Thursday, 18 September 2014

Prison News

First off, this from the Independent:-
Chris Grayling under fire over claim Ministry of Justice ‘hid abuse and rape in jails’
Chris Grayling's Ministry of Justice blocked an investigation into the hidden problem of rape and sexual abuse in British prisons, it has emerged. The Howard League for Penal Reform today publishes a report claiming that as many as 1,650 prisoners may have been sexually abused while serving sentences - but says the work of its independent commission into the issue has been hampered by a lack of co-operation from Mr Grayling’s department. Researchers were barred from interviewing serving prisoners about the experiences of coercive sex - meaning they had to rely on testimony from convicts who had completed their sentences.
Frances Crook, the chief executive of the Howard League, said: “Prisons are meant to be safe places where the law is enforced, not places where people are under threat of sexual violence and rape. It is therefore particularly disappointing that the Ministry of Justice refused to allow the Commission to interview prisoners directly.”
Mr Grayling is facing growing questions about the deterioration of prison conditions under his watch. Prison governors have repeatedly warned that some jails becoming “death traps” as they struggle to accommodate an increasing population of more than 85,000 while implementing budget cuts of up to 24 per cent over the past three years. Recent figures showed that violence, suicide and self-harm among prisoners are on the rise.
According to today’s report from the Howard League’s Commission on Sex in Prison, data from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) show that at least one per cent of prisoners report being sexually abused in prison. The Howard League calculates that between 850 to 1,650 prisoners could sexual assaulted while serving sentences, with evidence suggesting that some victims will be assaulted more than once.
Then there's this in the Guardian:- 
Prisoner suicides: the dire cost of Tory tough-guy posturing on crime
Ken Clarke made genuine efforts to reduce prison numbers; professionals said at the time that it was the first time in years they’d had a justice secretary who understood the prison estate and what it needed. Clearly that was a PR disaster for the Conservatives, for whom “understanding” is a dirty word; Chris Grayling, his replacement, seems to take a kind of giddy delight in how little he comprehends of a business before “reforming” it.
As a direct result of his policies and tough-guy posturing, the number of prisoners increases every week. It even went up in August, which is unheard of because courts are on holiday. Suicides have gone up by 64%. Everybody knows what causes suicides in prison. Too many inmates have mental health problems and shouldn’t even be in prison in the first place. Had the sentencing magistrate been better trained, or simply more sensitive, they would have been handed a community sentence and stood a chance of getting the healthcare they needed (though, considering the underfunding of mental health services, not a very strong chance). However, that has long been the case. The recent change to explain this spike is overcrowding and understaffing. Wandsworth prison four years ago was a huge success story of modern jailcraft – it had a flagship education system, award-winning sex offender rehabilitation programmes and responsive, highly trained prison officers. In 2010 it had 427 officers; this June it had 260, to manage 1,634 prisoners. Four men have killed themselves since the beginning of the year. Frances Crook, from the Howard League charity, calculated by the Ministry of Justice’s own data that Grayling had cut staff by a third since he took over. The average local prison now has one officer for every 150 prisoners.
One appalling detail is that all deaths have shot up, even deaths from illness. Heart attacks that needn’t be fatal are, because there aren’t the staffing levels to get people to hospital in time. The NHS has contracts to deliver healthcare to inmates; these are impossible to fulfil, because no staff are available to get the prisoners to the hospital. Another consequence of this is highlighted in the Howard League’s report, out today, Coercive Sex in Prisons. Men who are raped in prison have nowhere to turn. They can’t call specialist services, because their only permitted phone calls are to pre-agreed numbers. Healthcare is probably the only avenue of support, and they are not able to access it. Instead, sexual abuse goes unreported. Victims have to carry on sharing a cell with their rapists. Tolerating the sexual abuse of prisoners is no different to tolerating the abuse of anyone else. It doesn’t do anything to help the rates of self-harm and suicide.
But in the middle of all the TR omnishambles we suddenly hear this as reported in the Guardian. Is it a bit of 'window dressing' in readiness for the party conference season? 
Chris Grayling plans network of mental health centres in prisons
Chris Grayling has ordered justice ministry officials to start work on developing a network of specialist mental health centres within prisons in England and Wales. The justice secretary says he wants to "really get to grips with the challenge of mental health in prisons" soon after next year's general election. "I want every prisoner who needs it to have access to the best possible treatment. I want mental health to be the priority for our system," he said in a speech on Monday to the Centre for Crime and Social Justice in London.
The Prison Reform Trust has said 15% of men and 25% of women in prison report symptoms indicative of psychosis, compared with a rate of 4% among the general public. Nearly two-thirds of prisoners are believed to have a personality disorder, and the suicide rate has been up to 15 times that in the general population.
Grayling said too many people with mental health problems were found in prisons in England and Wales. "Within most prisons you will find people suffering from acute mental health problems, often in isolation units, often needing round the clock supervision." He said there was already some excellent work going on with the NHS to develop better approaches to working with prisoners with personality disorders. "But I think it is time to provide a more specialist focus in dealing with mental health problems in our prison estate. So I have asked my officials to begin work on options to have specialist mental health centres within the prison estate.
"I have also agreed with the secretary of state for health that our two teams will work with NHS England to ensure that any prisoner who needs to can have mental health treatment equivalent to the best they would receive in the community." Grayling said a national system of liaison and diversion services was being built which would mean the mental health condition of an offender could be identified during the court process and a decision taken at that stage on where to detain him.
The justice secretary's pledge to make the mental health of prisoners a priority in the next parliament came as the chief inspectors of prisons and probation published a joint report warning that his rehabilitation reforms could be put at risk by fragmentation of the system. However effective Grayling's prison and probation reforms are, the report says, they will be undermined if offenders cannot access stable accommodation when they leave prison.
Family and friends remain vital to the successful rehabilitation of a prisoner on release, often providing a home, a job or access to education or training. The inspectors found that in a sample of 80 offenders released from prison, more than half returned home or moved in with family and friends, who also mainly arranged employment for the few who had a job to go to. Their sample survey showed that half did not have employment, training or education in place six months after their release and almost half had to move in that time.
The chief inspector of prisons, Nick Hardwick, said the findings supported the broad thrust of the government's reforms, which would lead to "through the gate" resettlement of prisoners being carried out by community rehabilitation companies. But the inspection report found there was a risk of fragmentation if work with families, providing accommodation and work or training were all provided by different organisations.
Here's a novelty reported in a local paper:-
A new men's resettlement prison may not now open until next year as there are already enough prison places for inmates, according to the Government. Downview prison, next to High Down, in Sutton Lane, Banstead, closed as a women’s prison last October.

