Thursday, 18 September 2014

Grayling Responds!

Today's Guardian gives Chris Grayling the opportunity of responding to issues raised in this morning's blog:- 
Leftist critiques of the prison system bear no relation to reality
Prison is not meant to be comfortable. It’s not meant to be somewhere anyone would ever want to go back to. But the language being used by some pressure groups and commentators to talk about prisons bears little relation to reality.
I visit prisons regularly and get feedback from staff and inmates. I see a system which is adapting to deal with a much lower budget – like almost every other part of the public sector. The approach it is taking to deal with that pressure has been designed by governors and staff themselves – it seeks to find out where things are being done more cost-effectively across the prison estate and then to replicate that.
Despite this, our system is less overcrowded than it has been in a decade. Assault rates are lower than five years ago. We are bringing new employers into prison to provide work, in fields ranging from recycling to electrical-assembly to fashion. The number of hours of work in our prisons is rising steadily. So too are the numbers of prisoners studying for a qualification – and in youth-detention facilities we are doubling the amount of education done each week.
That is happening despite staff shortages in the south-east, where the buoyant labour market has created real recruitment pressure for us in the past six months – this at a time when there’s been a rise in the prison population – triggered in part by the rise in historic sex-abuse cases. We’re now recruiting 1,600 new officers to deal with that pressure.
It is happening despite the fact that we are housing far more violent offenders than we did a decade ago – and that institutions like HMP Isis, criticised for being violent, are dealing with the overspill of gang warfare from city streets.
The biggest failing of the current system, and one that I hear about regularly from prisoners, is the inadequate preparation for release, and the fact that short-sentence prisoners get no support when they leave. This is something we are now reforming, and when our probation changes come into force in a few weeks’ time, this situation will end, with the introduction of proper through-the-gate support for every prisoner.
The recent rise in self-inflicted deaths has been very unwelcome and unhappy. There has been no pattern to it – it has occurred in private prisons and public ones and in prisons where there have been staff reductions and others where there have been none. No one has been able to clearly identify a cause and the circumstances are all very different. Prison staff have put a huge amount of effort into tackling the problem – reducing these deaths is a top priority for us all.
Although there has been no pattern to the suicides we have seen, they underline the need for the next stage in our planned reforms. For the past two decades, since care in the community rightly ended the era of big Victorian asylums, too many of those who would once have ended up in an institution like that are now ending up in our prisons. There they all too often are pushed into a general prison environment, where there is not the expertise to deal with them. This has to be addressed.
There is excellent work already being done. I thought it was ironic that Wormwood Scrubs was lambasted recently for being dirty as a result of prisoners throwing litter, but received no public praise for its excellent work on mental health.
We have also introduced reforms to identify mental-health problems in police stations, so that people can be diverted away from the justice system and into treatment.
But we can and should do much more. So when the Ministry of Justice completes work on the introduction of a proper through-the-gate resettlement and support service, I plan to focus our reform agenda on the mental-health issue.
I want to work with the Department of Health to concentrate expertise in a way that means we can deliver the best possible treatment. I want to see prisoners getting support that is every bit as good as that which they would receive from the NHS in the community. We will explore the best way to deliver this, which could include specialist centres for mental health within our criminal-justice system.
Improved resettlement and mentoring of offenders, more education and work in prisons, and a new focus on mental health in prisons – at a time when we are having to make cutbacks to meet our overall budget targets. The irony is that none of these happened under Labour in the years when money seemed not to be a problem. Those on the left attacking us now would do well to remember that.

28 comments:

  1. I had heard he was delusional now we have the evidence! Maybe that's why he is so keen on mental health services! And like all people who are delusional there are elements of truth in what he says - there is a real need for better 'through the gate' arrangements and more support for short term prisoners. However his 'condition' blocks his ability to see that his cuts in prison budgets & demolishing of probation is making a poor situation into a real crisis! Please Chris, its not too late see a doctor seek help but first resign , you know it makes sense! "Now tell me again what's the name of the Prim minister?"

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    1. "Disraeli? Margaret Thatcher? No, wait, I've got it... Christopher Grayling, isn't it. Its Christopher. That was the trick question! Oooh, you nearly got me there. Nearly booked me a bed, you clever Anon 18:48. It was the missing 'e' that did it."

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  2. When our probation reforms come into effect in a few weeks time.....?

    Anyone know the date for this? Everybody must be ready to absorb a shit load of extra cases now that everything is running so smoothly?
    Grayling should be pushed to provide a definate date for these reforms.

