Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Prison in Crisis 6

Nick Hardwick, HMI Chief Inspector of Prisons, published his annual report yesterday and it doesn't make for happy reading as reported here in the Guardian:-   
Rise in prison suicides in England and Wales blamed on staff shortages
Shortages of experienced staff and resources combined with a growing prison population are to blame for the rapid rise in suicides, according to the chief inspector of prisons for England and Wales. Nick Hardwick’s annual report warns that there has been a “significant and concerning increase in deaths in custody”, reversing improvements made over the past decade.
Self-inflicted deaths among inmates rose by 69% in 2013-14 – a total of 88 lives lost and the highest level for 10 years. That increase was ”the most unacceptable” aspect of the mutiple pressures on the prison service, he said. The Ministry of Justice, however, immediately denied that staffing cuts or “crowding levels” are responsible for the surge in suicides.
As many as 22 prisons are currently on restricted regimes where normal activities and resettlement programmes are suspended in order to focus on allowing prisoners out to have exercise.
Asked whether the service had been fortunate to avoid serious riots, Hardwick said: “Managers nationally and locally have been very effective at spinning a lot of plates. ... One of the reasons why things have not been as bad as we might expect has been down to the work on the ground.”  
Another indicator of the problems, he explained, was the “worrying” growth of so-called “incidents at height” where prisoners climb up on to netting between wings to stage protests. There were about 700 in the year ending March 2013 but 1,300 the following year. “It’s individuals refusing to comply. We don’t want it to go from individuals to groups. Overall staff have been effective in keeping a lid on that.” Improvements have been made, Hardwick acknowledged, but the reaction to some problems had been too slow.
The report criticised “gaps in the identification of risks for new prisoners at a time when they were most vulnerable.” Too many inmates “in crisis” were found to be “segregated and living in poor conditions”, the document added.

Hardwick said: “Increases in self-inflicted deaths, self-harm and violence cannot be attributed to a single cause. They reflect some deep-seated trends and affect prisons in both the public and private sector.
“In my view, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that the conjunction of resource, population and policy pressures … was a very significant factor for the rapid deterioration in safety.”
The total prison population rose from 84,083 in April 2013 to 85,252 in March 2014 – which was 99% of the system’s operational capacity. More cell places have become available since then but, Hardwick warned, there will be further finanical pressures.
“We have to be careful about managing the pressures and resources we make available over the next year. It’s not my job to say how many people should be in prison but we need to match the population to the resources available.” A further sign of difficulties inside jails was the 14% increase in assaults involving adult male prisoners. “Some prisons were insufficiently focused on tackling violence,” the report said.
Drugs were also a problem. “The increased availability in prisons of new psychoactive substances, often known as legal highs, was a source of debt and associated bullying and a threat to health,” the report said. Normal testing methods cannot detect legal highs that rapidly change their chemical formulation. Prices inside are said to be 10 times higher than on the street. If taken by those already on medication, Hardwick warned, they can be very dangerous.
There was also a “significant loss of more experienced staff” due to old prisons closing and planned staff savings. There were savings last year of £84m in public sector prison running costs and a further £88m as a result of closing older prisons. Where old prisons closed experienced staff were lost while new prisons opening in other areas could not immediately attract experienced officers.
Asked about complaints that prison staff who raised concerns with their MPs were being disciplined, Hardwick said he had always been able to talk to officers openly but added: “People need to be free to raise concerns.”
Here's former Prison Governor John Podmore writing about the situation, also in the Guardian:-
Prison suicides: the disgrace that Chris Grayling doesn’t get
There is no crisis in the prison system, the justice secretary, Chris Grayling, repeatedly asserts – even as the prison and probation ombudsman, Nigel Newcomen, says he is “troubled” and “appalled” by the rising rates of prison suicide; the chief inspector of prisons, Nick Hardwick, expresses concern about prisoners spending “too long in their cells with nothing constructive to do”; and Frances Crook of the Howard League for Penal Reform calls plans for a super-jail for children a “recipe for child abuse”.
Their concerns are all based on official figures or findings, but the secretary of state continues to insist that there is no crisis. Yet the evidence that all is far from well is underlined by this weekend’s Guardian investigation revealing that as many as six people a month are taking their own lives in prison.
The factors contributing to this disgrace are not mysterious if you understand that properly run prisons rely on good relationships and cooperation between staff and prisoners. Unfortunately the justice secretary does not appear to get that. He has presided over the worst deterioration in relationships between staff and prisoners since we started building jails. There have always been and continue to be common themes underpinning suicide in jails: remand prisoners are more vulnerable and we know segregation makes more people vulnerable. 
Going back to 2009, the Bradley report into the treatment of mentally ill prisoners came up with the blindingly obvious conclusion that we should divert those with a mental health problem away from prison. The Corston report more than seven years ago came up with equally good recommendations about keeping vulnerable women away from custody. Problems and solutions are identified but, beyond a few pilot programmes, actions are scarce.
Prisons don’t run on reports and recommendations, they run on relationships and cooperation. Get it right and rehabilitation and safer communities follow. Good relationships inside prison can help to prevent suicides. They are hard to measure and are eschewed as liberal concepts that don’t fit the “tough on crime” agenda. They are difficult in a prison setting and rely on a culture of discussion and conversation based on good leadership. The process takes time, continuity of management, training and support from above.
We ask of prison staff more than almost any other public servants. The job has its dangers and the environment is complex. We expect a lot for negligible entry requirements and six weeks’ generic training, which is among the worst in the world. And in those six weeks they get almost no mental health awareness training. In Norway it is two years to degree level. Such limited training makes it difficult for officers to engage positively with well-adjusted prisoners, let alone difficult, damaged, chaotic and disordered individuals.
The deteriorating situation is frequently referred to by commentators to this blog, such as these from yesterday:-