In May, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said it would re-open as an adult male Category C resettlement prison by October. The MoJ submitted a planning application earlier this year to Reigate and Banstead Council to build a new education centre at Downview so prisoners can "use their time in custody constructively" and "learn new skills and gain qualifications before their release".
But when asked by the Epsom Guardian this week when Downview would be re-opening, a MoJ spokesman said: "We monitor prison population fluctuations and accommodation needs constantly.Currently we do not need to open Downview in October and expect to open it later in the year or early in the new year - contributing to our overall approach to drive down costs. All work at the prison remains on target to be delivered by the end of this year."
When asked to confirm that Downview will not be opening by October because there are not enough prisoners to be housed there, rather than there not being enough prison officers to be redeployed to Downview, the spokesman said: "We do not need to open Downview at this time as we have sufficient places." 
Finally, there's this:- 
I'm seconded out to HMPS, just heard the implementation date for resettlement prisons (and therefore CRC involvement in through the gate processes) has slipped from October 2014 to January 2015. Doubt we'll see any MoJ press releases about this one. We found out via a letter from Population Management Unit to our OCA dept re: prisoner transfers back to their local Contract Package Area.


  1. Sticking plaster ideas....if they allowed probation to do its job then fewer mentally disordered people would end up in prison, but once they are there it would need rather more prison officers than there currently are to ensure that people might get the assessments and treatment that they present the only resource they get is being kept in their cells for most of the day, which helps no-ones mental well-being.

  2. You'll get my Blog, Jim, and if you publish it un-edited and in full then I'll let you take the moderation off the comments.

    So many cannot see that what they do has the possibility to further offend Offenders. Perpetuate a cycle of abuse. They just fail to see it. It's the us v them attitude.

    1. "You'll get my Blog, Jim, and if you publish it un-edited and in full then I'll let you take the moderation off the comments."

      It doesn't work like that my friend, but I get the drift and we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.

    2. Hmmmm. Interesting, Jim. "I'll let you..." is never a good opening clause, is it?

  3. Would that be the same Epsom as in the constituency of a certain Christopher Stephen Grayling MP?

  4. Reminder of some content from MoJ press release in Sept 2013:

    "Since January 2,800 unstrategic and uneconomic places have been removed and the Ministry of Justice is now in a position to close a further four prisons, removing 1400 uneconomic places from the estate.

    By closing HMPs Blundeston, Dorchester, Northallerton and Reading it is anticipated that a further £30m a year will be cut from the overall prison budget.

