Coalition calls on government to immediately reduce number of people in detention settings

14 Apr 2020

INQUEST and Women in Prison have brought together a strong coalition of charities, grassroots organisations and individuals, including Just for Kids Law and the Children's Rights Alliance for England to call on the government to take decisive steps to save lives during this unprecedented public health crisis. 

A powerful coalition of signatories have joined the call for the government to immediately reduce the number of people in prison, young offender institutions, secure training centres and immigration detention settings. 

Deaths of people in custody are already at a historic high. With more restrictive regimes, suspension of family visits, severe limits on external scrutiny, and additional pressures on physical and mental health care, the COVID-19 outbreak in prisons and detention threatens to escalate this problem on an unprecedented scale.

27 March 2020

To the Rt Hon Boris Johnson, MP

We, the signatories, call on the Government to take urgent life-saving steps to immediately reduce the number of people in prison, young offender institutions, secure training centres and immigration detention settings. This is for the safety of prisoners, detainees, frontline staff and communities during this unprecedented public health crisis.

Detained people are reliant on the state for their health and safety. It is not possible to follow Government advice on COVID-19 in prison and immigration detention settings. People in prison are already dying. Many detention settings already have the virus within their walls, with thousands of frontline staff self-isolating. Astonishingly, people continue to be processed through a justice system despite the known dangers.

The biggest risk the public is now facing is the battle against COVID-19 and the capacity of health services to meet escalating demand. While the prison service is making plans to store the bodies of prisoners who will die in the coming months, a clear alternative exists: drastically reduce the prison population and save lives both in and outside of prison. A failure to act, and release people now, will result in an increased risk to us all.

The government has a legal and moral obligation to protect the lives of detained persons from a foreseeable danger to their health. Under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights as incorporated by the Human Rights Act, the government has a duty to protect the right to life of those detained. Countries such as Iran, Ireland and several US states (e.g. New York, New Jersey and Ohio) are implementing release plans. The blueprint exists for the UK to follow suit.

Deaths of people in custody are already at a historic high. Investigations into these deaths show that many are preventable, and the result of neglect and systemic failings in care. With more restrictive regimes, suspension of family visits, and severe limits on external scrutiny, and additional pressures on physical and mental health care, the COVID-19 outbreak in prisons and detention threatens to escalate this problem on an unprecedented scale.

It is clear that keeping people in prison and detention during this pandemic threatens the lives of prisoners, staff, healthcare workers - and the public health at large. As we have seen worldwide, coronavirus does not discriminate. It is not prevented by prison gates, borders and walls - if people are not able to self-isolate and receive appropriate care, the virus spreads and kills.

A timely, effectively managed and supported release of people currently in prison and detention settings must begin urgently. Existing resources must be reallocated so that no one is released into destitution or poverty or a lack of health and welfare support.

Such measures could save thousands of lives across the UK.