I worry about sending young men into prison. I recently recalled a young man with learning difficulties, who prior to committing à further offence had been to hospital 2 days running with psychosis. He was supposed to be reassessed by community health team. I requested he be admitted to health care to be reassessed, that never happened. Since then I have struggled to get any info from the prison. He will go to Crown Court and the likelihood is that whoever writes the report will not even bother to liaise with me.

Not just young men - I'm working with a client in his 30s on a community order, who was recently imprisoned for 4 weeks for possession of a craft knife - though they let his order carry on. He was sent to our B Cat local and has told me that the wing was run by the prisoners, with the two - and sometimes one or none - staff more or less shut in their office for safety. On his first day he was set on by eight prisoners and carried to a cell at the end of the landing, where he had a spoon inserted in his rectum to see if he was carrying any drugs. He heard the same thing happening to other new arrivals later in his stay. He is hardly a newcomer to prison life, but this has traumatised him - he said conditions have never been so bad.

Yes I have been told about prisoners running the wings and spoons being inserted to search for drugs. Wonder if it is the same prison or if it is happening many places. What can we do? Where do we report this?

Before the recent cutbacks in prison, I made a great effort to work with and support men with learning difficulties because back then they could be left to rot, now they definitely will be left to rot. Currently I spend all my time tied to the bloody computer writing parole reports and addendum after addendum or preparing for what seems an exponential growth in Oral Hearings. I can now only fire fight which means seeing those I'm told to see, or those I must see to write reports. The quiet ones who are often the ones with learning difficulties get pushed to the back. It's dangerous in prison for staff and inmates alike but its bloody tragic for the most needy.


  1. Credit to Nick Hardwick:

    “In my view, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that the conjunction of resource, population and policy pressures … was a very significant factor for the rapid deterioration in safety.” Hardwick will get his comeuppance.

    And John Podmore who knows what he's talking about.

    But Grayling prefers to rely on his quislings for advice, Ignore the professionals, ignore the evidence - or set the bar to one of beyond reasonable doubt. Ideologues care nothing for evidence.

    And meanwhile, we have the Kevin's of this world singing 'Tomorrow belongs to me'.

