Friday, 15 August 2014

Prison in Crisis 3

It's getting increasing difficult to get hold of offender supervisors to check on a prisoner or discuss rehab programmes or consider parole recommendations. In July we were trying to access HMP Northumberland to see a prisoner for a parole report. We were told that there were no visits until September. This is a prison that doesn't have videolinks and that it's new owners thought could be run with 200 less staff (a third). 

The thing is the system is all interlinked. What happens in one part has a knock on effect. In the NPS we are increasingly unable to work with prisoners despite 80% of our caseload being in prison. The parole board is now several months behind. We submitted a parole report the 2 months ago and by the time they'd decided on release the hostel bed had gone and isn't available now for another 6 weeks-increasing problems in prison. 

I think we're not far away from a prison riot. I have heard prison staff say they want one because then someone might pay attention. But people will get hurt...


A geezer darn the boozer told me that prison computer systems are in meltdown, some not being on for days at a time.


I met (socially on a completely not-work-related outing) a very gentle old man yesterday. During the day it emerged that he has worked as a volunteer prison visitor for many, many years. He told me that in this last year he has been bemused by prison security staff appearing to not know the rules: he gets a different security instruction and check every time, sometimes he is accompanied, sometimes not, sometimes they wear id, sometimes not, sometimes he has to, sometimes not etc etc. 

Sometimes he is unable to see the person he has arranged to see. "The staff don't know whats going on, the prisoners don't know whats going on, and I don't either." Men he visits have had conflicting advice about possible release, transfers etc. "Some of the men I visit are having their hope taken away. If you take away hope you are left with despair or desperation."


Yes, I got a letter last week form a young man, only at liberty for his first 20 years of life, and has the next 20 at least to spend in jail. He is some distance from his former partner and their young child, although she makes the journey - he has asked for accumulated visits, and I think nobody had the bottle to tell him, AV's are not a priority at this time, as most prisons are bursting at the seams and to shoehorn another in, is just impossible. I had to write to him and explain the situation. Although the prisons have been undergoing change for a long time, I fully understand how difficult it is for prisoners to grasp that custom and practice has taken a long holiday.

Oh and I met a geezer down the laundry,(the steamie as I used to call it in my home town of Glasgea) he works for the management of HMP and is currently running around the country like the proverbial blue ***** fly, trying to quell the chaos. Even those working on the inside are losing the will to live and have long since stopped trying to make any sense of the SoS's instructions.


Night staff in many larger prisons are having to sort prisoners mail. Most are approx 10 days behind, so apart from letters from loved ones, money, that letter sent today from a PO or a solicitor is already nearly two weeks away from being received. If the information you need to convey is important-don't use the post!


I've been told by a supervising officer that they're too busy to do a sentence planning board any time soon and there is nobody to cover for her whilst on leave in the coming weeks so to go ahead without her. Erm... no! Although it is now overdue so maybe... I don't know any more!!!


Am told by our sex offender programme team, offenders are being released after 6 years having done absolutely NO offence related work at all. Prisons are offering no rehabilitative interventions whatsoever. Dangerous AND futile.


I had three cases who relocated to different prisons to do SOTP as part of sentence planning then were de-selected by the prison as others of higher risk were given priority for sex offender treatment. All 3 were high risk child sex offenders and really needed treatment. It is an absolute scandal.


Computers not working again in my prison and with the CRC NPS split, most of the telephone numbers have changed and with no NAPO directory it's impossible to do any work or contact any colleagues. It really is meltdown.

My prison is just as bad, computers down or to too slow to be of any use 50% of each day. Parole Hearings and Parole reports at least doubled; prisoners seeing no one and getting tetchier as the weeks roll on. And because there is little contact with their Home Probation Officers they look to probation staff in the prison to fill the void. Loads of prison officers off sick and the current mantra from NOMS is "Every Contact Matters"; they're having a bloody laugh. If there is one thing we don't do now is see any clients. What an effin mess.



    1. Wow. Thanks for sharing this.

    2. Probation outsourcing under threat

      The Financial Times reported on Sunday, 10 August, that Manzoni had “disclosed that a decision about whether to proceed with an ‘ambitious’ plan to outsource some probation services to the private and voluntary sectors would not be taken until the end of the summer.” Sources at the centre of government confirmed to CSW that no decision on whether to go ahead will be made until the end of the bid assessment process.