Yours sincerely,

Deborah Coles, Director of INQUEST

Kate Paradine, CEO of Women in Prison



Niki Scordi, Chief Executive, Advance Charity
Sabrina Mahtani, Co-Founder, AdvocAid
Joy Doal, CEO, Anawim Women Working Together
Emily Bolton, Director, APPEAL
Carolyne Willow, Director, Article 39
Celia Clarke, Director, Bail for Immigration Detainees
Naomi Delap, Director, Birth Companions
Lisa Dando, Director, BWC (Brighton Women's Centre)
Adnan Siddiqui, Director, CAGE
Richard Garside, Director, CCJS
Laura Seebohm, Executive Director, Changing Lives
Louise King, Director, Children’s Rights Alliance for England
Anne Fox, Chief Executive Officer, Clinks
Jennifer Nadel, Co-director, Compassion in Politics
Nina Champion, Director Criminal Justice Alliance
Philip Martin, Founder, Ex-seed Employment Agency and Recruitment Network for Ex Offenders
Sara Hyde, Criminal Justice Consultant and Chair Fabian Women's Network
Sarah Mann, Director, Friends Families and Travellers
Malcolm Bailey, Chair, Green Left
Peter Murry, Secretary, Green Party Trade Union Group
Naomi Burke-Shyne, Executive Director, Harm Reduction International
Silas Sheltiely, Director, Himiza Social Justice
Frances Crook, Director Howard League for Penal Reform
Ann Fordham, Executive Director, International Drug Policy Consortium
Satbir Singh, Chief Executive, JCWI (Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants)
Enver Solomon, CEO, Just for Kids Law
Natalie Wilks, Managing Director, Jonah’s Project CIC
Dr Joseph, Principal Speaker, Left Unity
Chris Minnoch, CEO, Legal Aid Practitioners Group
Janey Starling, Campaign Director, Level Up
Martha Spurrier, Director, Liberty
Sophie Neuburg, Executive Director, Medact
Emma Ginn, Director, Medical Justice
Fizza, CEO, Migrants' Rights Network
Campbell Robb, CEO, Nacro
Rob Little, Deputy Chair, The National Association for Youth Justice
Shamsher Singh, Director, National Sikh Youth Federation
Kevin Blowe, Coordinator, Network for Police Monitoring (Netpol)
Sara Swire, Chief Executive, New Dawn New Day
Gemma Fox, Managing Director, North Wales Women's Centre
Fope Olaleye, NUS Black Students’ Officer, NUS
Rachel Watters, Women’s Officer, NUS
Claire Hubberstey, Chief Executive, One Small Thing
Robert Noyes, Campaigner & Researcher, Platform London
Lubia Begum-Rob, Director, Prisoners Advice Service (PAS)
Emma Fullerton, CEO Prisoners' Penfriends
Peter Dawson, Director Prison Reform Trust
Helen Schofield, CEO, Probation Institute
Sue Stephens, Secretary, Progressing Prisoners Maintaining Innocence
Whitney Iles, CEO, Project 507
Paul Parker, Recording Clerk,Quakers in Britain
Imani Robinson, Communications Strategist & Editor, Release and TalkingDrugs
Lisa Matthews, Coordinator, Right to Remain
Charlotte Weinberg, Director, Safe Ground
Tanya Long, Director, Samphire
Pragna Patel, Director, Southall Black Sisters
Nicky Park, Head of Prisons and Women's Services, St Giles Trust
Pippa Goodfellow, Director, Standing Committee for Youth Justice
Kate Alexander, Director, Scottish Detainee Visitors
Vicki Cardwell, CEO, Spark Inside
Temi Mwale, Managing Director, The 4FRONT Project
Mr Franklyn, Chair, The Crib Youth
Wanda Wyporska, Executive Director, The Equality Trust
Sam Smethers, Chief Executive, The Fawcett Society
Yvonne MacNamara, Chief Executive, The Traveller Movement
James Nicholls, Chief Executive Officer, Transform Drug Policy Foundation
Christopher Stacey, Co-director, Unlock - for people with convictions
Charlotte Daview, Communications Manager, User Voice
Asad Rehman, Executive Director, War on Want
Joyce Kallevik, Director, Wish - a voice for women's mental health
Natasha Walter , Director, Women for Refugee Women
DionneReid, CEO, Women's Work Derbyshire Ltd
Imtiaz Amin, CEO, Zahid Mubarek Trust
Anna Vickerstaff, UK Lead,

Grassroots networks and activist groups

Abolitionist Futures
Emma Campbell, Co-Convenor, Alliance for Choice
Collective Members, Bent Bars Project
Books Beyond Bars UK
Community Action On Prison Expansion
Emilia Butlin, Spokesperson, Committee to Defend Julian Assange (JADC)
Loraine Masiya Mponela, Chairperson, Coventry Asylum and Refugee Action Group
Kelsey Mohamed, Organiser, Cradle Community
Noni Makuyana, Organiser, Decolonising Economics
Decrim Now: Campaign for Sex Workers Rights 
Ruby Breward, Demands From A Pandemic
Sue Wheatcroft, Chair/founder, Derbyshire BPD support group
Lois Brookes-Jones, GRT activist, GATEHerts Social Changemakers
Anna Pincus, Director, Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group (GDWG)
Farzana Khan, Healing Justice London
Gloria Morrison, Campaign Coordinator, Joint Enterprise Not Guilty by Association
Melanie Leahy, Mother, Justice for Matthew Leahy Failed by the State
Elif Sarican, Kurdish Women’s Movement
Suzanne Fletcher, Liberal Democrats for Seekers of Sanctuary
Collective Members, Lumpen and the Class Works Project
John O, Co-Ordinator, Miscarriages of Justiceuk (MOJUK)
Zahra Bei, Founder, No More Exclusions
North London Sisters Uncut
Our Empty Chair
Prisoner Solidarity Network
Nim Ralph, QTPOC London co-founder
Rachel Seoighe, Reclaim Holloway
Red Fightback
Vie Clerc, Outreach Coordinator, Settled & Global Bradford
Lani Parker, Co-director, Sisters of Frida
Sisters Uncut Leeds
Fiona Clive, Admin, Sisters Uncut Liverpool
SOAS Detainee Support