  2. No love for Grayling even in the rightwing press.

    1. Violent, overcrowded, undermanned. Such was the subtext of the annual report by the chief inspector of prisons, Nick Hardwick, who chronicled a life in which prisoners are locked up for as many as 23 hours a day. Conditions are declining, activities sparse and the meal bill has been cut to £1.96 a day, but those are the lesser worries.

      Shortages of experienced staff and of money, plus a rise in the prison population, are linked to a “significant and concerning” rise in violence and suicides. Self-inflicted deaths rose by 69 per cent to the highest level for 10 years, with 88 lives lost. While the Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, says he does not want prisons to be holiday camps, no decent country should wish its jails to become death camps either.

      Welcome as Mr Hardwick’s report may be, the Grayling masterclass in how to make a bad system worse should come as no surprise. After Labour and the Tories presided over a record rise in the prison population, which peaked at 88,000 in 2011, Ken Clarke, Mr Grayling’s predecessor, reversed that trend.

      Under his more liberal regime, the number of inmates decreased by 3,500 – enough to fill two sizeable jails. Since then, Mr Grayling’s harsher rhetoric has driven numbers back up at a time when jails have closed and a third of the workforce has been sacked. That combination has led to the dire conditions outlined in the chief inspector’s report.

      Nor is the state of adult prisons the only bad news for the Government. With fewer than 2,000 children now in custody, and with levels continuing to fall, Mr Grayling is set on building a privately run, £85 million “super-jail” for 400 youngsters aged between 12 and 17. Experts, including 27 organisations who wrote to The Daily Telegraph last week, warn that, far from being an Eton with barred windows, this junior version of a “Titan” prison is both untested and unlawful.

      No doubt mindful that placing large groups of damaged children in a classroom will invite chaos, Mr Grayling is to defy an appeal court judgment and let staff use force to restrain young inmates who misbehave. As Andrew Neilson of the Howard League has said, such a move would mark a return to the “dark days” when children were injured and died as a result of such practices. One boy, Gareth Myatt, choked to death after refusing to clean a sandwich toaster.

      Today the battle against parts of the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill moves to the House of Lords, where Lord Ramsbotham, backed by Labour, will lead a challenge against Mr Grayling’s plans for a secure college. Next Monday the Justice Secretary faces a second revolt over his move to curtail judicial review severely and so to insulate the Government from challenges to its decisions, however unlawful, irrational or unfair.

      Churchill believed the treatment of crime and criminals was “the mark and measure of the stored-up strength of a nation and the sign and proof of the living virtue within it”. On that yardstick, England has rarely seemed weaker, nor its virtue frailer. Yet there is no logical reason why Churchill’s test of civilisation should not be met.

    2. I conclude that those such as prisoners who commit suicide, are not 'one of us' and can be considered collateral damage, like traditional probation workers who are never going to vote for them. Along with those being thrown back over the Spanish/North Africa Border

      So is all that the likes of Grayling and his acolytes need to do is keep going, but to ensure they have some sort of back-up system to cope with a civil crisis in the UK such as has been experienced in recent years in, previous comparatively well organised, countries like Egypt and Greece?

      Meanwhile I read in a Tweet from BBC Journalist and Conservative Party supporter and "friend of Grayling", Andrew Neil; -

      " @afneil
      Another increase in deficit in Sept means borrowing now £58bn in 1st 6 months of financial year - 10% higher than last year. "

      I remember the reasons the current coalition Government was formed in May 2010 was explained thus: -

      " The Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister set out the Coalition’s programme of policies over the next five years to “rebuild the economy, unlock social mobility, mend the political system and give people the power to call the shots over the decisions that affect their lives”. "
      So clearly it is not working and now further financial melt-down is predicted by some as a necessary prelude to real economic recovery rather than the appearance of economic recovery as we have had caused by the bolstering up of the Banks’ positions by literally 'printing money' - exactly the opposite - as I understand, it of Thatcher's monetarism.

      Meanwhile, the political parties carry on as normal, with for example Clegg on a charm offensive as he takes part in photo opportunities promoted by Twitter with captions such as : -

      " Liberal Democrats ‏@LibDems
      .@nick_clegg launches teachers' Workload Challenge aimed at reducing unecessary workloads "

      The problems are much larger than the destruction of probation. However I feel I shall demonstrate some solidarity with the downtrodden by today re-joining the Howard League and making a donation to the Human Rights Watch campaign, in some way I have yet to determine.

