source: The Guardian
published: 4 November 2016
When the justice secretary, Liz Truss, launched her white paper on prison reform on 3 November, she referred to another Elizabeth: prison reformer Elizabeth Fry. In the 1800s, Fry campaigned passionately for a more human system and her spirit continues today, in more than 1,500 charities that are equally passionate. If she wants to reform the system, Truss has to place the voluntary sector front and centre.
The sector’s achievements include creating the probation service, introducing prison visiting, independent inspection of prisons, and ending the death penalty. It started the first service to support people’s re-entry into society in 1921. From the chaos of the Strangeways riots in the early 1990s we saw the emergence of proper family services.
But reform can’t be the exclusive domain of the voluntary sector – we need to work with government. These prison reforms provide an opportunity for change that we need to grab with both hands.