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Short Update: Letter from the Prison Reform Trust and the Howard League requests clarity from the Lord Chancellor on the approach to Covid-19 in prisons

FairTrialsAdmin - October 23, 2020 - COVID-19 Updates, Prison conditions, Prison monitoring

In a joint letter, the Prison Reform Trust and the Howard League for Penal Reform have asked that the Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland provide greater transparency and reassurance on the developing COVID-19 situation as it affects prisons. In particular, the letter requests the Ministry of Justice to be transparent in its approach to dealing with the pandemic, to "ensure that prisoners and their families understand the basis on which decisions are being taken." This includes the different measures used to help contain the spread of COVID-19, such as testing of prisoners and staff and publication of evidence and advice received by ministers on the risks of transmission in prisons. The letter also highlights a number of policy decisions, recommended by the two charities, to reassure prisoners and their families as winter approaches. These include:  

  • "devising a much devising a much simpler, more generous and therefore more effective scheme for the conditional early release of prisoners to make space within the estate to improve infection control"; 

  • Providing "a simple system of conditional release in compassionate cases, including pregnant women, trusting governors to take decisions without multiple layers of approval from outside the prison"; and 

  • the continuation of additional phone credit, free video calls and access on compassionate grounds to communication through electronic means. 

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