Monday, 28 October 2013

What About Women?

It's long been felt that the whole TR omnishambles has been 'designed' for men and with little or no thought for women. Here's the Justice Affairs Committee on the matter in July this year:-

Introducing a report by the Justice Select Committee, Rt Hon Sir Alan Beith MP, Chair of the Committee, said:
"The Government’s Transforming Rehabilitation reforms have clearly been designed with male offenders in mind. This is unfortunately symptomatic of an approach within the Ministry of Justice and National Offender Management Service that tends to deal with women offenders as an afterthought."
The Committee says that Government plans to introduce payment-by-results in probation services need to be redesigned in respect of women offenders—who are often classified as presenting a lower risk of reoffending—so that they receive the intensive tailored support they need.
In a report that looks at the progress made since the Corston Report in reducing the number of women being imprisoned, the Committee also raises concerns that efforts to implement Baroness Corston’s recommendations have stalled and the Government is failing to deliver the joined-up approach needed to support women at risk and help women offenders lead a law-abiding life. Strong political leadership and cross-government support at the highest levels is needed to make effective provision for women offenders in a criminal justice system where policy is framed around the much large numbers of male offenders. The Government’s strategic priorities for women offenders lack substance and in particular must take a broader approach to supporting women at risk of reoffending and addressing the inter-generational nature of crime.
Maintaining a network of women’s centres and using residential alternatives to custody are likely to be more effective and cheaper in the long run that short custodial sentences, the report points out. The Committee does not recommend substantive changes to the overall sentencing framework, but argues instead that must be more emphasis be placed on ensuring courts are provided with robust alternatives to custody specifically appropriate to women. The MPs recommend a gradual reconfiguration of the female custodial estate with women who have committed serious offences being held in smaller, more dispersed, custodial units.
Sir Alan commented:
"Prison is an expensive and ineffective way of dealing with many women offenders who do not pose a significant risk of harm to public safety.

Women’s centres and other community provision offer a route for diverting vulnerable women and girls away from crime and tackling the root causes of offending.
Although steps have been taken towards achieving a network of such provision it has been at a disappointingly slow pace and too many women still receive short custodial sentences.
There needs to be a systematic change in a approach and to achieve that we need strong Ministerial leadership to further this agenda."
Well the government's response to the damning Justice Affairs Committee report came on Friday in an announcement by Lord McNally:-

The Justice Select Committee said in July that the government's probation reforms had been designed with "male offenders in mind" and treated women as "an afterthought".
But Lord McNally, the Justice Minister, said he wanted to end female reoffending for good. "When a female offender walks out of the prison gates, I want to make sure she never returns," he said.
"Keeping female prisoners as close as possible to their homes, and importantly their children, is vital if we are to help them break the pernicious cycle of re-offending.

Start QuoteThe official MoJ press release can be found here. 

So, in an extraordinary twist of logic, Lord McNally and the government expect us all to believe that the situation will be improved, especially by "women being able to serve their sentences closer to home", by the novel method of closing prisons, including HMP Askham Grange and HMP East Sutton Park, and magically making all the others into 'resettlement prisons'.

Interestingly, these are the only 'open' prisons in the female estate and being based on large country houses in very desirable locations, will have little difficulty in converting to boutique hotels. It would be far too cynical to think that this was a factor in deciding they should close. 

In addition it's proposed to close the mother and baby unit at HMP Holloway and create a new unit at HMP Bronzefield. HMP Downview will also return to being a male establishment. As Danny Shaw of the BBC sums up:-

The question of how best to deal with the comparatively small number of female prisoners has vexed ministers for years.
The key recommendation in a review by Lady Corsten, in 2007, was that women's jails should be replaced by small custodial hubs across England and Wales.
The Labour peer said female offenders needed to be as close to their families as possible.
That proposal has never been acted upon, though this review recognises that distances must be reduced: 37% of women prisoners are more than 50 miles from home.
Officials say the planned changes will result in a "small average reduction" in distance - but there are still no jails for women in Wales, and the closure of Askham Grange, East Sutton Park, the Holloway mother and baby unit, and the conversion of Downview Prison to a men's jail will cut capacity by 401 places.
It's hard to see - with so little spare room - the changes making a significant difference.
Frances Crook of the Howard League is highly unimpressed with the proposals and castigated them in a number of tweets on Friday:- 

There will be no open prisons for women, so women will be discriminated against in penal system

Ironic Askham & East Sutton Park open women's prisons run enterprises, which MoJ says it supports, so it closes them

Closing Askham Grange open prison will mean babies will be held in closed jails & separated from mothers when younger

Two thirds women currently located in a prison within 50 miles of home, will deteriorate as 2 open prisons to close

Closure of Holloway prison mother & baby unit & withdrawal of legal aid for mothers will mean babies being separated

The spin by MoJ on women in prison today is breathtaking. Women wont have any open prisons, mother & baby unit closing. Disgraceful.

