Saturday, 20 December 2014

Frances Rattles MoJ

It would seem as if Frances Crook of the Howard League continues to get under Chris Graylings skin rather more successfully than we have of late. She appeared on BBC 2's Newsnight the other day and it's clear from this letter from Michael Spurr at the MoJ that she's struck a raw nerve talking about prison officers being ferried around in buses in order to plug emergency staffing shortages. 

It's also worth noting that in the wake of the successful prisoners book ban campaign, membership of the League has doubled over the last year. More power to her elbow!  

19 December 2014

Dear Frances


I am writing to express my deep disappointment with the inaccurate and, what I feel are
irresponsible comments, you made with regard to the impact of detached duty on under 18 YOIs during your interview aired on Newsnight last night and which you have continued to make on social media today.

First, we have been completely open and transparent about our use of detached duty to
support establishments pending permanent recruitment of staff. The leaked documents you obtained, which do not accurately reflect our final arrangements, merely proposed how we might deploy numbers that we have previously shared in response to Parliamentary Questions and the Justice Select Committee. Detached duty has always been used in the prison estate and it is a legitimate and appropriate way to manage short term staffing shortages.

Wetherby and Hindley are the only establishments in the under 18 estate which, at a time
when the population was low enough to allow it provided a small number of officers for short periods on detached duty to assist other prisons with shortages. During this time Wetherby have had accommodation out of use and both establishments continued to operate a full regime and therefore there was no impact on the young people there. Wetherby have not sent any staff on detached duty since early December, and while Hindley will continue to support other establishments, this will only be when staff become free as the under 18 population decreases following the YJB’s decision to decommission spaces there.

You stated that prison officers at YOIs have been cut by 40% and that young people would be locked up for about three weeks over the Christmas period ‘in their cells all the time’ as there will not be anybody on duty to open the cells to give them something to do, these statements are completely inaccurate. Since 2010, the population in the establishments constituting the Young People's Estate has reduced by 16% and in that period the number of officers (band 3-5) has reduced by 15% - this has maintained the prisoner staff ratio of 1.4 prisoners to each officer across those establishments. Therefore staffing levels have been maintained and the 40% cut you stated is complete nonsense.

In relation to the regime in the under 18 estate over the Christmas period, at Wetherby and Feltham there will be a full regime on non bank holidays (with the exception of 2 January) and on bank holidays, young people will have access to domestics (access to showers, open air and use of telephones) and/or recreational activities during both the morning and afternoon. At Cookham Wood, Werrington and Hindley, as services provided by external educational providers are not available between Christmas and New Year, a regime as set out above for bank holidays will be operated with the increased availability of access to visits and other recreational activities. Therefore again to say young people will be locked up in their cells ‘all the time’ over a three to four week period is also complete nonsense.

As I have said, I am extremely disappointed in your ill informed comments which will cause distress amongst young people and their families. Given your concerns about the pressures on the prison estate and your priority for the care of young people in the estate I would have expected a more responsible approach. My priority is keeping young people safe and secure and quite frankly your comments have made that job more difficult.

I hope in the future you will more carefully consider the impact your comments in the media can have and act more responsibly in checking the accuracy of the information you base your comments upon.

Yours sincerely

Michael Spurr


  1. Attack the messenger again. I see Grayling's hand again. The staffing shortages across the estate are well known and widely reported. Spurr's feigned outrage is disingenuous.

  2. She is one of the very few to speak the truth - and of course, she is beyond Grayling's reach and threat. He and Spurr are truly despicable.

  3. The extent of the problems and danger in prisons seems to be well reported in the 'Know the Danger' Facebook Page, which accepts anonymous messages via another website: -

    Here are a couple of examples from last 24 hours: -

    - I am traveling 260 miles each way to Kent on detached,2nd week ,travel tomorrow ,stay safe all detached duty staff,we don't know the prisoners but Elmley staff have been spot on so far,I think they are just grateful we are there filling the shortfalls
    Like · Reply · 13 · 18 hrs

    - i'm on dd and by the end of Xmas Eve I will have done 40 hours, so over my contract. My number 1 is ordering me to work 6 hours on Christmas Day, so grievance in, and complaint letter sent to Parliament - various ministers and MPs, Michael Spurr, the, DDC, Howard League, Chief Inspector of Prisons, and when I get back the local IMB too. Copies are at Cronin House. Grievance based on breach of Equality Policy Statement and Professional Standards. Only person not to receive a copy is my No 1!! Wish I could have been a fly on the wall when he found out!! "

    Anonymous messages that appear there are posted via: -

  4. "deep disappointment"
    "irresponsible comments"
    "these statements are completely inaccurate"
    "complete nonsense"
    "I am extremely disappointed in your ill informed comments"
    "cause distress"
    "I would have expected a more responsible approach"
    "frankly your comments have made that job more difficult"
    I hope in the future you will more carefully consider the impact your comments"
    "and act more responsibly"

    My response - You can piss right off you corrupted bastard.

  5. I've just checked out the Know the Danger Facebook page and it's not going to take much for a full scall riot in a lot of Prisons. The inevitable increase in recalls due to ORA are not going to help matters.

  6. Nice of Mr Spurrs to leave his phone number on the letter. I'll get it out to as many of my clients as I can. If we could all pass this on and ask them to phone up on release and transport, accomodation and grants will be with them before midday. Oh, and to ask for 'Chris' as he's the one in charge :)

    1. Personally I think NAPO have missed a trick if, once ORA is enacted, they don't provided instructions for staff to actually pass NOMS phone numbers on to released prisoners rather than just signposting them to housing agencies etc.

