JUSTICE commenced this Working Party during summer 2023.
The task of the Working Party will be to consider both structural issues surrounding administrative decision-making in prisons, as well as improvements to certain areas of particular concern.
Imprisonment represents the most coercive power of the State exercised as punishment in the United Kingdom, covering some of the most serious offences. Even so, as of 7 July 2023, the prison population in England and Wales stood at 86,035, and it is expected to increase to over 106,000 within four years – despite the fact that overall crime rates have been decreasing for some years.
In prison, the most basic daily activities fall to be governed en masse by prison regimes, and when decisions do not appear to be justifiable or fair, prisoners can feel senses of grievance, arbitrariness, and dehumanisation. It is notable that this was observed to be a key factor in the 1990 prison riots: as Lord Woolf later observed, “A recurring theme in prisoners’ evidence [about the riots] is that they felt a lack of justice in the way they were treated”.
Today, the prison system in England and Wales faces a crisis of overcrowding, with staff shortages and insufficient resourcing, capacity, or structures in place to allow for rehabilitation. Many prisoners are spending the vast majority of their time in cells without meaningful activity. Against that backdrop, the need for everyday decision-making to be, and be seen to be, lawful, fair and correct is all the more pressing.
JUSTICE is concerned that too few safeguards exist with respect to the decision-making processes applying to those in prison, who ought to be afforded appropriate access to justice to enforce their human rights. This is fundamental to upholding the rule of law.
The Working Party’s draft terms of reference are broad, covering both structural issues such as the adequacy of the Prison Rules and Young Offender Institution Rules, in light of international developments, and prisoner engagement; as well as specific areas of concern, including allocation and transfer, adjudication and incentives, and segregation.
In all areas, the Working Party will be alive to and identify any differential impacts upon different groups of prisoners (for example, prisoners of racialised minorities; female, transgender, neurodivergent or older prisoners; and children and young people in detention). To the extent possible, the Working Party will consider approaches taken in other jurisdictions and will seek to identify best practice solutions where relevant.
Members of the Working Party:
Chair: Professor Nick Hardwick, Royal Holloway University of London, former Chair of the Parole Board and formerly Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons
Andrea Albutt, Prison Governors’ Association
Hamish Arnott, Bhatt Murphy Solicitors
Dr Ellie Brown, Crest Advisory
Marc Conway, Fair Justice
Dr Matt Cracknell, Middlesex University
Rikki Garg, GT Stewart, Chair of the Prisoners Advice Service, and founding member Association of Prison Lawyers
Erica Handling, NED for Legal Quality, executive coach,and Chair of Spark Inside
Ryan Harman, Advice and Information Service Manager, Prison Reform Trust
Sarah-Jane Hounsell, Intervene Project
Dr Ailbhe O’Loughlin, York University
Claire Salama, Managing Solicitor, Howard League for Penal Reform
Dr Hindpal Singh Bhui, University of Oxford and HM Inspectorate of Prisons
Khatuna Tsintsadze, Zahid Mubarek Trust
Rapporteur: Ailsa McKeon, Interim Criminal Lawyer, JUSTICE
We are grateful to Sidley Austin LLP and the Bromley Trust for generously supporting this Working Party.