      At the same time I acknowledge that I am better at seeing faults in others than myself as taught in the New Testament of the Bible; Matthew, Chapter 7 verse 3 "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”

      There is indeed more for me to attend to than make some nominal donations to charity!


    1. If you want to get Chris Grayling's attention, you need to appear in the Daily Telegraph. That's what he reads with his breakfast cereal. Apparently it's the only newspaper he cares about.

      Campaign groups took note of that as they tried to halt the creation of massive child prisons ahead of today's debate in the House of Lords. Their letter to the newspaper won the attention of Grayling's colleagues, Andrew Selous and Simon Hughes, who wrote to them to invite them in for a meeting.

      But they didn’t invite all of them. The Howard League, of course, was rejected, along with a few others. The Howard League is persona non grata at the Ministry of Justice (MoJ). Grayling thinks they’re some sort of left-wing pressure group, rather than a critical voice from civil society. He imagines himself in a manner which is not dissimilar to a Chinese bureaucrat, conspired against by imaginary enemies.

      We don’t know which other signatories were rejected, because the MoJ won't say. It could be Liberty, or the Prison Reform Trust, or Action for Children, or the Royal College of Psychiatrists, or any of the other groups who are intensely uncomfortable with the proposals.

      When those barred from yesterday's meeting asked who made it in, officials refused to tell them.

      "Thank you for your email," the MoJ reply said. "A selection of organisations working in the youth justice field were invited by Andrew Selous and Simon Hughes to discuss the secure college. In particular, ministers are keen to hear from those whose views have not perhaps been a matter of public record or as well-known, and/or who might not have had a chance to discuss matters with ministers previously. Therefore, we are keeping the cast list for the meeting to those who have received an invitation."

      All the classic MoJ traits are here: secrecy, an aversion to criticism, pushing on regardless of the evidence.

      One might ask why the MoJ invited critics to discuss it at all, but when it comes to the child prison proposal critics are all you're likely to find. The plans go against everything we know about what works: small, family-style residences with a focus on rehabilitation.

      Instead, we are building warehouses, dubbed 'secure colleges', to house 320 people, far away from home, at a cost of £85 million. Use of force will be a central part of the regime, even though the court of appeal found it to be unlawful in 2008. Chris Grayling's draconian approach to penal policy means violence is making a come-back. Restraint will be allowed "to maintain good order and discipline where a young person poses a risk to maintaining a safe and stable environment" – a definition so broad as to be applicable for the most minor of indiscretions.

    2. Its good to see probations problems being spoken of in an article talking about Grayling refusing to listen and chaos in the legal proffession.
      Its quite a theme today me thinks, Grayling just wont listen to anyone.

    3. A recently retired High Court judge has said he thinks government cuts to the legal system have gone too far.

      Sir John Royce, from Bristol, described the cuts as "savage" and said he had advised his own sons against joining the publicly-funded bar.

      Ministers are planning to cut £220m from the annual criminal case legal aid budget in England and Wales.

      A Ministry of Justice (MoJ) spokesman said: "Legal aid remains available where people most need legal help."

      'Solicitors' firms closing'
      Sir John, who was leader of the Western Circuit before becoming a High Court judge, said: "I have real concerns about where we are going to be in a few years' time, it's bad enough now.

      "The publicly-funded bar has depended upon a lot of solicitors and barristers being prepared to work extremely hard to ensure members of the public have proper access to justice and are properly represented.

      "Savings have to be made and there have been very substantial savings. But for the bar and solicitors now, it is very, very tough and I think the cuts have been far too savage.

      "I don't think there's sufficient recognition of the importance of a good quality service - solicitors' firms are closing, young members of the bar of real talent are not coming to the publicly-funded bar.

      "It saddens me that I had to advise my sons not to come to the publicly-funded bar for that reason."

      For a judge of his standing to talk openly about his concerns about the future of his profession and to give an interview is rare.

