Monday, 24 October 2016

A Prison Blueprint

A Matter of Conviction: a blueprint for community-based rehabilitative prisons

In January 2016, the RSA and Transition Spaces embarked on the Future Prison project, which set out to explore how prisons in England and Wales could better support rehabilitation. Our final report sets out a blueprint for a community-based rehabilitative prison and a policy framework to support such models.

Download the full report — A Matter of Conviction (PDF, 5 MB)

  • The potential impact that prisons could have on reducing reoffending and community safety has been undermined by a lack of consistent political leadership and clear purpose.
  • This has led to reactive policy, episodic change, and an over-centralised system which has disempowered the workforce and undermined public confidence.
  • The government’s commitment to prison reform is welcome and must be underpinned by a long-term vision of reform capable of securing cross-party consensus and mobilising public support.

The Ministry of Justice should publish a 2017–2020 National Rehabilitation Strategy.

This should focus on reducing risk and strengthening rehabilitation, prioritise integration between prisons and probation and have the explicit support of other departments, including the Treasury, the Department of Health, the Home Office, the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Department for Work and Pensions. The strategy should seek to drive long-term system change and prioritise the following 10 key changes:

1. Create a Rehabilitation Requirement — The government’s white paper should include a rehabilitation requirement for prisons and probation. This should be a legal duty and require prisons and probation to track individual and institutional progress in relation to rehabilitation.

2. Return frontline staffing to 2010 levels — As a foundation of reform, additional investment is urgently needed to reduce security and safety risks and to protect prisoners and frontline workers.

3. A 2020 Rehabilitative Workforce Plan — Linked to new recruitment, this should develop a new training offer, skills strategy and career paths for prison officers and focus on developing a rehabilitative workforce with transferable skills across prisons and probation.

4. A Centre of Prisons Excellence — Delivered through an ambitious model for the current training centre, Newbold Revel, this should learn from the College of Policing and consideration should be given to a centre working across prisons and probation.

5. An arms-length, more independent NOMS — NOMS should become a smaller arms-length function with greater independence from the Ministry of Justice. This would focus on resilience issues such as population management, the high-security estate and particular security issues.

6. An enhanced and more Integrated Prison and Probation Inspection Regime — This should include making the prisons inspectorate compliant with the obligations from OPCAT (Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture), which should be put on a statutory footing. The inspectorates should develop consistency on assessing rehabilitative outcomes such as education, employment and family relationships and introduce outcomes on leadership and management. A review of Independent Monitoring Boards (IMBs) should be undertaken to explore the potential of developing their role to track inspection recommendations.

7. Creation of Local Prison Boards — In developing greater autonomy, stability and ensuring safety and risk are managed, the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) should hand over prison funding to local boards and prison governors with some key obligations that ensure that the national resilience work and population flow is mandated. Local prison boards would oversee long-term strategy and should aim to increase governors’ tenure as appropriate. Such a move would retain the national prison service but enable greater local control, including the development of special purpose vehicles to drive innovation and integration, and secure additional funding from private/corporate/charitable partnerships. The local prison board could include representation from a major employer in the area, health providers and commissioners, prisoners’ families, the local authority economic development lead, a housing provider, NGO consortia, Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs), the local FE and university, the National Probation Service (NPS), the area criminal justice board lead and a member of the prison’s rehabilitative council.

8. New devolved powers for governors and PCCs — In giving governors greater freedoms and introducing more local autonomy, the government should adopt a staged process of devolution with a focus on expanding the remit of Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) and ensuring that scrutiny arrangements are in place to take on wider responsibilities and risk. In the interim, Regional Rehabilitation Boards would be responsible for developing Regional Rehabilitation Strategies 2017–2020 in line with the national strategy and vision of the new Rehabilitation Requirement.

9. Integration of Health Services — In addition to involving Public Health England and the NHS in developing more devolved arrangements, the government should ensure that Joint Strategic Needs Assessments (JSNA) provide clear statutory guidance on people on licence in the community, and those in custody, and that Health and Wellbeing Boards be instructed to include prisoner populations explicitly in their priorities.

