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Why good prisons in England and Wales is of the utmost importance

Why good prisons in England and Wales is of the utmost importance

  • Date30 May 2022

Royal Holloway is holding its annual Magna Carta Lecture on June 6 at Middle Temple, London with special guest, Charlie Taylor, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons for England and Wales, talking about the importance of good prisons in England and Wales.

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Prior to the pandemic, prisons were described by the House of Commons Justice Committee as being in an ‘enduring crisis’ with high levels of violence and self-harm, limited opportunities for education and work, and poor re-offending outcomes. 

When the pandemic hit, most prisoners were confined to their cells for 23 hours a day.  As prisons gradually emerge from this very challenging period, the government has announced an ambitious plan of prison building and reform. 

Charlie Taylor has established a reputation for his hard-hitting reports and his drive to improve leadership and performance in the criminal justice system. His extensive remit also gives him unique insight into other places of detention such as youth custody and immigration detention.

Alongside the lecture, academics at Royal Holloway have started research on a new database, in partnership with HMI Prisons and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). For more than two decades, HM Inspectorate of Prisons for England and Wales (HMI Prisons) has conducted detailed, confidential surveys of prisoners and other detainees as an integral part of its inspections. This has generated a unique database of historic survey data, with more than 10 million analysable responses.

These surveys cover a wide range of topics – from views on the quality and quantity of food to concerns about safety – and provide an invaluable insight into the experiences and perceptions of treatment and conditions for prisoners and detainees since 2000.

A multi-disciplinary team of academics from the university will use the data to answer key questions related to the prisoners' experiences to develop the unique, first-of-its-kind database to:

• Use this knowledge to inform the work of practitioners and policy makers;

• Produce data-maps for all types of detention that have been surveyed (male and female prisons, juvenile custody, military and immigration detention);

• Prepare aspects of the database for use by other academic researchers, teachers and policy makers, with accompanying guides.

Professor Rosie Meek, from the Department of Law and Criminology at Royal Holloway, said: “We’re very pleased to be hosting Charlie Taylor at this year’s Magna Carta Lecture and we look forward to hearing him deliver his lecture in the beautiful surroundings of Middle Temple Hall.

“No one is better placed to know the problems facing prisons or assess the reform plans than Charlie Taylor, so we are honoured to have him speaking at our lecture to discuss the need for better prisons in the UK.

“Our new research will culminate into a huge database for others to use and will have far reaching impacts on how we can make sure that those sent to prison are done so under safe circumstances, have the opportunity to enhance their mental health and have fair access to educational programmes.”

This year’s Magna Carta Lecture will be held in support of the work of the Royal Holloway Legal Advice Centre, which provides current Law students with hands-on work experience providing free legal advice to our local community, under the supervision of practising solicitors.

Tickets to this event are free, but donations to the Legal Advice Centre are welcome, so book soon to avoid disappointment.

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