      The former solicitor who became a barrister more than 40 years ago in Bristol has little time for the present Lord Chancellor, Chris Grayling. He agrees with the view of the profession that "he doesn't listen".

      Sir John told me how he's spoken to judges up and down the country who are struggling to make the crown courts work - with lack of the proper staff "of the right ability".

      The former Cambridge hockey blue and keen cricketer admits that like all public services there must be cuts but the government has gone too far and is endangering the the system.

      line break
      Sir John, who presided over the high profile trial of paedophile Lostprophets singer Ian Watkins last year, said there was a feeling among the profession Mr Grayling - "a non-lawyer" - was going the wrong way about making savings.

      "You will have seen the protests the bar made by going on strike for a day or two. That's unprecedented," he said.

      "The very powerful view of the profession is that he [Chris Grayling] is not listening sufficiently to other ways of achieving savings.

      "There have been massive cuts in the court system. The CPS [Crown Prosecution Service] is under-resourced, they're not properly in a position to do the job they're supposed to be doing.

      "There aren't the people, or the right people, in the courts' service itself or the probation service, they're all very stretched up and down the country."

      'More efficient' system
      He said: "It's obvious to me in every court that I go to, talking to the resident judge and other judges, they're facing the same problems.

      "You've even got no canteen facilities any longer, which is a very short-sighted approach in my view."

      Sir John said this meant judges having to give juries an extra 15 minutes for their lunch break.

      "You lose court time. It's the same story everywhere. You see judges tearing their hair out," Sir John said.

    4. 'Cast list for the meeting' (JB 12.23) - what is this, some kind of SHOW? Of course, silly me, the whole THING is a pantomime - invite 'concerned parties' in, soothe them with spin and soft words, let them feel they are being 'consulted' - well, we all know where that gets you......

  4. Off topic. TR has turned Probation into a bloody shambles. I have never, in all of my days, seen an organisation destroyed by institutionalised incompetence the scale of that displayed by the MoJ during the last si, months. I am ashamed to be associated with this farce. Deeply ashamed. I am surrounded by capable and experienced professionals who have been totally compromised by half-wits and fools. This is dangerous. This is stupidity on a national scale. A joke perpetuated by charlatans.

    1. I'm with you. Ashamed, embarrassed, depressed and powerless. Actively looking for a different job. I do not want my name or reputation associated with this horror story. Two colleagues in tears today. These are professional, capable people. Reduced to this.

    2. I am very sorry - I wish more would leave probation and quickly, that seems the most likely quickest way to crash TR to a standstill - which is what seems needed before the politicians and Government see sense and move Probation centre stage of the CJS system like John Patten said he intended to happen when he was probation minister before the 1991 CJA was introduced!

    3. The MoJ, primarily Prison management and lacking in the knowledge and training that has served Probation so well for a century, have thrown the baby out with the bathwater. Bidders are about to lift up the covers and see what the MoJ has done to 'prepare' the field for them. They are not stupid. They will see a broken service that does not present the option of an easy ride to profit. They will see the shell of a house that needs gutting. Ruined in less than four months.

    4. Andrew, I really wish you'd give this line a rest as I feel it's grossly simplistic and insensitive.

    5. Thank you Jim. Life is hard enough w/out this regular exhortation to leave to bring TR to standstill. Believe it or not people who have left are being replaced Andrew; new PQFs starting here this week

  5. Has everyone had enough of Grayling?

    1. Former lord chancellor Lord Falconer has attacked successor Chris Grayling for failing to view his commitment to the rule of law as different to that of any other government minister.

      Last week Grayling was grilled by the House of Lords constitution committee on whether his position as justice secretary caused a conflict in his commitment to the rule of law.

      Grayling told the committee: ‘I regard the task of upholding the rule of law as something that is not just [for] the lord chancellor but every minister. Of course it’s an important part of what I do but [it’s] an important part of what everyone does.

      ‘It is not something for the Ministry of Justice – it is a matter for every department. I don’t think it’s unique to me. Every one of us should be a custodian of the rule of law.’

