Howard League launches justice and fairness in prisons programme

By agency reporter
February 25, 2020

Prisons should be places of justice, the Howard League for Penal Reform argued as it launched a new programme encouraging people to think differently about what happens behind bars.

As the most absolute expression of the criminal justice system, prisons should meet the very highest standards of justice. This is the central message in Justice does not stop at the prison gate, the first briefing to be published as part of the Howard League’s programme on justice and fairness in prisons.

The briefing explores how a fundamental shift in prisons would facilitate a sense of agency and responsibility among prisoners, making prisons safer and improving outcomes for everyone. Being sent to prison is the punishment ordered by a court; what then follows should be about justice and fairness.

The briefing explains why new approaches are needed. Currently, an everyday and structural unfairness is built into prison regimes and compounded by overuse, overcrowding and rising levels of violence. Unfair or unjust treatment generates resentment and anger, feeding a cycle of conflict and harm.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “Prisons are the most absolute expression of the criminal justice system. If we must have them, they should meet the very highest standards of justice.

“A just and fair prison system recognises people as citizens who are going to return to the community. It acts with consistency, impartiality and respect. It is a system where conflict is resolved, and people are given the opportunity to turn their lives around. It recognises that punishment is imposed by the courts, and not by the prisons.

“The Howard League is exploring and advocating fresh approaches that would benefit everyone. Problems in prisons spill out into communities, so getting this right would have a ripple effect, making us safer and taking the country forward.”

Prisons are draconian in their use of punishment. More than 1,000 years of additional imprisonment were imposed on prisoners in 2018 – more than double the punishment handed down only four years previously. Further analysis of these figures will appear in the programme’s second briefing, to be published later this year.

The Howard League will investigate how moving away from punishment can reduce conflict and violence, improve safety and well-being, and better prepare people for release.

It will look at examples of good practice around procedural justice and restorative approaches in prisons, and how these can contribute to a more just system overall.

* Read Justice does not stop at the prison gate: Justice in fairness in prisons here

* Howard League for Penal Reform


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