Last updated: 15/06/20 | 13:08
We know how importantly the voluntary sector working in the criminal justice system treats its work and its duty of care to its staff, volunteers and beneficiaries. This is more important than ever as we all try to understand the impact of Covid-19. Clinks and the National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance (NCJAA) are working closely with the Ministry of Justice and Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service to make sure your concerns are heard and your knowledge and expertise is able to contribute to the development of solutions.
This is an unsettling time for everyone and we know there is a lot of fast-changing information which can be overwhelming and difficult to navigate. We have set up this web page to give sector-specific information, collate essential updates and signpost to helpful information from the wider voluntary sector and arts and culture sector. This situation is evolving quickly, so we'll keep this page updated as often as we can. We'll also continue to provide updates as needed in our ebulletins, including Light Lunch, and on our Twitter accounts @Clinks_Tweets and @ArtsCJS.
Our members are resilient and are responding to the outbreak in innovative ways. Here are just a few examples of their activity. As always, keep up to date with our members' news in Light Lunch.
- Project 507 has an online folder with free printable resources prisons can use to create activity packs.
- Fine Cell work has produced over 1,200 products ready to be sent into prison for prisoners to undertake creative needlework.
- The Prisoner Learning Alliance has created an In-cell Activity Hub with a collection of creative, unique resources for prison staff and Prison Education Framework providers to download and print.
- Cell Workout has collated 40 days worth of in cell workouts for prisons to print and give to prisoners spending more time than usual in their cells.
- Pact has created Pact Packets - a collection of downloadable, printable resources to support children, families and prisoners throughout the Coronavirus crisis.
- You can now watch Open Clasp's award-winning prison drama online for free.
- National Prison Radio has adapted its broadcast schedule to provide greater support. Listeners can get in touch via wing phones and messages go into programmes across the schedule.
- Khulisa has put together an anxiety and stress management guide containing short exercises everyone can do to manage anxiety in a pandemic.
- Restore Support Network has launched two emergency Covid-19 helplines. The first (0300 102 1032) is for the over 60s in prison with underlying health and social care needs and nearing their release date. It will initially cover the South West and, for women, South Wales. The second (0300 102 1033) is for older Seafarers and Veterans and will provide access to possible individual welfare grants on release.
- RECOOP has reduced the cost of subscribing to its ‘food for thought’ Distraction Packs until the end of July. The packs include a wide range of interesting reading material, activities and quizzes for older prisoners.
- GamCare, who support people with gambling problems, have developed an in-cell activity pack, focused on gambling awareness and wellbeing messages. This can be printed off for men and women in prison (18+).
- Clinks and many of our members have signed a letter, coordinated by INQUEST and Women in Prison, to call on the government to take decisive steps to save lives during the outbreak.
- Clinks and many of our members have joined a coalition, coordinated by Revolving Doors Agency, calling on the government to temporarily stop short prison sentences; limiting the rapid churn of people vulnerable to Covid-19 in and out of prison to keep the prison staff and prisoners safe.
- Prison Reform Trust and The Howard League for Penal Reform have sent a formal letter before claim to the Secretary of State for Justice, Robert Buckland, over the government’s failure to respond effectively to the coronavirus pandemic in prisons. Read the government's response here.
- Prisoners Advice Service is calling for the release of low risk prisoners and those who are particularly vulnerable to Covid-19. They have written a draft letter for anyone to use and amend if they believe that a prisoner should be released early on compassionate grounds given the extreme circumstances of the coronavirus emergency.
Have you got an example of how your organisation is responding or adapting your work during the Covid-19 outbreak? Send it to our Communications Officer Isobel Archer and we'll consider it for sharing in Light Lunch, Twitter or on this page.
Advising the Ministry of Justice
Clinks has a process for escalating operational issues directly with HMPPS, including a daily phone call. We'll update our frequently asked questions as and when information becomes available.
Lucy Frazer, Minister of State at the Ministry of Justice has written to Clinks CEO Anne Fox on responding to Covid-19 and the voluntary sector. Lucy Frazer writes, "I wanted to say a huge thank you to Clinks staff and the charities working in criminal justice for their immediate and constructive response to the exceptional circumstances in which we find ourselves." Read the letter here
We have set up a Reducing Reoffending Third Sector Advisory Group (RR3) special interest group on Covid-19 to formally channel policy discussions and suggestions into The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and HMPPS. The group meets regularly and consists of the existing RR3 membership, plus additional voluntary sector colleagues who have been co-opted to the group for their specialist expertise.
This special interest group is looking at:
- What support the voluntary sector working in the criminal justice system needs to deliver now
- What support the sector needs to support sustainability post Covid-19
- Suggestions for support/changes for people in the criminal justice system
- Suggestions for support/changes for families of people in the criminal justice system.
The group is working closely with a new third sector taskforce set up by HMPPS and the MoJ. The taskforce has been commissioned by Lucy Frazer QC, Prisons and Probation Minister, to provide a platform to escalate and resolve issues impacting criminal justice voluntary organisations and monitor the sector’s operations, capacity and financial resilience at this time. The RR3 chair meets regularly with the taskforce leads, and the special interest group provides advice, challenge and evidence to the taskforce. We'll share notes and key points from meetings and the advice we provide - look out for updates in Light Lunch and on Twitter.
For more information on the role of the RR3 and how it works, read our guide.
Header image: Marco Verch