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    1. I'm really puzzled about the 12month and under group, especially if, as Grayling says in the above article, they will become subject to supervision in a few weeks time.
      Is there a need for legislation first? Will it extend to those currently in custody, or those sentenced after a particular date?
      I feel theres just so much more to be sorted out with regard to this group that it can't possibly happen in the next few weeks- not even in the next few months.

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  3. I agree with him - about the Labour Party doing nothing much positive. But I never knew the last Labour government was on the left!

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  4. I feel better already.

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  5. I am also interested to note how often he refers to his critics as 'those on the Left'. Classic attempt to undermine any argument.

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    1. I despair ... I don't know how he has the nerve to say all that! What the heck does he mean 'suicides are unwelcome ' .. Like it's an inconvenience for him .. Like his broken roof tiles.
      Labour mps that I've seen and met are trying to fight our corner. I'm a member of Labour Party and I'm definately on the left. Have to be in it to change it

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  6. Both Kent Surrey and Sussex and Greater London Napo branches will be going to visit Mr Grayling's constituency on Saturday 27th September at the Epsom Playhouse at 11am for a march and rally with speakers. Those who feel strongly about Grayling's policies are very welcome to join us. Trains to Epsom run from Victoria and it takes about 45 minutes.

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    1. I feel VERY strongly about his policies and that's the reason why I won't be attending.

      Unless someone wants to write a PSR on what will be a Sec18 at the very least!!!

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    2. and that will be With Intent as well I suppose?

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  7. Goodness these prisons sound absolutely amazing! Why on earth would anyone feels suicidal?

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  8. That almost reads like Orwellian Newspeak - I cannot control my fury to comment coherently.

    Meanwhile Mactailgunner is back with a suggestion for CRC bods trapped unable to get a vacant job in NPS and also he has made other comments, for which you will need to scroll for.

    http://www.napo2.org.uk/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=829

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    1. Thanks Andrew, yes that's pretty much how my area has explained it to me.

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    2. I know of at least one Civil Servant being interviewed shortly for a CDO PSO post in a Magistrates Court.

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    3. at least if they get the job the poor bugger will be able to explain how to use shared services to the rest of us!

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    4. What's a CDO PSO post? It's CDO I'm struggling with - what does it mean?

      And do you mean a non probation bod applying for this post? Interesting that we haven't all been given equal access to these jobs. Surely a breach of civil service rules!

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    5. Court Duty Officer - yes a non probation person.

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  9. I couldn't be bothered to read all of what Christopher Stephen Grayling had to say because it will all be bulls*it. I have, however, asked recently released prisoners about their own, very real, experiences...

    23 hours a day lock up due to lack of staff members to let them out.
    Sharing a small cell where you and your cell mate both have to defecate in a bucket.
    No access to work or purposeful activity.
    Easier access to drugs than there has been for a while.
    Staff who don't have time / capacity to manage the prisoners so groups of prisoners effectively 'running' wings including doing their own drugs searches on other prisoners while the staff turn a blind eye.
    An increase in gang culture to keep safe / have some level of protection from other prisoners.
    Prisoners who pose a risk to other prisoners cell sharing.

    Now I realise that this is just the perception of 4 or 5 offenders on my caseload but it's strange that they all have the same perception, no? I wonder what others would have to say if they were to be asked.

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    1. They aren't allowed to vote, they haven't a voice, they're criminals who have excluded themselves from society by their own actions. (Is there a means to indicate I'm taking the piss? Sadly, CSG means it.)

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  10. First part of this makes interesting reading.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/comment/lost-in-translation-its-time-that-outsourcers-were-brought-to-justice-9742302.html

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    1. Deep within a 70-page policy paper to be put before the Liberal Democrat conference next month is a call for the party to “undertake an urgent review of procurement within the Ministry of Justice with the aim of improving the process of procurement, the nature of suppliers selected, and the structure of the contracts”.

      Senior grass-root Lib Dems note that the Justice Select Committee, which is chaired by the party grandee Sir Alan Beith, was “scathing” about a number of contracts, in particular one involving the provision of court interpreters.

      The paper argues that under the contractor, Capita, the interpreters “appear to be costing more money and yet [have] reduced service delivery to an unacceptably low level”. For example, the cost of hiring translators to help non-English speakers at crown or magistrate courts nearly doubled from £7.9m in 2012 to £15.5m a year later.

      Post-outsourcing fiascos included the bizarre instance of an “interpreter” at a murder trial in Winchester, who admitted he was standing in for his wife after a fair few linguistic blunders. Ministry of Justice procurement is a “car crash”, grumbles a Lib Dem lawyer.

