Experts and agencies come together for prison reform forum

Two leading national figures in criminal justice reform have attended an event at Plymouth University exploring the current state of the prison system.

Former Chief Inspector of Prisons Professor Nick Hardwick and Peter Dawson, Deputy Director of the Prison Reform Trust, were among the speakers at the Prison Reform Forum.

Organised by the Plymouth Law School, in association with the Plymouth University Howard League Student Society, the event brought together policy makers and criminal justice agencies from across the South West.

It was also open to students from the University, to give them an insight into current developments in criminal justice relevant to their studies.

Nick Hardwick

Professor Hardwick served as Chief Inspector of Prisons from 2010 to 2016 having previously been Chair of the Independent Police Complaints Commission for seven years. He is now a Professor of Criminal Justice at Royal Holloway University of London and Chair of the Parole Board. He said:

“There is now a growing consensus about the urgent need for prison reform, not just to deal with some of the shameful conditions that now exist but also to ensure we use taxpayers’ money efficiently and do more to reduce the risk that prisoners will reoffend when they return to the community. The Prime Minister has set out ambitious plans for reform and today's discussions at Plymouth University are an important forum for understanding what needs to be done if those reforms are to be successful.”

Peter Dawson worked for 15 years in the Home Office before joining the prison service, subsequently being governor of HMP Downview and HMP High Down between 2005 and 2012. He added:

“These are exciting times for prison reform, but desperate times to be living or working in too many of our prisons, with violence, disorder and self-harm all rising. The Prime Minister has called prison reform a great progressive cause – there is much to be done to deliver on his ambition.”

The Prison Reform Forum was part of the Plymouth Law School’s Justice Works initiative, which aims to ensure research has an impact on regional criminal justice policy and practice.

It also looks to foster collaborative partnerships with criminal justice agencies and networks and engage students in the process through a range of volunteering and work-based learning activities.

The Forum was targeted at policy makers, directors, managers and practitioners working for criminal justice and other related community and social justice agencies in the South West.

As well as the keynote talks, it also focussed on work to establish a new “Inside-Out Prison Exchange” programme, and current research projects being undertaken in Plymouth.

Dr Patricia Gray, Associate Head (Criminology Research) at Plymouth University, said:

“To attract two speakers as respected as Nick Hardwick and Peter Dawson demonstrates the high regard in which the study and research of criminology at Plymouth is held. This Forum was a great opportunity to bring together people from a variety of backgrounds to discuss a number of issues impacting on criminal justice research and practice. It also provided our students with the chance to hear from two leading lights on topics which are likely to be at the forefront of their future studies and careers.”

Peter Dawson, Deputy Director of the Prison Reform Trust, addresses delegates at the Prison Reform Forum

Peter Dawson, Deputy Director of the Prison Reform Trust, addresses delegates at the Prison Reform Forum

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Student societies – Howard League student group

The University of Plymouth Howard League student group works for reform within the criminal justice system.

The group runs events and arranges guest speakers to enhance your understanding of your studies.

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Howard League Law students at Efford Youth Club for a day of action