      Speaking today at the House of Lords constitution committee, Falconer said the comments suggest the prime minister has failed in his duty to appoint someone with the ‘special qualities’ required for the role of lord chancellor.

      ‘Grayling has no understanding of his role as special,’ said Falconer. ‘[The comments were] heartbreaking and disappointing.’

      He said these qualities should include an understanding of what the rule of law means beyond the common definition; and the personal qualities to stand up for the principle.

      Falconer agreed with Grayling’s remarks that the lord chancellor does not necessarily have to be a lawyer. But he added that Grayling’s comments raise the question of whether a lawyer might have more appreciation of the principle.

  6. I'm here again, desperate for some advice on how to get a positive response from the Mirror. I wrote to them on 30/9, re-sent on 16/10, then phoned the newsdesk to check they had received it. I was told dismissively that they HAD addressed the probation issue, er? - a para in the corner 6 mths ago? Job done, move on.

    I rang on 20th, and the same bored man told me to re-send, as they must not have received it (both of them?) which I did, adding an update on prison crisis, then immediately rang to say I had just sent it. Could he confirm that it had been received? He just said, 'if it's of any interest we will be in touch'!!!

    The next day I wrote to complain - politely but assertively as we professionals do... and pointed out that surely the destruction of a valued profession, which would result in more deaths and serious injury in the community, WAS 'of public interest', urging them to do the responsible thing and do a page - even 2 pages,on these major issues, which includes raised prison violence and the abandonment of vulnerable prisoners. No response.

    Last night, steam coming out of every orifice (there's a thought) I forwarded those emails to the Editor, Lloyd Embley, apologising for having to make a nuisance of myself, but urged him to give serious consideration to highlighting this issue, and suggested he read articles in other newspapers, particularly the prison crisis, all over the papers and news yday - but not in the mIrror, and nothing today. I have not even had an automated acknowledgement.

    What can I do? Can you help and write, however briefly, to Mr Embley referring him to the 2 emails from me,with attachments sent early this morning, 1.16 and 1.18 am to be precise, the subject headings -'Urgent, Privatising Probation' and 'Urgent - Probation and Prisons in Crisis'.

    His email address is (notice the dot in between his 2 names). He looks a decent man on his photo - and his manifesto stressed 'it is my responsibility to ensure that the contents of our paper reflects the interests and values of the people that read them''. I told him that I had selected his paper as the best one to get information of this dire situation to 'the people on the street'.

    I accept he may not have been at his desk today, but that does not excuse the newsdesk not even bothering to acknowledge my emails, never mind discussing publication - it has been 3 weeks of silence, and a not particularly interested man at the end of the phone - was he the only one answering the phone??? Is that why he was p....d off?? Here's hoping. and thanks. ML

    1. Just because to you this is the most important thing in the world doesn't mean it is to them. Get over yourself. Find another paper.

    2. I gave up expecting even courtesy from the media ages ago.

      Best to befriend a PR person and find out what they say or read up about the trade, maybe - but I have no informed advice - just do not despair or expect any better treatment from them than you would get from a beligerent Judge determined to impose a prison sentence no matter how strong the arguments against that being wise are, I expect others can come up with more apposite comparisons!

      They publish newspapers broadcast radio & TV programmes by and large to make money or maximise the attention they get.

      Read Private Eye "Street of Shame" section every second Wednesday to get another view of the Media.

  7. anon 20:12 no need for that comment 'get over yourself' we're not in the playground

    1. thank you 20.20.

      for info 20.12 - I have written to 10 papers, only one took it up and made a major article of it, adding photo and comments from such as Jeremy Beecham. That was the Nle Journal;and Simon Israel from Ch 4, who I also wrote to, also contacted me, and has maintained contact. And at least several of the other papers, such as the Telegraph, the Guardian and the Independent, HAVE been highlighting this issue. I chose the mirror as a tabloid which I see as a paper for the people. The other papers have a different readership, but it is mr and mrs average who have been denied knowledge of these changes and their likely impact, and mr and mrs average who are more at risk of being victims.

      I have also contacted one 'celebrity'.

