Prisoners’ Advice Service News Update – February 2014
Re-Uniting Mother and Children: PAS received a request for help from a woman in prison, who was at risk of being released homeless in three weeks’ time. Her application for Resettlement Overnight Release (ROR) to see her four children and sort out accommodation had been refused by the prison. Without accommodation, she could not be reunited with her children on release. Her concern to be with her children and resume her role as their sole carer was acute, with a daughter undergoing tests for a terminal illness. PAS wrote to the prison challenging the legality of their policy to deny ROR in the last 28 days of sentence and their failure to consider the best interests of the woman’s children. The prison reversed their decision and granted ROR to the prisoner within 24 hours of PAS’s intervention.
Protecting Rights in Segregation: Prisoners in segregation face extreme isolation with little human contact and limited facilities. Many prisoners in segregation suffer from mental health problems and often self-harm. PAS received a letter from a prisoner held in segregation in a south London prison, who complained that the prison was removing radios from prisoners serving punishments of cellular confinement, even though the Prison Service’s own guidance lists radios amongst facilities which will ‘not normally’ be forfeited as part of the punishment. The prisoner had complained unsuccessfully through the internal complaints procedure and his complaint was then rejected by the Prison and Probation Ombudsman on the grounds that the prisoner was not personally affected by the policy as he was not serving a punishment of cellular confinement and was in segregation for other reasons. PAS wrote to the governor complaining about the prison’s policy. We received a reply stating that there was no local policy of depriving prisoners of radios (even though there clearly had been) and the prisoner wrote to thank us for our intervention as the prison had started re-issuing radios to prisoners in segregation.
Legal Aid Cuts: As mentioned in our previous newsletter, PAS and the Howard League are challenging the legal aid cuts to prison law by judicial review. The application for permission on both judicial review applications and for our protective costs order have been listed for an oral hearing on Thursday 6 March. Watch this space for further news!
Outreach: The first free legal outreach clinic at HMP Thameside took place in the library on 28 January 2014. The clinic was a great success and very busy. Numerous prisoners attended and we are arranging for advice sessions to take place there on a monthly basis in the future.
The Great Legal Bake: Coming to a law firm near you? PAS will be baking cakes for the Great Legal Bake on 26 February 2014 and our volunteers will be selling these at the Prison Reform Trust and law firms around Farringdon and Holborn. Please get in touch if you are able to bake a cake for PAS to sell!
BBC Radio 4 Appeal: Our BBC radio 4 appeal was broadcast by Edwina Grosvenor on Radio 4 on 5 and 6 January 2014. To listen to the appeal click here.
House of Lords: The House of Lords debated the legal aid cuts Criminal Legal Aid (General) (Amendment) Regulations 2013 on 29 January 2014. Harsh criticism was forthcoming. It was observed, “The Minister may have noticed the embarrassing lack of support for these regulations on the Benches behind him, and indeed anywhere in this House tonight.” A copy of the debate in Hansard is being sent to the Secretary of State who is being urged to reconsider. Baroness Stern stated, “I end by endorsing the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, about the excellent work done by the Howard League and the Prisoners’ Advice Service”.