Reports from 250 years ago – and right the way up to the current day too!
Long before the internet became a tool of everyday life people resorted to something that were then known as printed ‘Reports’ – they were ink on paper and you had to go to a real shop and buy them. Then came the internet and humanity stumbled into a new and better digital age – but sadly many of these printed Reports never followed, today they lay hidden collecting dust in basements – despite their importance in historical terms, for researchers today they are gold dust.
On this page The Prison Oracle has sourced, scanned, digitised and gives you access to these valuable and vintage publications.
The State of the Prisons, John Howard (1777 – 522 pages). In 1773 John Howard was appointed High Sheriff of Bedfordshire and visited Bedford Prison – so appalled was he by what he found that he set off on a life-long journey of penal reform – 245 years later the Chief Inspector of Prisons also visited Bedford Prison (in September 2018) and he too was so appalled by what he found there that he issued an Urgent Notification on the prison.
The Prison Commissioners – First 20 Years (1878-1898) – created in 1877 the Prison Commission became the first national body responsible for all prisons. They were required to produce Annual Reports on the prison system for Parliament, and these 4,700 pages contain their Annual Reports from their first 20 years.
Punishment and the Prevention of Crime (1885) – This vintage publication of 243 pages published in 1885 and written by Sir Edmund Du Cane, the first Chairman of the Prison Commission, gives a fascinating tour of penal thinking from almost 140 years ago. “We have been fortunate in that successive Chairmen of the Prison Commission have felt it almost part of their duty to leave accounts of the periods of administration for which they were responsible” wrote Cambridge criminologist Sir Leon Radzinowicz in 1962.
“Outstanding has been the book by Sir Edmund du Cane, the iron man of prison history for sixteen years.
“To him fell the task of consolidating the system of penal servitude established in the middle of the Victorian Period, when it had ceased to be possible to transport offenders overseas and means had to be devised for dealing with them in this country.
“His survey appeared in 1885 under the title of “The Punishment and Prevention of Crime”.
This is that book.
English Prisons Today: The Report of the Prison System Enquiry Committee (1922 – 654pp) – the ‘Woolf Report’ of a century ago.
English Prisons Under Local Government (1922 – 324pp) – in this book Sydney and Beatrice Webb give a detailed account of the evolution of the English Prison System from the common gaol and the house of correction of the sixteenth century down to the statutory changes of the twentieth century, and survey the successive efforts at reform of John Howard and Elizabeth Fry, Jeremy Bentham and James Neild, Sir T. Fowell Buxton and J.J. Gurney. The origin and development of the cellular system, the treadwheel and the crank, the penal dietary and the “system of progressive stages” all come under review, together with the administrative changes made by Sir Edmund Du Cane and Sir Evelyn Ruggles, and the reforms during the first part of the 20th century. In his preface, Bernard Shaw makes a penetrating analysis of the whole theory of punishment and the incarceration of our fellow-citizens, maintaining that “Imprisonment as it exists today … is a worse crime than any of those committed by its victims; for no single criminal can be as powerful for evil, or as unrestrained in its exercise, as an organized nation”. Neatly Shaw sums up the essence of the prison debate in what he calls The Retribution Muddle: “Now if you are to punish a man retributively, you must injure him. If you are to reform him you must improve him. And men are not improved by injuries.” Cambridge criminologist Professor Radzinowicz said of this book: “No one can claim to understand English penology today without having read and reflected upon this book, for it imparts not only knowledge but perspective.”
Penal Discipline (1922 – 238pp) By Mary Louisa Gordon (1861-1941) who was appointed as the first English Lady Inspector of Prisons in 1908, and remained in post until 1921. Her attitude towards and treatment of women prisoners as explained in this, her 1922 book Penal Discipline, which stands in sharp contrast to that of her male contemporaries, and the categorisation of her approach as ‘feminist’ is reinforced by her documented connections with the suffragette movement. Yet her feminist and suffragist associations also resulted in the marginalisation and dismissal of her work, such that Mary Gordon and Penal Discipline are virtually unknown today. Nevertheless, her insights into the position and needs of women prisoners retain a striking contemporary relevance. The Prisons Handbook 2022, published in November 2021, was dedicated to Dr Mary Louisa Gordon in the centenary year of her retirement as the first female Prisons Inspector, and the 80th anniversary of her death.
Du Parcq Report (1932 – 57pp) The Report into the riot at HMP Dartmoor on 24th January 1932 – and official photographs used at the trial of the prisoners later sentenced to 99 years.
Mountbatten Report (1966 – 100pp) Report of the Inquiry into Prison Escapes and Security.
Radzinowicz Report (1968, 103pp) Regime for long-term prisoners in conditions of maximum security : report of the Advisory Council on the Penal System
May Report (1979 – 361pp) The Report into the UK Prison System.