      I am retired and cannot provide evidence myself. Contacting others to spread the word and give it essential publicity is all that I can do.

    2. We are all getting understandably ratty, but we have no choice but to wait and see how the dice rolls. Please try and stay calm, be aware of the extremely difficult position many peope find themselves in and think before posting comments that could be misunderstood or possibly cause offence.

    3. my comment 21 05 - ...and my MP, who has replied positively.

    4. And we appreciate all you are doing ML so I think anon 20.12 there's no need for that remark

    5. thank you so much 21 59. much appreciated, you don't know how much.... . and for the person that said that this matter might be the most important thing in the world to me but not to others, can I just say, the most important thing in the world to me is my gorgeous grandson! Keep the fight going - it's not over till it's over..and then it's not over.....give CG a rough ride.... ML

  8. Try Russia Today (RT) they may well do something. They have a London office give them a bell.


  9. Watched IDS on c4 news talking about universal credit - it seems that they're all at it. Total bonkers useless ideological nonsense being rammed down the nations throat by glassy eyed, evangelical nutloops who are obsessed with being right - irrespective of the incovenient reality and truth that is being presented to them by rational human beings. At least £135M of IT will, it seems, be simply written off just because it doesn't fit with UC. Scandalous, obscene, disgraceful.

  10. May I stray way off topic to introduce a brief shaft of light? Jah Wobble & his Invaders will be playing in Teesside on 14 November. We all need a night off to play & relax & drink & dance. I'll be getting a taxi down.

  11. Oh too far for me I'm sad to say

  12. Dispatches on C4 on monday looks at universal credit. It seems theres some whistleblowers at the DWP- I think thats the only reason for a statement about it to be released today!

  13. Told by my daughter tonight that a Tory MP got into an argument with Jon Snow of Channel 4 while looking around the channel earlier this week accusing the channel and Snow of left-wing bias and suggested it was time Snow retired. Jon Snow's colleague Krishna Murty stepped in and made sure the MP was thrown out of the newsroom. Maybe it might be worth talking to Jon Snow!

    1. Wasn't left wing bias when they showed benefits street- the government took a lot of mileage form that one.

  14. Its not the content of this article (altough worthy of reading itself), but the comments being made in response to it that should be read. The first one in particular makes a very interesting point, and maybe when others respond to articles or contact the press it maybe a point worth pressing.

    1. Thank you for reporting the rising rate of prison suicides as an issue of important concern (‘Terrible toll’ of prison suicides, 22 October). One practical suggestion that might ease the problem would be to extend the responsibilities of “listeners” in our jails so that they also become “watchers”. Establishments have a group of inmates, trained by the charity Samaritans, to listen to the anxieties of fellow prisoners who might be potential suicides. These listeners, who often work closely with wing officers, are widely credited with preventing some self-inflicted deaths which might otherwise occur. Prison staff, in my experience as a former listener, work hard to minimise suicides. They hold a list of high-risk self-harmers or worse. Those on it are kept under observation by officers using the peepholes in cell doors.

      The cut in prison staff numbers by 10,000 over the past three years may mean that some officers reduce the frequency of their observation of high-risk inmates. So it would be a good idea to utilise the services of the existing listeners to support the efforts of prison officers in keeping watch over potentially suicidal inmates in their cells. A policy of giving such extra responsibilities to trusted prisoners would be in accord with the government’s approach of using offenders in the field of rehabilitation. Such a move would need an amendment to the Prison Service Instructions rulebook, but it would surely be a well-supported initiative to help prevent prison suicides.
      Jonathan Aitken

    2. As someone who worked for over 30 years in the probation service, I cannot help but associate the raised rate of suicides in prisons in England and Wales with the removal of probation staff from prisons. Until a few years ago, all adult prisons had a team of probation staff who could play an important role in liaising between an individual prisoner and his or her family through their probation colleagues in the prisoner’s home area. They also understood the prison system, could work with prison officers on the wings, with medical staff and with governors, and could alert them to risk where vulnerable prisoners were concerned. The safety of prisoners at risk of suicide was ultimately down to the vigilance of prison staff, but probation staff could perform a vital liaison function. With cuts to prison budgets, probation staff have all but disappeared from prisons, and nothing comparable has replaced them as far as I am aware, and, of course, the probation service itself has been scandalously dismantled by the government.

