Wednesday, 21 September 2016

FAO Liz Truss MP, Sec of State

An excellent article here by an ex-prisoner on the website and addressed to Liz Truss:- 

Memo to the minister: If you care, this is what life is actually like in prison

There were a lot of things the new justice secretary didn't know when she appeared before the justice committee earlier this month. She didn’t seem to know what legislation she'd be pushing through, on what basis, or what was happening at her department. She and her rather baffled, investment banker under-secretary of state for prisons Sam Gyimah seem a bit ignorant of what's actually going on in Her Majesty's prison estate, since neither of them have deigned to ask those who have experienced it.

Probably they take the standard view: that prison is basically Butlin's Holiday Camp. As someone who spent a good few years in prison I can assure you it's nothing of the sort. It's about boredom, fences, white shirts and bureaucracy. Our prisons are old, decrepit and not fit for purpose in the 21st Century.

The cells are small, averaging six by eight feet, and built for single occupancy, but they often hold two or even three inmates. This causes an interesting problem due to the fact there is only ever one table and one chair. Privacy goes out the window very quickly. The cell toilet is located usually right beside the door. It's not sectioned off. You eat your dinner just a couple of feet away from an open toilet.

I say dinner, but I mean the unappetising sludge that is served as our only hot meal of the day. The average budget for feeding a prisoner is the princely sum of £1.87 per day for three meals. The daily rations usually consist of this:

Breakfast: Given to us at the serving of the evening meal the night before. Two hundred ml of long life milk, two table spoons of oats, four tea bags, two sachets of powdered creamer and two sachets of sugar.

Lunch: Served at 11:15. A cold sandwich and an apple. Maybe if you're lucky you'll get a cereal bar, commonly called a door stopper.

Dinner: Served at 17:15. A hot meal with rice or chips.

We're given a menu to choose from and all religions are catered for, but the portions are so pathetically low you usually end up tearing open the breakfast pack straight after dinner.

Time for the luxuries; which the tabloids love talking about so much. We get the chance to purchase from the prison shop every week and we can use our wages to purchase goods from it. "Wages?" I hear you say. Yes, we do get paid for the jobs that we do in prison. Well those of us that have jobs that is. There are ten prisoners for every position available. And what jobs they are. I once filled plastic bags with those delicious breakfast packs I mentioned above. Another thrilling job involved filling a small plastic bag with three balloons for a well known greeting card company.

The average working week in prison is 30 hours and the average weekly wage is £9.00, or if you prefer £0.30 per hour. Granted, we have no overheads, but that £9.00 is used to buy phone credit to call our family, purchase stamps to write to them and we might even want the luxury of a razor or shaving gel. Oh and also to pay for our television. Prisoners pay £1.00 per week (or just over 10% of our weekly wage) to have a TV in our cell. It's not free.

While we're here, let's clear up the PlayStation rumour. Other gaming machines are available, by the way. Except that actually they're not. Some prisoners do have Playstations, but they must be on the enhanced level of the current Incentives and Earned Privileges scheme, meaning they must have been well behaved, attended work or education regularly and paid for it from their earnings. The model must be the older one, which have no wifi or USB ports. You can get a used one of these for about £50, but you're not allowed to buy them. The machine must be new.

If you don't manage to get a job then you're left in your cell with the two or three close friends that I mentioned above and locked up for anything from 23 hours per day to the luxury of only 18 hours per day.

That is the norm of prison life.

The under-staffing of prisons makes it much worse. We're told to choose between either a shower or a call to our family. Our places of work are closed. The education department can't open as there is no staff to handle it. Our visits are postponed or cut short. And what do you think that does to rehabilitation?

The chronic under-staffing in prison must be addressed. Without it, we'll see more riots. Oh sorry, they're not riots anymore. The Ministry of Justice now calls them 'incidents'. But any incident which sees staff afraid for their safety followed by the mass transferring out of prisoners seems to me like a riot. Whatever you call them, they're happening as you read this. In the last month, HMP’s Lincoln, Northumberland and Birmingham have experienced 'incidents' due to under staffing.

Staffing is the crux of everything in prison. There can be no reform without it. The lack of staff allows the flow of contraband to increase, it makes rehabilitation impossible and, worst of all, it costs lives. The recent spate of reporting on the increase of self harm and suicides in prison has brought this into sharp relief. I say that any life that is lost in prison due to the lack of staffing should be noted on a wall inside the Ministry of Justice lest we forget who is to blame.

Rehabilitation? Reform? Not until we make some serious changes. And for that he need a secretary of state who knows what they're talking about, or at least one who'll listen.

The Tartan Con is a pseudonym used by an ex prisoner who was sentenced to seven years in prison. He is passionate about prison reform and blogs regularly on the state of our prisons from his rather unique viewpoint under He is on Twitter at @TheTartanCon.