“Frightened For My Life” (1982) – Between 1969 and 1980, 258 prisoners died from unnatural causes or suicide – 37 per cent of all deaths in prisons – and that percentage is rising. This controversial and important book examines deaths in prison, drawing on transcripts of inquest proceedings and unpublished prison department documents. It follows in detail the events leading to the deaths of seven prisoners (including Barry Prosser), and looks critically at the roles of the prison medical service, prison officers, coroners’ courts and the Home Office. What emerges is a deeply shocking picture of brutality and negligence – made the more disturbing by the secrecy that surrounds the events described. At a time when conditions in prison are causing mounting concern, the authors raise urgent questions about the aims of the prison service and the methods used to achieve them.
The Maze Prison Escape (1983, 92pp): The Report into the escape of 38 IRA prisoners from what was supposed to be the most secure prison in Europe. It was, and remains, the biggest jailbreak in UK history.
Managing The Long-Term Prison Population (1984 – 106pp) Revisiting Concentration v Dispersal again.
The ‘Breakfast Before Duty’ Riots (1986 – 125pp) At 8pm on 2nd May 1986, the then Director General of HM Prison Service, Christopher Train, (DG from 1983 to 1991) finally breathed a huge sigh of relief as the last prison in a series of devastating riots over the previous four days that had rocked his prison system to its foundations, was at last brought back under his control. Those four momentous days, between 29th April and 2nd May 1986, began when 63 brave prison governors from around the country replaced the 130-uniformed prison officers who had walked out of HMP Gloucester ostensibly over (but in truth much more than) the removal of a free breakfast that early shift prison officers had until then been paid to eat. The Prison Officers’ Association responded with an immediate nationwide industrial action that saw the cancellation of visits, education, workshops, exercise, healthcare, letters and slop out – yes, apart from a few then ‘modern’ prisons with a ‘Night San’ system there was no in-cell sanitation in those days; most prisoners threw shit-parcels out of the cell window into the prison yard below rather than live with the stench of their defecated waste for up to 23 hours a day. During the four-day ‘Breakfast Before Duty’ (BBD) riots, that spread across more than 40 prisons, a total of over 800 prison places were lost, forty-five inmates escaped, and the cost in damage alone in today’s figures was over £15 million. Here you can read the full Official 125-page Report and, additionally, a valuable and personal account by a Governor who was actually there at the time.
Woolf Report (1992 – 625pp) the Report into the April 1990 Strangeways series of Riots.
Wymott Prison Riot Report (1993 – 61pp) – the Report into the riot in September 1993
Learmont Report (1994 – 32pp) The Report into the escape of six Exceptional Risk Category A prisoners from the ‘impregnable’ Special Security Unit at HM Prison Whitemoor in September 1994.
Woodcock Report (1995 – 160pp) The Report into prison security and the escape of Category A & B prisoners from HM Prison Parkhurst in January 1995.
Additionally we have more recent reports for speed and ease of reference
The Carter Report 2003: Managing Offenders, Reducing Crime: A new approach 2003. The report that lead to the creation of the National Offender Management Service – which was itself replaced by HM Prison & Probation Service in 2017
The Corston Report 2007: The blueprint report that called for a ‘distinct, radically different, visibly-led, strategic, proportionate, holistic, woman-centred, integrated approach to Women in Prison’
The Zahid Mubarek Inquiry Report 2006 Volumes 1 & 2. After the racist murder of Asian teenager Zahid Mubarek in HMYOI Feltham in March 2000 we bring you the Report that changed cell sharing and deaths in custody.
The Fulton Report 2007. The Fulton Report looked at the subject of Deaths in Custody and it resulted in the creation of the Independent Advisory Panel on Deaths in Custody (IAPDC) – a non-departmental public body co-sponsored by the Ministry of Justice, Home Office and Department of Health and Social Care designed to provide independent advice and expertise to the Ministerial Board on Deaths in Custody – with the central aim of reducing the number of deaths. You can view The Fulton Report if you are an Enhanced Member – also, in July 2023, the IAPDC updated their agreement with HMPPS at the request of the Director General of Prisons to formalise the Service’s relationship with the IAPDC – you can also view this updated Agreement too, if you are an Enhanced Member.
The Bradley Report 2009: This report presents a comprehensive plan to reduce reoffending and improve public health by ending the revolving door to custody for mentally ill and learning disabled offenders.
The IMB Governance Review 2014: An independent Review of the Governance of Independent Monitoring Boards
The Harris Review Report Changing Prisons, Saving Lives. Report of the Independent Review into Self-inflicted Deaths in Custody of 18-24 year olds 2015
The Taylor Report of Youth Justice 2016 A review of Youth Justice by Charlie Taylor (now the Chief Inspector of Prisons) along with the terms of reference.
The Dame Sally Coates Report 2016 A review of education in prison and make recommendations as to how it could be improved.
The Farmer Report for Men 2017: An independent Review of the Maintaining Family Ties for Men
The Lammy Review Final Report 2017: An independent review of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic offenders treatment
The Mental Health in Prisons Report 2017.
The Farmer Report for Women 2019: An independent Review of the Maintaining Family Ties for Women
The Farmer Report – update on progress, 30th October 2019
The Black Report on Drugs 2020: An independent review on Drugs, 27th February 2020
The Kerslake Report on Ending Rough Sleeping: Interim July 2021
Terrorism in Prison Report, Jonathan Hall KC, April 2022
With more coming soon….