsustainable, and will inevitably impact on the health and wellbeing of many people in prison. Additional support is clearly needed for prisons to deal with the impact that lockdown has had. It is also important to recognise the impact that the lockdown has had on the rehabilitative work in prisons, and a long term, properly funded plan is required for this. People in prison have spent months with very little access to education, courses, and the only work that has continued has, for the most part, only been in those jobs which are necessary for the running of the establishment. We must acknowledge that the lockdown has far-reaching implications for people serving prison sentences, and so adequate resource is needed to give them the best access to the activities and resources that they need, in order that they can have the best chance at a second chance.
We hold the same view that video-based visits is an excellent initiative. It is now available in 40 prisons. It is clear from speaking to our staff and the people they support that difficulties in communication have caused stress and anxiety for people serving prison sentences and for those leaving prison during the pandemic. In our staff survey, 74% of our staff said that changes to family contact and social distancing measures had made the resettlement of the people they work with more challenging. Maintaining contact with friends and family is really important for people in prison, as links to the outside world can really help with the transition back into the community and strong family and community connection can support a reduction in reoffending. In addition to video visits we would also call for:
- Providing prison leavers with a mobile phone:
- Retaining the funding for the extra phone credit and reduced phone charges for people in prison
- Improving in cell technology to ensure that people can contact family even if locked down.
Prison Population Management
Helen Berresford, Director of External Engagement, Nacro, told the Committee during this session: “On early release, Nacro, like many other organisations, has been calling on the Government to increase the number of people released from prison and continues to do that. We believe that that needs to be faster and go further”.
Creating extra prison places is an expensive way to provide headroom across the prison estate, when we believe that early release is a cost-effective solution.
Children and Young People in the Custodial Estate during COVID-19
We can share concern about the disparities across the youth estate, and the really damaging impact that the lockdown will have on these very vulnerable children. Continuing high levels of remand are really shocking, when those children, who have often suffered trauma, are effectively being sent into conditions close to solitary confinement. We would welcome a separate plan for the youth custodial estate, it should be treated distinctly.