Justice Select Committee Inquiry into Prison Governance

Our written submission to the Justice Select Committee’s inquiry into prison governance.

In April 2019, the House of Commons Justice Select Committee launched an inquiry into prison governance. Over the course of the inquiry, MPs will investigate the role of the prison governor, what they should be responsible for, and to whom they should be accountable. They will also look at how the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) should provide effective oversight of prisons.

NPC has carved out a niche for itself as an independent expert on criminal justice policy. Our vision is for people that have spent time in prison to have the best possible chance of a successful return to life after prison, and for them to have the means of breaking the cycle of reoffending within their grasp. We believe that social sector organisations have a crucial role to play in achieving this. We recognise the difficult environment in which they operate but believe, by working together, charities and other voluntary organisations have the expertise, creativity and determination to find ways to deliver their work effectively, as well as to advocate the need for reform.

Our experience in this area spans over a decade, with particular highlights including our work championing the Justice Data Lab and our landmark Beyond Bars report from 2017, looking at how the social sector might maximise its impact within the criminal justice system. We are publishing a report later this month that will make the case for funding charities in the criminal justice system, and have already released interim reports looking at how charities can influence change in the prison system and how charities currently access prisoners in order to deliver services. As part of this research, we engaged with over 120 stakeholders within the criminal justice system, including many prison governors, directors and other staff.

Charities should be treated as equal partners around the table in prison policy making and the day-to-day work of the prisons they work in. Charities and funders are a vital partner to government in improving the criminal justice system so that it is just and humane, reduces crime, and supports prisoners to lead positive lives away from the prison system. Charities have deep insight into the system’s problems and are full of ideas of how to improve it, but they need to be properly equipped to contribute to systemic social change.

We are confining our suggestions to looking at the relationships between prisons and the wider social sector and are sharing recommendations made as part of our ongoing criminal justice programme.

Let us know your thoughts via @NPCthinks.