Alice Dawnay, CEO, Switchback
Simon Ruding, Director, TiPP Centre
Trans* Dignity at SOAS

Stephanie Lightfoot-Bennett, United Families and Friends Campaign

Friends, family and formerly detained

Virginia Compton
Kate Dorsett
Cat George
Tegs Mappin
Donna Mooney
Ms Oriowo
Miss S Parr
Dita Saliuka, Justice4LiridonSaliuka
Mark Saunders
Pauline Sellick
Danielle Smith
Christopher Watkin


Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP, Member of Parliament for Streatham and Shadow Immigration Minister
Lord Keith Bradley
Baroness Jean Corston
Kate Green MP, Member of Parliament for Stretford and Urmston
Zarah Sultana MP, Member of Parliament for Coventry South
Claudia Webbe MP, Member of Parliament for Leicester East


Laura Abbott, Senior Lecturer in Midwifery, University of Hertfordshire
Lucy Baldwin, Senior Lecturer/ Researcher, DeMontfort University
Sarah Bartley, Lecturer in Theatre and Performance, Queen Mary University of London
Monish Bhatia, Lecturer in Criminology, Birkbeck, University of London
Mary Bosworth, Professor of Criminology, Centre for Criminology, University of Oxford
Bill Bowring, Professor of Law, Birkbeck College, University of London
Kathryn Chadwick, Principal Lecturer in Criminology, Manchester Metropolitan University
Leonidas Cheliotis, Associate Professor, London School of Economics
Tanzil Chowdhury, Lecturer (Assistant Professor) in Law, Queen Mary University London
Becky Clarke, Senior Lecturer, Manchester Metropolitan University
Rachel Condry, Professor of Criminology , University of Oxford
Vickie Cooper, Senior Lecturer in Criminology and Social Policy, The Open University
Aviah Day, Lecturer in Criminology, Birkbeck, University of London
Dr Elena, Reader in Law and Political Theory, Birkbeck College
Nadine El-Enany, Senior Lecturer in Law, Birkbeck College
Rona Epstein, Honorary Research Fellow, Coventry Law School
Craig Fletcher, Lecturer in Criminology, Manchester Metropolitan University
Kerensa Gaunt, Disabled Students' Officer, University of Cambridge Student Union
Barry Goldson, Chair of Social Sciences, The University of Liverpool
Hannah Graham, Senior Lecturer in Criminology, University of Stirling
Nick Hardwick, Professor of Criminal Justice, Royal Holloway University of London
Alison Higgs, Lecturer in social work, Open University (personal capacity)
Laura Hoyano, Senior Research Fellow, Wadham College and Barrister, Red Lion Chambers Faculty of Law, University of Oxford
Carolyn Hoyle, Professor of Criminology, University of Oxford
Remi Joseph-Salisbury, Presidential Fellow, University of Manchester
Sarah Keenan, Senior Lecturer, Birkbeck School of Law
Johann Koehler, Assistant Professor of Criminology, London School of Economics and Political Science
Sarah Lamble, Reader in Criminology, Birkbeck, University of London
Dr Laura, Senior Lecturer in Midwifery, University of Hertfordshire
Gillian McNaull, Lecturer in Criminology, Queen’s University Belfast
Shona Minson, British Academy Post-Doctoral Fellow, Centre for Criminology, University of Oxford
Tim Newburn, Professor of Criminology and Social Policy, London School of Economics and Political Science
Katie Nicoll Baines, Project Manager, University of Edinburgh
Jasbinder Nijjar, PhD Student, Brunel University London
Coretta Phillips, Associate Professor LSE
Alison Phipps, Professor of Gender Studies, University of Sussex
Sharri Plonski, Lecturer in International Politics, Queen Mary University of London
Dr Rachel, Researcher/Associate Lecturer, The Open University
Sarah, Associate Lecturer, Sheffield Hallam University
Dr Scott, The Open University, Pies Not Prisons
Phil Scraton, Professor Emeritus, Queen's University Belfast
Narjiss Seffar, Student, SOAS
Tanya Serisier, Senior Lecturer in Criminology, Birkbeck College, University of London
Katy Sian, Lecturer, University of York
Philippa Tomczak, Senior Research Fellow, University of Nottingham
Sivamohan Valluvan, Assistant Professor, University of Warwick
Flick Adams, Doctoral Researcher and Graduate Teaching Assistant, Keele University
Dr Meg John Barker
Emma Brett, Interim Academic Director – Policing, Anglia Ruskin University
Annie Bunce
Gavin Dingwall, Professor of Criminal Justice Policy, De Montfort University
Julia Downes, Lecturer in Criminology, The Open University
Jennifer Fleetwood, Senior Lecturer, Goldsmiths, University of London
John Grayson, Independent Academic Researcher, SYMAAG South Yorkshire Migration
Neal Hazel, Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of Salford
Natalie Ilsley, PhD Candidate, University of Manchester
Helen Monk, Lecturer in Criminology, Liverpool John Moores
Dr Simone Santorso, Lecturer, University of Hull
Lizzie Seal, Reader in Criminology, University of Sussex
Tanya Serisier, Senior Lecturer in Criminology, Birkbeck College, University of London
David Skinner, Reader in Sociology, Anglia Ruskin University
Camille Stengel
Professor Colin Sumner FRSA

