In 2014, Avonbrook took the unprecedented step of seed funding work in relation to the UK prison system. We have shown time and again the value of small, well targeted grants that demonstrate value to other, larger funders or government. With this in mind, Avonbrook made a one-off grant to international health and human rights organisation, Just Detention International.
Sexual abuse within the UK prison system is an often misunderstood and neglected topic. In the words of one expert, ‘there is a state of collective denial in the UK prison system that rape ever takes place.’ Common sense tells us that it must happen and Avonbrook made a grant to JDI to put the issue on the national agenda and further the call for wide scale, qualitative research.
JDI appointed their first ever UK Programme Director on a one-year contract, as a result of Avonbrook’s funding. The UK Programme Director joined the Howard League Commission on Sex in Prisons, the first ever such inquiry to take place in the UK. The Commission reported after two years, in 2015. Briefing papers can be found here on specific topics: coercive sex in prison, consensual sex in prison, and the experience of former prisoners.
Based on the limited available UK data, it appears that, far from differing to the United States, instances of rape and sexual abuse in UK prisons are comparable to the inhumane levels of the US prison system.
The UK Programme Director met with advocates, parliamentarians and funders. In addition, the issues of rape and sexual abuse garnered widespread media coverage including BBC Newsnight, Channel 4 News, the Guardian, New Statesman, the Independent, Daily Telegraph and elsewhere.
It is hoped that as a result of Avonbrook’s seed funding and the early work of JDI, further research can be undertaken on this issue to encourage government intervention.