Prison: The Last Resort, with Juliet Lyon CBE

Ebenezer is delighted to welcome Juliet Lyon CBE, the Director of the Prison Reform Trust for a lecture and film highlighting the progressive and seminal work that she and the Trust have been doing in this country and abroad for many years


People are sent to prison as a punishment, not for punishment. Deprivation of liberty is the most extreme punishment that can be meted out to an offender in the UK and, as such, must be reserved as a just desert for those adults who have committed the most serious or violent crimes.

Our justice system has been beleaguered by tough political rhetoric, media hype and now swingeing budget cuts. In twenty years the prison population has all but doubled. This is largely due, not to any crime wave, but to increased sentence lengths, the introduction of mandatory penalties and an earlier recourse to custody for those who, in the past, would have been required to pay a fine or do community sentences.

Solutions to alarming levels of overcrowding, unacceptably high reconviction rates and an overstretched workforce lie not in expensive private prison building programmes but the more sparing use of custody.

Prison should be reserved for those whose offending is so serious that they cannot serve their sentence in the community. Were Government to support and promote effective community sentences and the use of restorative justice, divert people who are mentally ill and those with learning disabilities into health and social care and addicts into treatment, prison could take its proper place in the criminal justice system, one of last resort.


Juliet Lyon CBE

Juliet is director of the Prison Reform Trust, secretary general of Penal Reform International and vice president of the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy. Voted Britain’s ‘Most Admired Charity Chief Executive’ in 2011, previously Juliet worked in education, mental health and justice.

The Prison Reform Trust is a leading independent UK charity working to create a just, humane and effective penal system. It produces information, conducts applied research and effects policy leverage. It provides the secretariat to the All Party Parliamentary Penal Affairs Group. The Prison Reform Trust’s advice and information service responds to over 5000 prisoners and their families each year. The charity has a good track record of achieving policy and practice change and, in the last five years, has helped to reduce child imprisonment by 40% in England and Wales.

2012Martin Keeley