Legal professionals

Jane Ryan, Partner, Bhatt Murphy
Anna-Louise Thwaites, Partner Bindmans LLP
Jules Carey, Partner Bindmans LLP
Charlotte Haworth Hird, Partner Bindmans LLP
Professor Felicity Gerry QC, Barrister, Carmelite Chambers
Julian Coningham, Principal, Coninghams Solicitors
Jo Eggleton, Partner Deighton Pierce Glynn
Michael Etienne, Barrister        
Simon Creighton, Vice-President, European Prison Litigation Network
Lucie Boase, Trainee solicitor, Hodge Jones & Allen
Chez Cotton, Consultant Senior Solicitor, Matthew Gold & Co Solicitors
Jacqueline McKenzie, Solicitor, McKenzie Beute and Pope & Centre for Migration Advice and Research
Dr Christopher, Litigation Consultant, KRW LAW LLP


Cllr Asher, Deputy Mayor, Bristol City Council
Sophia Benedict, Women's Services Manager, Pecan
Minda Burgos-Lukes, Consultant Freelancer and Trustee, Women in Prison
Sara Chitseko, Head of Operations and Advocacy, The 4FRONT Project
Vie Clerc, Outreach Coordinator, Settled and Global Bradford
Micha Frazer-Carroll, Opinions Editor, gal-dem
Deborah Frances-White, Artist, The Guilty Feminist
Alice Gamebll, Trainee Solicitor, Prisoners' Advice Service (PAS)
Antonia Harper
Kathryn Horak-Hallett, Workshop facilitator, Magic Me
Ewa Jasiewicz
Damayanthi Muthukumaranage, Communication Consultant, IMADR
Ornella Ospino
Jon Robins, Journalist Justice Gap
Energy Shareefa, Poet
Flora Saurin, Student, SDS
Farina Salam, Community Outreach representative, Hidayah
Theo Scheiner, Family Befriending Coordinator, Prison Advice and Care Trust
Laura Parrott, Checkpoint Coordinator (interim), WSC
Nico Phillips, Co-Coordinator and Chief Propagandist, Black Rose Caucus, Labour Party
Jessica, Researcher, Institute of Race Relations
Linda Allan
Christy Braham
Fred Carter
Marisa Clements
Emma Collison
Anna Eden
Maya Ellis
Greg Foxsmith
Anna Freed
Kerensa Gaunt, Disabled Students’ Officer, Cambridge Students’ Union
Ross Gibson
Becky Goodwin
Sarah Benn Gordon
Jillian Hay
Laura Hone
Frances Jenner
Ellioté Long
Nam Nguyen
Femi Oshatogbe, Technical Relationship Manager, S&P Global
Kieran Sharma
Anton Shelupanov, Justice Studio
Alfie Vaughan
Ms J Watson
Julia Wakelam
Amy Walker

Please note this webpage is updated manually and there may be a delay before signatories appear. Last updated 14 April.