There is nothing in MoJ statements about young women, so 18 year olds will be shoved in with older women in prison

MoJ closing mother and baby unit in Holloway prison, the sham of claim to keep women nearer their families

Simply not true, closing the only open prisons, closing mother & baby unit, women will be more distanced from family

Govt closing the 2 women's open resettlement prisons, shows falsity of claim to aid resettlement & closeness to home

I notice that the government chose to publish a review of services for women offenders in the community at the same time, no doubt in order to aid the spin they are trying to put on things.   


  1. Off topic but a must read.

  2. South Africa G4S prison staff accused of abuse

    4 hours agoLeaked video footage shows prisoner Bheki Dlamini resisting an injectionStaff at one of South Africa's most dangerous prisons, run by British firm G4S, have been accused of "shocking" abuses and of losing control.The South African government has temporarily taken over the running of Mangaung prison from G4S and launched an official investigation.It comes after inmates claimed they had been subjected to electric shocks and forced injections.G4S says it has seen no evidence of abuse by its employees.The BBC has obtained leaked footage filmed inside the high security prison, in which one can hear the click of electrified shields, and shrieking. It also shows a prisoner resisting a medication.Researchers at the Wits Justice Projectat Wits University in Johannesburg say they have collected accounts of electric shocks and beatings from almost 30 prisoners during a year-long investigation.The BBC's Africa correspondent Andrew Harding: "South African authorities say the situation at the maximum security Mangaung Prison is shocking and out of control""Some said they would pass out when the shocks became too intense," said Ruth Hopkins, a journalist with the Wits Justice Project.She said inmates also complained about suffering broken limbs and other serious injuries.One former prisoner told the BBCelectric shocks were used as "torture", while a sacked security guard said water was thrown over inmates to increase the impact of the charge.A lawyer for some of the prisoners has condemned a culture of impunity amongst prison staff, according to the BBC's Africa correspondent Andrew Harding.G4S has blamed an upsurge of violence at the prison on a labour dispute, our correspondent adds. More than 300 guards there were sacked this month after going on an unofficial strike.Nontsikelelo Jolingana, the acting national commissioner of the Department of Correctional Services, told the BBC her department had launched a formal investigation into the claims of abuse.The South African prison authoritiesannounced last month they were temporarily taking over the running of the prison near Bloemfontein, in the central Free State province, after the private security contractor "lost effective control of the facility".Andy Baker, regional president of G4S for Africa, said administering and prescribing injections was not the domain of G4S staff, but of a separate medical staff.When asked about allegations of electric shocking and beatings, he told the BBC there had "never been an abuse of this type or nature" to his knowledge.But he said: "If anything specific is brought to us that is a specific case you have my commitment and the rest of our organisation's commitment that we'll investigate fully and completely."

    1. If those reports from South Africa are true - no government should use such a company to provide criminal justice services of any sort because it demonstrates the company lacks the ability to manage its staff effectively - such management starts from the Chair of the International Board and involves every board member.

      Andrew Hatton

    2. With only weeks to go before the uk government decide wheather or not to give G4S any more contracts and a clean bill of health this report must have a significant impact on that decision. Chris Grayling must be feeling more then a little distressed today.

    3. It's going to take a bit more than a new firm of PR consultants, a ritual sacrifice and the promise of corporate change to make G4S suddenly appear rehabilitated enough for TR. Yes, it poses a real problem for the whole omnishambles......

  3. Don't forget to sign this

  4. Thanks to Jim for focusing on Women in Prison - we do it inadequately - I hope the Justice Committee of The House of Commons keeps going with this.

    I am grateful for numbers of organisations - usually led by women that make this issue their main reason for existing and others have produced important reports about the inadequate provision which one doubts have been appropriately responded to by Lord McNally's announcement.

    This is an international issue - in the UK we should set the highest standards possible as we are one of the world's most affluent nations.

    I am shamed by my inactivity.

    Andrew Hatton

  5. I agree the G4S issue in S.A is huge, but exactly what will the MOJ do for women prisoners? If Open prisons are closing are we to expect no more female lifers, or will they all go into closed, where progression is something they can only dream of? Where is the equality in that? The Criminal Justice System has always been harsh on females and so no change there then?

