Prisoners need improved access to victims services and support
Prisoners who are victims should be given improved access to victims services and support, the Prison Reform Trust has said in its response to the government consultation delivering justice for victims.
In theory, prisoners are as entitled to access victims services under the Victims Code as any other member of the public. However, in practice they are not always given the opportunity to report crimes committed against them whilst in prison or prior to their incarceration and are often unable to access victims’ services.
PRT’s advice and information service regularly hears from prisoners experiencing difficulties reporting crime and accessing victims services. Prisoners are also directly discriminated against by some of the provisions of the code. For instance, people with convictions are denied the opportunity to apply for compensation when they are victims of serious violence.
Data presented in the PRT response highlights that:
- 29% of prisoners said they had experienced emotional, physical or sexual abuse as a child. Women (53%) were more likely to report having experienced some sort of abuse than men (27%).
- 57% of women in prison reported having been victims of domestic violence as adults.
- In the 12 months to June 2021, there were 2,009 serious assault incidents in prisons in England and Wales.
PRT says that the prison service, the police and CPS have duties to comply with their responsibilities as set out in the victims code in relation to prisoners. The implementation and operation of these duties in prison need greater oversight. The process should be monitored and data around the numbers of victims receiving services in prison should be publicly available. Prisoners’ rights under the code and their entitlements as set out in prison service instructions need to be more closely aligned, and backed by appropriate information and guidance to prisoners, prison staff, statutory bodies and service providers.
Elsewhere in the submission, the charity highlights concerns regarding government plans to further increase victim engagement with the parole process, saying it risks retraumatising victims and raising expectations which cannot possibly be met.
It also criticises government plans to increase the victims surcharge as an example of evidence-free policy making which could lead to an increase in the number of people defaulting because of an inability to pay.