      Payments totalling a little more than £46,000 were withheld from Capita’s translation and interpreting arm between May 2012 and November 2013 – a tame penalty for a series of serious failures on a contract that was supposed to save the taxpayer £18m a year.

      The Lib Dems blame many of the Ministry of Justice’s procurement problems – which also include Serco and G4S charging fees for tagging non-existent offenders – on the Conservatives and also the civil servants who oversaw botched contract negotiations under the last Labour government. But in coalition, the party has always had a minister in the department and they can’t escape a degree of culpability. If passed, an urgent review would become party policy, but would not necessarily be included in the manifesto.

      Even if it does, let’s hope that the current Lib Dem justice minister, Simon Hughes, presses for that review to get started now. It would be wrong to save this as an election pledge on the off-chance that lightning will strike twice – in a row – and the party gets another shot at power-sharing.

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  11. "For the past two decades, since care in the community rightly ended the era of big Victorian asylums, too many of those who would once have ended up in an institution like that are now ending up in our prisons. There they all too often are pushed into a general prison environment, where there is not the expertise to deal with them. This has to be addressed."

    Where to start with this nonsense? The large scale asylums were often just that, a place to seek asylum. Not ideal, but they offered a safe haven for many from being abused and exploited in the wider community. And however cuddly 'care in the community' was portrayed, it was in reality a cruel blow to many. It left them exposed, uncared for and vulnerable in a society that had no interest in them. The buildings were snapped up for 2/6 (13 pence), developed and sold on as luxury penthouses... £millions were pocketed by tory chums. Many of those ejected into poor community housing were herded into housing no-one else would accept, where criminally active others took advantage of their higher level of benefits by robbing them blind, introducing them to illicit drugs; they generally terrorised & criminalised those with mental health issues. Thats partly why our jails are full of prisoners with severe mental health issues - Thatcher's Clearances for profit.

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    1. I wonder what plans chums of CSG might have for the redevelopment of the surplus-to-requirement HMP Downton Abbey (or whatever its called) - presumably prime development land for housing? Or a hi-tec science park? Or a retail park?

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  12. Annon 23:02

    Echo your view completly. Unfortunately, mental illness is viewed by some as a product that can be tapped into to yeild considerable profits.

    http://m.stroudnewsandjournal.co.uk/news/11479441.Firm_hopes_to____quash_fears____it_is_building_a____secure____mental_health_institution/?ref=var_0

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    1. A DEVELOPER behind plans for supported living accommodation at Ebley Wharf has sought to quash fears that it is building a ‘secure’ mental health institution by insisting the scheme is actually for “vulnerable adults with learning disabilities.”

      HB Villages has re-submitted proposals for a three-storey building comprising of 15 apartments on land off Westward Road after its initial application was rejected by planners at Stroud District Council.

      In a document submitted with its original planning application, the company says the development will cater for people with a range of needs, including learning disabilities, mental health problems, autism, sensory and communication impairments, acquired brain injuries, complex behavioural and health issues and forensic needs.

      However, Protect Ebley Residents Group has been set-up to oppose the scheme, with members voicing particular concern about a lack of space for car parking and the ‘forensic needs’ category of residents who could occupy the apartments.

      “Forensic needs is a term used for those with mental health illnesses and criminal justice involvement, and often includes those with violent behaviour and convictions for sexual offences,” said Dr Bernadette Cibulskas, a founding member of the group.

      “Vulnerable adults is a cover all name for this client group but effectively masks the true nature and potential risk to people nearby.”

      She added: “Protect Ebley Residents Group does not want anymore care facilities in the area. We do not want to feel insecure, scared for ourselves, our families and our homes.

      “We are a mixed community, with singles, families and a large elderly population. Inevitably property prices will be reduced in an already difficult market.”

      However, Daniel Keane, a development manager for HB Villages, said: "We were saddened to hear about the false rumors circulating that we are proposing to develop a ‘secure facility’ at Ebley Wharf.

      “The development we are seeking planning permission for is a supported living scheme for vulnerable adults with learning disabilities.

      “The development will provide much needed, high-quality apartments that will allow the residents to live as normal and independent a life as possible whilst also benefiting from on-site care and support they may require in certain aspects of their lives – perhaps assistance with their weekly shopping or paying everyday bills.

      “HB Villages have developed a number of similar supported living schemes across the country, and have received plaudits for the benefits and independence these have brought to disabled adults and their families.”

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  13. Nice to see a doctor trying to prevent the development of a housing development for vulneravble adults.

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