A couple of weeks ago a reader submitted a letter for Liz Truss and I intended to re-publish it last week, but events intervened. I'll tack it on here:-

Dear Ms Truss,

On behalf of all of the over worked staff in all the CRCs, I thank you for your interest and determined points of view in relation to how you understand the privatisation of the previous gold award standard Probation Services, formally Trusts.

All our PO qualified staff are now languishing and enjoying to some degree the benefits of the new ways of working. We now have zero job satisfaction across the board. In statistics terms that means a 100% score for the card. WELL DONE! Our PSOs now carry all the work that should have remained within appropriate skilled staff groups but for less pay. Why not exploit them? Well Done!

A good percentage of highly skilled staff with centuries of amassed practice and experience, have all been shown the VR door out of work with a series of stolen compensation arrangements. So, in terms of crime, this lot went unreported and so reduced even more the numbers of thefts because of the distorted measurement by which crime is now recorded. Nevertheless, your government has created additional victims who also remain 100% off the score card. Well done. 

Morale 100% in the gutter, lost and deflated staff by resignation. Well Done! Staff sickness absence rates soaring, not quite 100%, but well on the way, so lets see things worsen and you will get another plaudit. Well Done.

Inter teams NPS relations failing. Well Done. Courts in a mess over sentencing and CRCs do not deliver on any proper outcome. Well Done. Of course my colleagues could go on at length. Unpaid Work no longer delivers. Well done! You may realise we have little time to actually complete a piece of real work these days. This list will grow.

Next time you're spouting your mouth off, you ought get one of your new support researchers this country pays for, or your PPS Parliamentary private secretaries to actually find out the real truth and not your disingenuous party line.

For and on behalf of, all of our totally demoralised, insecure and shafted, privateer, rubbish workforce, stuffed arbitrarily into the CRC innovation farce and nonsense.

Yours truly
One of the multitudes of had enough.


A postscript from another reader: 

Hear! Hear!

And please don't forget how the ripple effect of the TR target-led PBR bullshit affects communities - those who would see their probation officer regularly or when they felt were 'in need' or 'in crisis' can't do so anymore. So where do they go?

- Mental Health Team? No duty staff available, no Crisis Team.
- Police s.136 cell? Full up.
- Social Services? Overworked & no duty staff available.
- Drug or alcohol worker? No, closed down or appointment only.
- GP? No, only 3 mins available per appointment IF they're allowed in the building. GP: "Why not refer yourself to our NHS counsellor?" (The GP surgery get paid for each referral).

So we now have increasing numbers of sex offenders, DV perpetrators & chronic substance users ringing up & referring themselves to & clogging up the IAPT service - the NHS talking therapy provision for low mood, depression & PTSD as an alternative to prescription meds. And it won't be long before that service is oversubscribed by this wholly inappropriate client group - who, in order to be accepted, are posing as victims & absolving themselves of responsibility for their actions. Result? Another much-needed public service ends up in yet another train crash, a disaster leaving a trail of chaos & devastation in its wake.

Then no doubt some eager Tory child will be quick to suggest that privatising the IAPT service will resolve the 'crisis' - maybe the next MP for Epsom?


  1. Pointless blog. More moaning. More lies. It's getting boring now. All our data shows the probation services are still positive award wining services.

    1. 16:35 Proof there is life on other planets - but not as we know it. What data is that? Please share as we could all benefit from these incredible findings that fly in the face of all other evidence.

    2. To be fair 26.42 where is your proof other than opinions on this blog

    3. Londond CRC now in Special Measures- never had that pre-TR!

    4. No there no 18.01 you lying sack of.....

    5. Let's be clear on this. In order to establish the success of an initiative, it is common practice to roll out statistics. The problem is that counting stuff does not represent the nature and quality of work undertaken. I once saw an area improve accommodation stats for offenders by 30 %overnight just by changing the way they count things. That is a 30% improvement without actually doing anything. THIS is the world of public services now. We all KNOW what is happening and CRC owners can spin it as much as they like. I heard of a PO somewhere yesterday who went on leave for two weeks and just decided not to come back. Staff continue to leave BECAUSE THEY NO LONGER SEE ANY VALUE IN WHAT THEY ARE DOIN|G. They recognise that this is now about maintaining a pretence in the interests of generating maximum profit. It is not a great motivator, is it?

  2. From ITV news website:

    "Police are investigating two deaths and a series of alleged sex assaults at a prison in cumbria.
    The operation was been set up after reports of fears over safety at HMP Haverigg.
    The National Offender Management Service has revealed it will cut inmate numbers at the prison by 50 per cent, with some members of staff also facing the possibility of losing their jobs.
    The dramatic move - which is starting this week - will see the jail's capacity fall to 286.

    A spokesperson for Cumbria Police said:
    "Cumbria Constabulary are investigating a number of reports of physical and sexual assaults within HMP Haverigg, the investigations come under the banner of Operation Knightsbridge.
    The Op Knightsbridge team are also investigating the circumstances of two deaths that occurred at the Prison in June 2016 and July 2016 on behalf of Her Majesty’s Coroner.
    HMP Haverigg are cooperating fully with the investigation."