      Manzoni’s use of the word “ambitious” emphasises the risks involved in the outsourcing – risks exacerbated by the compressed timetable. Antonia Romeo, the MoJ’s director general for criminal justice, acknowledged to CSW in April that there is “a timing issue, because the government’s policy is to roll it out by 2015, so we can really start feeling the effects in reductions to reoffending.” And very senior officials have previously told CSW that the scheme is one of the highest-risk programmes currently underway in government.

      Tania Bassett, spokeswoman for Napo - the trade union and professional association representing over 8000 members working in probation and family courts - said: “It has been clear to us from the start that the secretary of state's timetable for this privatisation programme is dangerously rushed and even his own advisors stated in the leaked risk register last year that it was an aggressive timetable.

      "There have been a number of potential bidders pulling out of the programme due to the high financial risks, in particular the probation mutuals and the third sector, leaving a monopoly of large private sector companies being the only ones able to take such a risk on these contracts.

      "This is a deeply flawed privatisation programme that should be halted as a matter of urgency so that the whole Transforming Rehabilitation programme can be reviewed before vast sums of tax payers money is gambled away of expensive contracts that are not fit for purpose or able to deliver.”

      An MoJ spokesman, who emphasised that it is standard practice for the MPA to give its final sign-off before contract award of major projects, said: "These reforms are essential if we are to break the depressing cycle of re-offending that currently sees almost half of all prison-leavers return to crime within a year.

      "Living with the status quo just means accepting more crime and more victims, and that is not acceptable. The competition is on track and we have good coverage of quality and innovative bids in each contract area.

      "We are on course to award contracts by the end of this year.”

    3. From the FT:-

      Whitehall lacks “critical skills” required to execute big projects and is trying to deliver many more large programmes simultaneously than any business would attempt, a powerful government troubleshooter has warned.

      In his first interview since starting six months ago as head of the Major Projects Authority that oversees £500bn of government initiatives, John Manzoni said government had lost crucial expertise in fields such as technology due to a wave of outsourcing and lagged behind “five to eight years behind business” in rebuilding it.

      Mr Manzoni, who spent almost 25 years with oil major BP before becoming chief executive of Talisman Energy in 2007, also disclosed that a decision about whether to proceed with an “ambitious” plan to outsource some probation services to the private and voluntary sectors would not be taken until the end of the summer.

      The MPA, established by the coalition in 2011 as the first agency responsible for examining all big projects, is viewed in Whitehall as one of the coalition’s more successful innovations. Annual ratings, published in May, showed over half of the 31 projects given a “red” or “amber-red” negative rating in 2013 had performed better this year and only one had got worse. However, the coalition has also garnered unwelcome headlines over projects such as Universal Credit, a much-delayed plan to roll six benefits or tax credits into a single payment, and Future Reserves 2020, a faltering overhaul of the armed forces.

      In a trenchant assessment of Whitehall’s ability to carry out key programmes for ministers, Mr Manzoni said that execution and delivery were not “well-developed muscles” in the civil service. He suggested that, although it was “massively impressive” that the government was doing so much, conversations about the intention of a policy were too often divorced from the practicalities of implementation.

  2. Was there ever a golden age of successful probation - prison working? From SWIP through Sentence Planning to Offender Management it always seemed that the prisons were reluctant d├ębutantes. I can see it's worse now but even when the resources were in place there was a never-ending clash of cultures. The aggravations are now writ large, but haven't prisons invariably been frustrating from a rehabilitative standpoint? Visiting a prison in a professional capacity was often felt like running the gauntlet and the non- production of a prisoner is not unprecedented, nor the sense that one was in hostile territory. Not always, but often enough, especially in the so-called screw's prisons.


    "Know The Danger
    25 mins ·

    please keep anon
    nationals and police have spent the best part of yesterday in lancs cat b local searching for a firearm. Whilst the searches were taking place, staff instructed to unlock prisoners throughout the jail by the ***.
    prisoners smashing up and barricading"

    1. I cannot get that link to work Andrew :( Do you have another one?

    2. It is working for me - you might try this and scroll up.

      Or go to Facebook and search 'Know the Danger' and look through the different threads - at the minute it is the second one down - but the words are exactly as I have quoted, though it is attracted a lot of comments.