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May 8, 2020

PAS Report January - April 2020

Working with Older and Disabled Prisoners

Changes to our services as a result of the Coronavirus situation

Due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) situation, on 12 March 2020, PAS suspended it’s Outreach Clinic service in prisons. However we have been able to keep our Telephone Advice Line open, and have increased the number of Caseworkers answering calls. We have seen a sharp increase in the number of calls from prisoners, receiving over 4,300 calls between the 12th of March and 9th of April. Caseworkers are dealing with a range of questions, including physical and mental health issues.

PAS has called on the government for the release of low risk prisoners and those who are particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus. We have also composed a Compassionate Early Release letter template, which can be downloaded on our website and be used by anyone to advocate for a prisoner’s early release.

Case Study - Pas Helps Sickle Cell Anaemia Sufferer to Be Released to Self-Isolate at His Father’s

PAS received a call to our Advice Line last week, from a prisoner to due to be released to an Approved Premises (AP) on Friday, despite the fact that he has Sickle Cell Anaemia, which is one of the highest risk groups for coronavirus infection and full-blown COVID-19. As the AP would be shared with other residents, the prisoner was scared, worried about exposure to the coronavirus, but had been told by the Parole Board that he had no option but to be released there.

The prisoner’s father had offered to accommodate his son so he could safely self-isolate for the recommended 12 weeks for Sickle Cell and his Offender Supervisor (OS) had been trying to contact the Offender Manager (OM) for three weeks in order to enact this arrangement, but without success. The prisoner had had three OMs recently and did not know the name of the most recent one. PAS advised that we’d attempt to contact the OM to make informal representations for the prisoner to be released to his father’s place of residence.

With the help of a very good London-based Probation Officer, previously known to PAS, we managed to track down the OM and suggested a Home Circumstances Report – over the phone – and prompt change to the prisoner’s licence in light of Public Health England’s Guidance on vulnerable groups and coronavirus. We then spoke with the OM on the phone again and were assured that a new Home Circumstances Report had been done and that the prisoner would be released to his father’s as we wanted.

In Conclusion

Prisoners’ Advice Service remains most grateful to GlobalGiving for helping to support our work with older and disabled prisoners in England and Wales. It is particularly relevant at this time, with older and disabled prisoners especially at risk in light of the Coronavirus pandemic. The donations we receive from individuals such as yourself are crucial to enable us to continue providing this vital support.

Jan 10, 2020

PAS Report 1st October - 31st December 2019

 

Your donations continue to facilitate Prisoners’ Advice Service’s (PAS) work, providing legal and human rights advice and representation to those who are marginalised and neglected within the prison estate.

In the fourth quarter of 2019, we have delivered six targeted Outreach Clinics for older prisoners and prisoners with disabilities and health problems. These have been held at HMPs Pentonville, Thameside, Leyhill, and Eastwood Park. Our Caseworkers have been able to directly advise and support 63 prisoners during these clinics, providing vital direction regarding their legal and human rights.

In this period, your support has allowed us to open 26 legal cases on behalf of prisoners in the UK who are experiencing unfair treatment. Two of these directly relate to the mistreatment of prisoners suffering from a disability. We have answered over 410 phone-calls from prisoners, and around 40% of our calls tend to be from prisoners who identify as disabled or suffering from a health problem.

The following case studies elucidate on just a few of our successes, which wouldn’t have been possible without the generous contributions of donors.

Case Study 1: PAS advises an elderly prisoner who was the victim of an unprovoked attack

During one of our Outreach sessions within a prison, an older prisoner met with us and told us that he had been assaulted by a prison officer in an unprovoked attack.

He was unsure of how to make a complaint and worried that it might have repercussions on his future safety. Our PAS Advisor explained to him that he could submit a confidential access complaint to the Governor, which he did.

We also wrote a letter to the prison Governor, on his behalf, calling for the prison to investigate this alleged assault.

We were pleased to find out that justice has been served and the officer has been sacked.

Case Study 2: PAS ensures a prisoner with HIV receives his treatment

A prisoner called our advice line urgently, concerned about his health and even his life, as he had not received the daily medication he needs to treat his HIV for the past four days.

Our Caseworker immediately rang the prison and managed to get hold of someone from the Safer Custody Team, who are responsible for ensuring that prisons are safe places, including suicide prevention and self-harm management. He promised to pass on our worries to the prisoner’s Houseblock Healthcare Nurse.

He also wrote a letter directly to Healthcare stating that it was a very serious matter with potential severe consequences for prisoner D.

Happily, several days later, we received a letter from prisoner D confirming that he had received his medication.

Conclusion

PAS is most thankful for the generosity of GlobalGiving, and the willingness of its donors to support an often neglected cause. We rely on the kindness of donors to uphold human rights within the prison estate, and PAS wouldn’t be able to continue its vital work without such donations.  

Jan 10, 2020

Legal Advice for Women Prisoners - December 2019

Working with Women Prisoners

Over the last quarter of 2019, your support helped our Women’s Caseworker to deliver 13 Outreach Clinics in 6 prisons: HMPs Bronzefield, New Hall, Send, Eastwood Park, Downview, and Styal. During these clinics, our Caseworker held one-to-one meetings with 82 women prisoners. A total of 6 cases were opened on behalf of women prisoners during this time period.

For 2019 overall, 7% of calls to PAS came from women prisoners, and 33% of letters were from women prisoners.

Case Study: Two Women Prisoners Granted Childcare Resettlement Leave

Two female prisoners had been refused Childcare Resettlement Leave (CRL). CRL is a form of temporary release available to low risk prisoners who can demonstrate that they have sole caring responsibility for a child under 16.  Both of the women were able to demonstrate that they did have children under 16, but were refused CRL because of the length of time still remaining on their sentences.

At that time, CRL was only available for prisoners in open prisons; to those who have only two years or less left until their release. The two women both had more than two years left to serve.  However, separation from their mothers was having a deleterious impact on the mental health of the children involved: one was undergoing counselling and another being treated for depression.

PAS acted on the case, supporting the women in taking a Judicial Review of the prison’s response to their plight. The judge found the prison’s decision to be unlawful and stated that, when considering CRL applications, the Article 8 Right to a Family Life of the European Convention on Human Rights, and Article 3(1) of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, should be taken into account.

In this case, our intervention and the consequent ruling righted an unjust policy, thus protecting the rights of the children and their sole carers.  Considering the best interests of any children involved in a case is now a legal prerequisite in decisions by prisons on CRL applications. The ruling also changed the law such that all prisoners can now apply for CRL at any point in their sentence, not just during the last two years.  As such, a large proportion of the prison community has potentially benefitted from this.


In Conclusion


Prisoners’ Advice Service remains most grateful to GlobalGiving for helping to support our work with women prisoners in England and Wales. Without the assistance of donations from individuals such as yourself, the work that we do with vulnerable prisoners would be severely curtailed.

 
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