    The investigation was launched after police were called to the category C prison after an increase of sexual assaults on inmates believed to be carried out by inmates.
    Inmates were informed of the decision late last week.

    A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said:
    "We take any allegations of unacceptable or inappropriate behaviour extremely seriously and are giving our full support and co-operation to the police as their investigation moves forward.
    “As there is an ongoing police investigation it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage."

  3. From BBC news website:

    "Thirty prisoners have been moved out of HMP Lincoln following a disturbance, the BBC understands.
    A number of cells were damaged at the Victorian jail, but officials denied some media claims that staff or prisoners were taken hostage.
    A prison service spokesman said those suspected of being actively involved in Thursday's incident had been removed while an investigation began.
    HMP Lincoln is a category B prison and can hold about 700 men.
    In a statement, HM Prison Service said: "On Thursday 15 September, specially trained prison staff resolved an incident involving a number of prisoners on a wing at HMP Lincoln.
    "We are absolutely clear that prisoners who behave in this way will be punished and could spend significantly longer behind bars."

  4. Here's a way to spend a rainy evening... Put "hmp XXX news" into a web search engine (XXX can be any prison you wish to name) and EVERY single one will have a horror story for 2016 - riots, violence, drugs, staff shagging inmates. Its astonishing how many inmates are being transported around the country as a result of some disturbance or disruptive behaviour. Most of the prison population seem to be part if some humugus game of human backgammon being played by Noms.

  5. Have you heard London failed their hmip inspection? Like properly failed. No redeeming features.

  6. Hmip report on York & north Yorks made following observations re-CRC:

    "Reducing Reoffending - Reviews of work happened infrequently, however, and management oversight was lacking. Despite this, front-line practitioners worked hard to meet targets, while maintaining a focus on the quality of their work."

    "Protecting the Public - First, the variability of information received from the NPS at the court stage, and, secondly, the lack of effective management oversight and supervision. Initial assessments and plans to manage risk of harm were generally sound, but reviews were seldom undertaken. This indicated that staff were less attentive to work designed to reduce the risk of harm to actual and potential victims, than to other aspects of their work."

    "Recommendations - The Community Rehabilitation Company should:
    4. provide all staff with regular supervision and training to support effective offender management. This should include a focus on the quality of work as well as performance targets 

    Sounds like 'crc staff are trying to cope as best they can without any support'.

  7. Sounds like it's a train wreck all round. Perhaps Londinium failing may Spurr Noms into action . Hahaha spin more like


    1. And from Derbyshire probation services.

    2. Supervision of criminals in Derbyshire has got worse since the government out-sourced parts of the probation service, the chief inspector of probation says. Dame Glenys Stacey said the standard of some services in the county was now "significantly lower" than before.

      In 2014, the government replaced probation trusts in England and Wales with 21 rehabilitation companies, made up of private firms and charities. A Probation Service spokesperson said it would "monitor performance closely".

      Probation reforms, implemented by the then Justice Secretary Chris Grayling, overhauled the supervision of released prisoners and people serving community sentences in England and Wales. As part of the changes, the probation service was split in two, with community rehabilitation companies (CRCs) supervising low and medium-risk offenders.

      At the same time a National Probation Service (NPS) took over the supervision of high-risk offenders.

      In one of her first inspection reports since the new system was introduced, Dame Glenys says she found no evidence that public protection was being made a priority by Reducing Reoffending Partnership - the CRC that won the contract in four counties in the East Midlands.

      Her report said the "quality of work" provided by the company in Derbyshire was "significantly lower" than it was under the former Probation Trust - describing it as "poor" in some areas. Dame Glenys said many staff felt the new approach to rehabilitation was "not yet a reality". She said the CRC had "ambitious plans for an effective and modern probation service, to make a difference to people's life chances and reduce re-offending". However, she said the implementation of the changes has been "troublesome and slow" and that "standards have slipped. Leaders do need to focus on delivering good quality services today as well as improving tomorrow," she said.

      She went on: "The public can be reassured, however, that the National Probation Service in Derbyshire is managing high-risk offenders well."

      Catherine Holland, chief executive of Reducing Reoffending Partnership, said the probation team in Derbyshire was working hard to keep the public safe "by reducing reoffending".

      "We welcome this inspection report which identifies recommendations and many areas of good practice. We will use its findings to further strengthen our work," she said.

      A government spokesman said "public protection and reducing reoffending will always be our priority. "We hold providers rigorously to account for their performance and insisted a robust action plan was developed by the CRC. We will continue to monitor performance closely."

      However, Andrew Neilson, from the Howard League for Penal Reform, said the report indicated the probation service was "letting down people who are trying to change their lives."

      "The Howard League warned that ministers were taking a huge risk by dismantling a service that was performing well. We remain of that view," he added.

    3. This is not surprising its a total mess.

    4. Wot a load of bollox. Nps doing fine. Yeah right