    2. What number do you mean:

      Michael Spurr
      Chief Executive
      National Offender Management Service
      7th Floor
      Clive House
      70 Petty France
      London SW1H 9EX
      Telephone: 0300 047 5163

    3. I was going to join NOMS but failed the IQ test when I turned up at the right building and on time.

    4. Michael's dad20 December 2014 at 17:18

      He's not the Messiah.....

    5. Surely we wouldn't want offenders/clients ringing Mr Spurr's up to complain about the quality of their supervision and not been able to secure accommodation on release with £46 pounds in their pocket and a fucking mentor that hasn't got a clue.

      We wouldn't want Mr Spurr being disturbed now would we.

    6. To me this would be a wet dream. In that I dreamt it would happen and then pissed myself with laughter. I honestly think we should surreptitiously get this phone number to as many of our clients and their peers as we possibly can. Get them to save it in their phones and them complain away. Would it be possible for them to sue NOMS for breach of contract as NOMS have clearly stated their intentions?

    7. Come on surely we wouldn't do that now would we - and give the names of the CEO's (who so far have said yes sir we will do it) who are supposed to be responsible for providing this service.

  7. Mr Spurr, Suck collective balls.

  8. Having spent 25 years working in prisons, I have to say that Spurr is right. What Frances Crook claims is unprecedented has been happening for as long as I can remember. It may play quite nicely to her "crisis" narrative (and the prison system almost certainly is in crisis), but she absolutely has not uncovered anything new or particularly shocking

    1. If this happening before and you were aware of it why did you not speak up?
      Are you not bound by personal duty and responsibility to the people that you are providing a service to.

    2. Speak up about what? Normal procedures to ensure that you've got the right number of staff in the right place? There's nothing to speak up about, the Prison Service is a national organisation and needs to move people around to where they are needed most. Hardly earth shattering news, is it?

  9. I work in a prison and when on the wings I see chaos, prisoners bells ringing constantly , staff rushing around trying to cope. There are fights every day and several staff have been assaulted. When I go into the administration block where the governors work there is chaos there too but without the threat of assault. The most worrying thing now is the lack of face-to-face communication between governors and uniformed staff, the human touch has gone orders are barked electronically via e-mail. Increasingly we live in an us and them world where management has split off from the other workers. Management has internalised the lies and the sophistry used to oppress all below them. This is true in the prison service as well as probation, indeed it is true of most big corporations;again I'm thinking of Apple,Serco and the like. Fear and greed has turned bad people into monsters and good people into managers. The dominant mantra of "more for less and there is no alternative" drives the zombie managers uncritically forward.

    At the Nuremberg trials the defence of: "we were only doing our job" was not accepted, they were condemned to death. If we go along with this madness can we now say "we were only doing our job in order to pay the mortgage" knowing that we are oppressing our clients and their communities?? Morality has always been central to Probation work, when that time comes I'm walking.


  10. Charities in front seat of new reoffending drive - fucking hell, it's worse than we thought!.

    1. Reg Varney is in the driving seat in my CRC.

      Sorry, Reg Vardy. Freudian slip.

  11. So Spurr is dismayed by an alleged misrepresentation. Yet he was content to watch the public probation service sink because it was failing to prevent reoffending amongst those with their £46 discharge grants – for whom the probation service had no statutory responsibility and whose voluntary support in years past was marginalised as it did not fit into the punishment in the community agenda. And then with Machiavellian fervour it's all probation's fault and the need for the private sector became urgent by some twisted logic. This government lies and deceives to promote its agenda. Fight fire with fire and if a lie or whatever achieves an objective let it be a means to an end, because the likes of Spurr have lowered the debate and thrown reason to one side.

  12. The dickheads are approaching meltdown. Jezza Wright has already baled out, and is already fading into anonymity. I suspect Grayling will do a runner early in 2015 leaving Selous and others to carry the can. His political will has been imposed upon the nation, so he'll have a smug Xmas.

    Spurr is so far up his own TRouser-leg he has no peripheral vision. Attack is the best form of defence when you've painted yourself into a corner, so the only way he can respond to Ms Crook & anyone else who criticises him is to make a big noise and try to sound scary. Allars is equally cornered & equally toxic.

    The bidders now have a free hand to do as they please. They are ruthless. And they will go through the CRCs like a dose of (Epsom?) salts.

    1. Andrew Selous walks into a bar.
      The barman asks 'why the long face?'

      The rest of the joke unfolds with tedious certainty.

    2. Ha ha love that

  13. The prison service this year, Probation next

  14. Apologies if this has already been reported,but there is an article in today's Times entitled '150 inmates moved out of crowded jail'. It refers to 150 prisoners being moved from Emley prison following a 'highly critical inspection report saying that it was struggling to deal with pressure caused by chronic staff shortages. Inmates have been sent to jails around the country and extra staff drafted into the prison'. The inspectors report highlighted a 'restricted and unpredictable regime' with exercise and domestic periods cancelled at short notice due to staff shortage.

  15. Apparently Chris 'Comical Ali' Grayling is on the Murnaghan programme on Sky News at 10am this morning. Should be interesting seeing as Sky are not the sycophantic BBC.

    We could have a game of Bullshit Bingo. On my bingo card I have '£46 in their pocket' and 'stubbornly high re-offending rates'. I might go for 'innovative approach' and 'charities at the forefront' with a view to getting a full house from him :)

    1. Mnnn I will NOT be watching this - another platform for his lies and deceit I fear - scripts practiced and vetted - "During time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act" - George Orwell. In an Orwellian sense I do not see Grayling as a revolutionary!

      Happy Sunday to you all as once again I patiently await for my dose of Jim's blog to appear - The Blog Addict - Morning Jim