    Oh Bob Crow gave the Gov a doing this am on sky news, regarding the whole of the south being unable to get to work, due to the 2,000 maintenance staff dispensed with in the last 2 years by Rail Networks - and as he said today the public sector will be hailed hero's, tomorrow we'll all resume the usual title - Villan.

  6. Rob Allen has gone over the 5 minutes Russell Webster intended to give his video contributors but I think he is worth listening to for 11 mins 33 seconds -

    presumably recorded on the day The Association of Chief Police Officers has called for 'drunk tanks, 18th September - so seems to have been held back several weeks by Russell Webster.

    I wonder who else he has lined up - surely some have come forward, apart from G4S's Debbie Ryan who thinks on balance TR is a good thing for us all - but maybe those folk are just not in touch with him or wanting to be publicised in this way.

    Andrew Hatton

    (PS no mention of women in any of these video presentations as far as I can recall - they really are an after thought for most of us)

  7. If the government stopped criminalising people for substance addiction, and provided proper support for those with mental health issues, then in my humble opinion female prisons could all but be done away with.
    The female custodial estate has a population so small in comparrison to the male estate there really are no excuses for it not being functual and providing the needs for all to get their lives back on track upon release.

  8. Rob Allen has also blogged about the contradictions in Nick Clegg's attitude to probation now and seven years ago: -

    Andrew Hatton

  9. Slightly (but not much) off topic, I cannot help but feel that NAPO have missed ANOTHER own goal! G4S are in the news about the alleged degrading treatment of prisoners in South Africa.

    I'm not sure what NAPO need in the press before they make a statement condemning the likes of G4S (and by default Grayling/TR). They have most certainly missed COUNTLESS opportunities over the past few weeks. Never mind, we're all on strike for one day next month....I bet the Government will take notice then!!!!!

  10. Please Please NAPO ask Harry for help !

  11. TheUrbaneGorilla28 October 2013 at 18:12

    Vicky Pryce on Womans Hour this morning rehashing everything we've known for yonks about women and custody. Absolutely no contribution from or mention of probation - par for the course really.

  12. I pay my NAPO subs as regularly as the next member in the organisation - yet I haven't heard anything formally about the strike, other than via a form of osmosis within the office. It seems (according to local rumour) that the strike may now run from 12 noon to 12 noon, 5 & 6 November 2013. When was anyone going to tell me, NAPO? And while we're on the subject of women... if I may borrow from Mr Brown himself & paraphrase somewhat:

    " What About Women?
    It's long been felt that the whole [world] has been 'designed' for men and with little or no thought for women."

    De Beauvoir (I think) spoke of "Representation of the world, like the world itself, is the work of men; they describe it from their own point of view, which they confuse with absolute truth.”

    So whose dangly bits idea was noon 'til noon then?

    1. Yes 12 noon to 12 noon is somewhat surprising and needs some explanation I feel.

    2. perhaps its the natural process of competition? As compared to the inherent aesthetic of 'co:here', 'noon:noon' has a much nicer symmetry to it.

  13. Could not care less as I'm not striking. However, I will be sitting at my desk, quietly fuming!

  14. If you are not striking - you'll not be sitting fuming, as your employer will expect you to do the work of all those, who are striking, so too busy shafting your colleagues to fume, quietly or otherwise!

    1. Lets try and keep this civil.

    2. This couldn't be worse could it ? There are a growing number of disputes between colleagues in the trust I work for already what will it be like post - split when we work for two different organisations but in the same offices (co locations I believe they are being called). At least now we have unified terms and conditions - can you imagine how divisive this will be when part of the office are civil servants and part well, who knows what? Mega Omnishambles....

    3. Hi Jim, I'll be quietly fuming about this whole thing; TR/Grayling/NAPO etc. And in response to a previous query about me covering my colleagues workload whilst they are on strike; I can assure you 100% that my SPO knows better than to ask me. In fact after I have seen my appts I plan to spend the rest of the afternoon in Starbucks :)

    4. With my Kindle and a skinny Latte:)

  15. Apologies for going off-topic with this when there's a good ole storm brewing, but can anyone shed light on what the blue blazes Grayling is up to now? The most recent press release on his website states:

    "New measures to help hard working families with the cost of driving... As part of its plan to help hard working people, the government has announced measures to help motorists to cut the cost of running a car. These include a crackdown on whiplash fraud, a freeze on MOT test prices and a scheme designed to reduce the cost of fuel at motorway service stations, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling announced today (23 October 2013)."