    To ensure that the prison estate meets wider Government needs, HMP The Verne will be converted into an immigration removal centre, providing around 600 additional places to hold immigration detainees awaiting removal from the country. HMP Downview will change function to hold male rather than female offenders and HMYOI Warren Hill will stop holding young offenders and will also change to hold adult male prisoners.

    Discussions will also begin to end the lease on HMP Dartmoor. Final decisions on the site are a long way off as the lease has a ten-year notice period but the age and limitations of the prison mean that it does not have a long-term future in a modern, cost-effective prison system."

  5. Grayling is nothing more that a Daily Mail reader who has been given the keys to the kingdom without any accountability. His approach to the whole CJS is unintelligent, unsophisticated and disrespectful. He cares not a jot. Like the Work Programme, he will be gone before the middle of next year and will leave the mess for others to clean up. Failing Grayling? More like Bailing Graying.

  6. Changing the subject oughtn't I have heard a rumour that CRC staff in Wales wine get paid. Is that true?

  7. On related matters Mactailgunner flies/ correction/ rides/ correction WRITES again (How does one type strikethrough text here?)

    He is due to be meeting Andrew Selous TODAY!

  8. Yes they had email saying they woukd be paid a day late due to admin error and to contact their banks saying pay would be in their account the day after

  9. Totally off topic and not related to the CJS, but I'm wondering how this disgusting situation came about, and who's making profit from it.
    I'm sorry for straying so far off topic jim, but it seems to me another one of those wonderful relationships between government and private company.

    1. Council inspectors in south London have discovered 600 asylum seekers living in cramped conditions in a 98-bedroom hotel in Crystal Palace.

      Housing officials were alerted to the situation when neighbours of the Queens Hotel on Church Road complained about anti-social behaviour and noise coming from the building.

      One room had nine people sleeping in it, while most of the en suite rooms housed up to four individuals, Croydon Council's housing enforcement team revealed on Thursday.

      Local MP Steve Reed said: "The hotel is on the edge of our small but thriving shopping centre in a highly residential area. It seems highly inappropriate to place so many asylum seekers in an area like this without warning or preparation."

      Reed called on immigration minister James Brokenshire to take action. "I am demanding an urgent meeting to discuss local residents' concerns", he said.

      "I am worried about the safety of the people living in the hotel, the sudden conversion of the hotel into a bed and breakfast hostel without consultation and the impact of an extra 600 people suddenly arriving in the neighbourhood."

      A Home Office spokesman said: "We are taking urgent steps with our housing providers to reduce the number of people living at the Queens Hotel in Crystal Palace.

      "We have ensured that the numbers in accommodation at this location meet appropriate requirements."

  10. 12 month and under prisoners incorporated to probation changes in "a few weeks time". Really Chris?

  11. Sorry, off topic, but with the voluntary sector becoming more and more involved with public service delivery, this is a very interesting perspective.

    1. Voluntary bodies and the state have become so intertwined that some charity leaders whose organisations receive government grants see themselves as employees of government, an academic told the audience at the Charity Commission’s annual public meeting.

      At the meeting in London yesterday, Frank Prochaska, a historian of modern Britain at Oxford University, gave a lecture entitled the State of Charity.

      He said that once on the payroll of the taxpayer charities have less of an incentive to raise funds privately, and some see themselves more as public bodies.

      He went on to say that one charity official, who he described as the “leader of one prominent society”, privately told Prochaska he thought charity to be “demeaning”.

      This is despite the individual’s organisation enjoying the “tax benefits that charitable status provides”, he said.
      Prochaska said: "Many charitable officials think of themselves not as charitable campaigners but as employees of government."

      William Shawcross, chair of the Charity Commission, introduced Prochaska’s lecture by stating that it would cause debate and not everyone would agree with what the academic had to say.
      In his lecture, Prochaska said: “In an era of partnerships and public service contracts, the state and many voluntary bodies have become so intertwined that it is rather fanciful to think of them as representing two distinct sectors. Greyness pervades the discussion.”

      He went on to talk about how, as the state “insinuated itself in the folds of charity”, it is the government, not the voluntary citizen, who has “become the presiding judge of what constitutes charity or public benefit”.

      Prochaska said in response to a question from the audience that “the more institutions take from the state, the more they proclaim their independence”.

      In his lecture, he spoke about the history of charity and how it has changed from the Victorian era. He described the Charities Act 2006 “as though written by a robot”, saying: "It lacks any sense of the past, and you will look in vain for the words kindness, love, or, for that matter, Christianity.”

  12. 07:56 anonymous: do I get a hint of power and control there my friend?? Lets talk about the cycle of abuse shall we?.........a geordie PO