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The work of the Prison Reform Trust.

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Introduction

The work of the Prison Reform Trust is aimed at creating a just, humane and effective penal system. We do this by: inquiring into the workings of the system; informing prisoners, staff, and the wider public; and by influencing Parliament, Government and officials towards reform. PRT is a registered charity, founded in 1981. The founder chair was industrialist Sir Monty Finniston. His successors were former Cabinet Minister, Edmund Dell, and broadcaster and journalist, Jon Snow. Lord Hurd of Westwell, the former Home Secretary and Foreign Secretary, succeeded Jon Snow as PRT's fourth chair in November 1997. Robert Fellowes, a crossbench peer, who has served as Private Secretary to the Queen, and holds a senior position at Barclays succeeded Lord Hurd in September 2001. Our work includes research, advice and information. PRT's director from 1981 to 1999 was Stephen Shaw, now Prisons Ombudsman. ...read more.

Middle

Many of our campaigns have achieved real change in individual prisons, and in the policies and practices of the Prison Service as a whole. Prisons are the most shaming of all our public institutions. The United Kingdom imprisons more of its people than virtually any other country in Western Europe - in conditions which are frequently an affront to civilized values, and at great cost to the taxpayer. Yet the vast majority of our prisoners do not present a serious threat to life or limb. Their crimes are such that they can be more humanely economically and effectively dealt with in the community. At first sight, our enthusiasm for imprisonment is surprising. Prison has a poor track record. It is hard to show any relationship between a society's rate of incarceration and its rate of crime. Prison keeps some offenders off the streets, but it seems neither to deter nor reform. ...read more.

Conclusion

Half of all prisoners (and nearly two thirds of young prisoners) reoffend within two years. One fifth of all prisoners have not been convicted of any offence. Yet 40 per cent of these are not judged to need a prison sentence when they come to court. Only one in three prisoners is in gaol because of an offence involving violence, sex or drugs. Many of the remainder have committed only minor, property offences. Up to a third of prisoners have some identifiable psychiatric disorder. Many prisons are overcrowded. Remand prisoners, who have not been found guilty of any crime, suffer the worst conditions and regimes. People who should be cared for by the mental health system wrongly end up in prison. On average, one prisoner commits suicide every four to five days. Many prisoners have time on their hands. There is insufficient work and education and not enough is done to stop them returning to crime. Three-quarters of young offenders discharged from prison are reconvicted after two years. Community penalties cost less than prison and can work better. ...read more.

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