    Does the man have nothing better to do than to constantly make noises about anything and everything? Or is he reverting to type, i.e. second hand car salesman?

    When we look at HMG's website all starts to become clearer:

    "The Lord Chancellor is a Cabinet minister and currently a Member of the House of Commons. Recent reforms including the creation of the Ministry of Justice and the election of a Lord Speaker for the House of Lords have significantly altered the role of Lord Chancellor.
    * Election of the first Lord Speaker (NB: The current Lord Speaker is Baroness D'Souza).
    On 4 July 2006, Members of the House of Lords elected their first Lord Speaker. This new role assumed some of the Lord Chancellor's responsibilities, such as chairing debates in the Lords' chamber and speaking for the House on ceremonial occasions.
    * Judicial Appointments Commission
    A new Judicial Appointments Commission began to operate from 3 April 2006. This ended the Lord Chancellor's past position as head of the judiciary (courts of law in England and Wales) and power to appoint judges.
    * The role of the Lord Chancellor
    The reform of the Lord Chancellor's role separate its different responsibilities and make a clear distinction between government, Parliament and the judiciary."

    So Grayling is, in fact, Lord Chancellor Lite - no wonder he's displaying traits of inadequacy & making a bit of a scene; he's been politically emasculated.

    1. Presumably "whiplash fraud" (there's a joke to be made about Norman Lamont there, but I'm far too classy for that) is within his remit as Secretary of State for Justice - but surely MOT prices are under the Department for Transport, and the cost of fuel is more the Treasury's remit?

      Haven't you got enough to do with your day job of wrecking the criminal justice system, Mr Grayling?

    2. Oh Miss Whiplash - there's a blast from the past!

  16. I missed this - G4S looking for 'partners'!

    On 23rd October Debbie Ryan Tweeted 40 registered in first hour - but there is not much since.

    Andrew Hatton

  17. The benefits & sanity of a professional and collaborative PUBLIC criminal justice system service which takes an holistic view of a situation:

    "couple imported drugs from Pakistan, court told... A woman who encouraged her boyfriend to smoke cannabis because it was less harmful than the heroin he usually took, has appeared in court for helping him import illegal drugs from Pakistan... [she] was ordered to do 100 hours unpaid community work.
    Defence barrister ... said [he] was keen to do unpaid work too even though probation officers had warned that he might not be able to do the work because of the “anxiety” he suffered from.
    “He thinks unpaid work would be a good idea – it would be a positive advantage to be able to get out and do something useful,” [the barrister] said.
    [the] Judge ordered [him] to do 100 hours unpaid community work and also put him under probation supervision for a year.
    He said this would “get him out of the house and give him something worthwhile to do”.

    The probation service will organise the couple’s community work shifts so they do not interfere with the care of their children."

  18. Howard League Briefing in advance of Wednesday's House of Commons Debate: -

    Andrew Hatton

  19. There’s a spider’s web of connections and very familiar names in the TR world if one has little else to do with one’s life but try to follow who’s speaking to who online:
    Andrea Bennett (ex-Lancs Probation), Senior Commissioning Manager at UK Ministry of Justice; I understand her partner is Nigel Bennett (ex-Lancs Probation), Director at PublicCo, who include amongst their number Phil Crooks, Associate, “A respected and well known former Assistant Chief Officer”; Sue Gidman, Associate Director, highly skilled, influential director with strong operational experience across the Welfare to Work and Skills sectors; closely lnked in with Yvonne Thomas (ex-DOM), Managing Director Justice at Interserve; Mike Maiden, now an Independent consultant and executive coach; Ian Poree (nuff said); Colin Dobell, Managing Director at MITIE Care & Custody; Stephen Small, Managing Director at G4S Care & Justice Services; Kim Challis, CEO Government & Outsourcing Solutions at G4S; Rob Kellett, Interim Managing Director at Advantage Healthcare Group; Phil Wheatley (remember him?), Expert Advisor on Criminal Justice, Leadership and Management; Ellie Roy (ex NOMS), Director Wheatley&Roy Associates Ltd / JP / Independent Member of the Parole Board; Trevor Williams (another blast from the past), Director at Eclectus Consulting Limited; Anita Fiddy, Head of Rehabilitative Services at Interserve - Justice Team; Sue Rex, Offender Management Development at NOMS; and so it goes… All with their snouts in the TR:ough.

    1. "Mike Maiden, now an Independent consultant and executive coach" - really - what a very quick turnaround?

