Media reports are emerging about The Harris Review. The 283-page document is here.
The review, chaired by Lord Harris, considered the deaths in custody of 87 15-24 year old people in custody between April 2004 and December 2013.
We were naturally interested to find out the gender balance of these 87 people, given that 95% of the general prison population is male, and we know five out of six men currently in British prisons wouldn’t be there if men were sentenced with the same leniency as women.
We first looked at the Executive Summary, pp 8-13. No mention of the gender balance in those six pages. No mention in the ‘Concluding Comments’ section, pp 198 – 200. No mention in the Recommendations section, pp 201- 218 (108 recommendations, none relating specifically to males).
The first mention we could find was in Table 1.1 on p23. 85 of the 87 ‘people’ were male – 98% – including all four of the deaths of 15-17 year old ‘people’. From our first ‘speed read’ of the report, the 85/2 male/female ratio of the dead ‘people’ does not appear to have been considered a matter of the slightest interest.
We found the report on the website of the Howard League for Penal Reform. Its Chief Executive is Frances Crook. Two days ago her organization issued a media release, Thousands of women are criminalised needlessly, MPs and peers find. It ends with this:
Baroness Corston, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Women in the Penal System, said: “This important inquiry considered issues that affect the lives of thousands of women. We are at a crossroads and decisions on resources being made today could make a difference for a generation.
“The APPG is calling on the new government to protect women’s centres that are centres of excellence. We can protect the public, use scarce resources effectively and economically and give better life chances to women.”
Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “Far too many women are being criminalised by a broken system. The evidence given to parliamentarians was overwhelming. Too many women are arrested, prosecuted, sanctioned and imprisoned.
“Change is needed and the report from the APPG on Women in the Penal System provides a route forward.”