      Ever since John Major told us in the 1990s that “we must condemn a little more, and understand a little less”, there has been a gradual move away from the consideration of offenders’ welfare, and from that it is a short step to considering that their lives are somehow less important. One result of that is the indefensible level of suicides in our prisons that you have reported.
      David Atkinson
      Wimborne Minster, Dorset

    3. I worked in a prison in 2002-3 and attended a prison-run suicide and self harm awareness training. It was 30-minutes long and the training event was attended by over 100 people. The event was entirely based around the completion of a form. What was obvious to me was that the whole charade was perpetuated because of an imminent inspection. Along with the 10 minute 'diversity' event, it was all about creating the illusion. The content was of no concern to the Governor, just the tick in the box.

  15. Hurrah for The Indie...

    Government efforts to part-privatise the probation service may end up in the courts, unless the Ministry of Justice reveals a raft of confidential information, including the results of safety tests...

    The FTSE 100 giant Capita, rail-to-social housing group Amey, and French caterer Sodexo are among those companies waiting to see if they have won the right to run 70 per cent of the service, in deals worth at least £5bn over 10 years. The MoJ is expected to name preferred bidders to run 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs), which will oversee all but the most dangerous offenders, by the end of this month.

    However, the service has suffered a series of acute problems since June, when it was reorganised from 35 Probation Trusts into 21 CRCs and a National Probation Service, which remains government-run and monitors the most risky offenders. IT systems have failed, case files have been lost and there have been numerous warnings of threats to public safety.

    In letter a threatening the MoJ with a judicial review, the Napo probation union’s lawyer, Slater & Gordon, has gathered examples of how the public and officers have come into danger as, allegedly, the result of the confusion caused by the reforms.

    These include members of two rival gangs being invited into a probation building at the same time, and a murderer being invited to join a programme to rehabilitate a group of domestic violence offenders.

    Napo is hoping to block the MoJ’s plans, partly because the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling did not pilot the reforms. Mr Grayling believes that private sector management will make the service more efficient, but Slater & Gordon has given him until 4pm on Friday to disclose information to prove his argument.

    The lawyers intend to force an injunction for breach of duty of care and a judicial review if the MoJ doesn’t respond. If it does, Slater & Gordon has asked for a 21-day pause in the bid process while lawyers look over the documents.

    A spokeswoman for the MoJ said: “We have received correspondence from Napo and will respond in due course. It would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.”

    1. And "yah boo sucks" to my sleep patterns, my mental & physical health & my relationship - no thanks to the consequences of TR keeping me awake all night. Better late than never? I fuckin hope so.

    2. FTSE 100 giant Capita, rail-to-social housing group Amey, and French caterer Sodexo ....

      They're all about as qualified to work in the criminal justice system as KFC, McDonalds, Nandos, and Chris Grayling!!

  16. Punished for writing a letter to the Guardian

     Is the civil service preventing staff making their views known? Photograph: AlamyWednesday 22 October 2014 19.56 BSTIt is not just in the prison service that constructive dissent is discouraged and punished (Sacking threat to prison whistleblowers, 21 October). A culture where staff are expected to keep their heads down, their mouths shut and to toe the line would seem to permeate the whole of the civil service, even in the most minor matters. My husband has just retired after 40 years’ exemplary service in HMRC. In April he wrote to the Guardian to correct some factual errors on tax and civil servants’ pay in an article by Polly Toynbee. There was no whistleblowing involved, everything he said was already in the public domain. However, HMRC found him guilty of “serious misconduct” for contacting the press without permission and he received a 12-month written warning. As a result he was denied the customary long-service certificate and award when he retired.It would seem that writing one letter was considered to outweigh 40 years’ service. In such petty ways does the civil service aim to keep its employees on a tight rein. Small wonder that morale among staff is at an all-time low. All my husband’s colleagues said how much they envied him being able to leave the service now.