      No wonder the Lord Chancellor did not praise what he did for NPS!

      Andrew Hatton

    2. Here he is on 'Linked In'

      seems as if he is after being hired

      Mike Maiden's Summary

      Extensive experience in the Criminal Justice System at a senior level. Deputy Director in the Ministry of Justice responsible for the reorganisation of the Probation Service. Appointed as first National Director of Probation for England but unable to take up the post for personal reasons. Previously Chief Executive and Board member of the second largest Probation Trust in the country. Direct experience of change management and performance improvement on a large scale. Broad experience in a range of joint forums and working groups including chairing national committees. Previously Chair of both Cumbria and West Midlands Criminal Justice Boards and member of the Staffordshire Board. Previously Chair of the Cumbria Drug and Alcohol Action Team.

      Specialties: Strategic planning, change management, public speaking, coaching"

      I suppose technically he is the first director of NPS for ENGLAND but it does seem as if Eithne Wallis and her successors are being airbrushed out of Probation history

      Andrew Hatton

    3. Anon 21:58 - Brilliant piece of work there - a lot of the names are new to me but it does give me an idea for a special post on the subject - we've got a possible brill title 'Snouts in the TR:ough' - love it!

      Any others to name and shame please?


    Did you see this?

  21. Jim,

    Looks like as previous correspondent picked up an emerging story -in which named PT 's are prepared to voice disquiet in public !

    Chris Grayling told to delay probation service privatisation or risk deaths

    Exclusive: Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Warwickshire trusts warn the rush to privatisation could have deadly consequences

    In light of commons debate on Wednesday -a clarion call ? Maybe ..BUT..

    can anyone point me to someone from any PT who says ' enough is enough'...duty to public outweighs loyalty to failed TR project & tendering resignation !!


    Mike Guilfoyle

    1. NAPO Head office - if anyone there bother's to read Jim's blog, then as mentioned previously, you have to take advantage of this and get out an accurate account of what is happening.

      The Guardian report includes the usual spin about about reconviction rates, including .... But the MoJ defended the reforms: "These changes were widely consulted on and two pilots, in Peterborough and Doncaster, are showing encouraging falls in reoffending rates. We will continue to work closely with key stakeholders, including probation trusts, as we deliver our reform. Around 600,000 crimes are committed each year by people who have already broken the law, and almost half those released from prison have returned to crime within 12 months. The public deserves better which is why we are introducing these important reforms. Our changes will mean for the first time every offender leaving prison spends at least 12 months under supervision, where currently around 50,000 are released with no statutory support."

      We know the pilot areas are not that successful and there are concerns about data comparison with the control groups etc. Also, the stats they provide do not reflect just those under probation - in fact the stat about "Around 600,000 crimes are committed each year by people who have already broken the law" could mean someone who has been convicted twice for a minor offence over a 10 year period.

      NAPO - can't you complain to the UK Statistics Authority - they previously rebuked Grayling about his crime stats in 2010 and said that his statements are "likely to damage public trust in official statistics"

      Also, as I understand it, all Probation Trusts repsonded during the consultation period in Feb 2013 and I assume they're all published on-line.
      Wilts and Gloucs joint response included the following:

      Our view has always been that Offender Management (OM) should not be split and must remain as a single entity. This will ensure accountability for outcomes. Like the majority of Trusts we are very concerned that public protection will be compromised by trying to manage the dynamic risk across a plurality of providers. Likewise, we are concerned that
      this would also undermine the core principles of good OM, namely consistency, continuity, and communication. Breakdown of these core principles is a repeated feature in cases which yield poor outcomes and it widely accepted that many child protection and other tragedies involve a failure of communication".

      Also, point out how the Trust boards etc are gagged.

      Basically NAPO - do something.

      Jim and other readers, I will also be emailing this to Tom Rendon and others, and let you know if I get a reply.

    2. It will be interesting to see what reply you get - sadly Napo seem to be in denial most of the time - 'What problem? We're going flat out here!'.

  22. No, sorry Mike, no PTs here that fit the bill - I've had to scratch about to find the relevant quote I wanted from Solzhenitsyn, at least I think its relevant without being too much of a "pense":

    "You can resolve to live your life with integrity. Let your credo be this: Let the lie come into the world, let it even triumph. But not through me... The simple step of a courageous individual is not to take part in the lie."

    Anon at 22:05 highlights a slightly more encouraging Guardian piece, but its still shy of having what PR pro's might call a 'hook'.

  23. Made The Guardian front page!

    Andrew Hatton