10 Designing in Rehabilitation — The government’s prison building programme should be informed by first principles and by evidence of what supports rehabilitation, including size, locality, available networks and employment.

A Matter of Conviction argues that this model will ultimately serve to create a self-improving, more cost effective and innovative system.

Download the full report — A Matter of Conviction (PDF, 5 MB)


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. From BBC news:

    A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said: "We are committed to rehabilitating offenders to reduce re-offending and create fewer victims.
    "We will set out full details of our plan for prison safety and reform in a White Paper in the coming weeks and are carrying out a comprehensive review of the probation system to improve outcomes for offenders and communities."
    Just wondering how long a comprehensive review of Probation may take?


  3. I work in a prison and they're fine. There are no longer nps (drug issues) and staffing are getting back to full compliments. All our data points to reduced incidents of violence and optimum levels output throughout the patches

    1. Lol this made me laugh so much which prison do you work in?

    2. oh ffs that's the most ridiculous thing I have read this year (possibly including Trump speaches) Our prisons are violent and awash with drugs, and staffing is below a viable level
      I visit, don't work within, but even then, its getting a tad scarey

    3. It's also the most ridiculous thing I've read this year, and that includes stand down Court reports!

    4. From someone called Jonathan Hussey:

      "One of the finest and most identifiably unique skills a Probation Officer can develop is being able to write a good Pre Sentence Report (PSR). A PSR is a report that is requested by Magistrates or Judges to help inform the sentencing of offenders.

      Whilst it is not the remit of this article to discuss how to write a complete PSR, the aim is to help increase the understanding of how to construct an informative offence analysis.

      An offence analysis is a critical element of the report. It provides insight into the offender’s thinking and, if a Probation Officer can relate to it correctly, it can then propose the right intervention and (in theory) facilitate a reduction in reoffending.

      In my experience, many practitioners over time can overlook the importance of offence analysis and concentrate on constructing other areas of the report. For me, however, this section will help establish what a practitioner can achieve with an offender with regards to intervention. It will also give a good indication as to the risk an offender poses - which is what, after-all, the Probation Service attempts to manage.

      A well-constructed offence analysis comprises of some essential elements. So here, I will share with you a sequential formula (which I follow myself) to help make sure the evaluation stays an analysis and does not become a description.

      The difference between a description and analysis can often become blurred within reports. For example, I have seen some reports which only describe or regurgitate what the police statements explain. An analysis, however, is a professional in-depth breakdown of how an offence took place and why. So how is this achieved?

      Here is the tried and tested formula I have used for years. Firstly, following an interview with a client, I describe what happened and when. This provides context. Then, I explain how it happened. Here the description ends and the analysis kicks in. To do this, I compare what the witnesses have said in their reports to the police and compare it with how the offender explains it to me. I will then explain in the report why I feel there may be any differences in the two accounts. To do this, I use theoretical concepts behind why an offender may have denied or justified their behaviour.

      Following this, I will explain why the offence happened. I will need to explore with the offender in the interview different possible reasons for the offence. So, we may explore areas such as financial gain, revenge, etc and whether the offence formed part of an established pattern. In turn, did it represent an increase in seriousness from previous offending behaviour? To find this out, I will need to cross reference a record of the offender’s previous convictions.

      But a good offence analysis needs more. So to provide more to the Courts, a practitioner needs to answer questions such as: How were the victims affected? How does the offender feel about what they have done? Do they take responsibility for the actual offence or blame it on other people?

      Undertaking an offence analysis is a skill that develops over time and which gets better with practice. However the above formula will provide the practitioner with a template to work from."

  4. This response from Labour is notable only for its paucity and lack of any proposal for alternative action.

    I despair after John McDonnell spoke as powerfully as he did in committee when the Transforming Rehabilitation Policy was being justified by Liberal Democrat and Conservative advocates of the stupid nonsensical proposals that the parliament approved & has subsequently barely examined.

    1. Whoops Dyspraxic failure, I forgot to link the Labour press report: -

  5. Probation Officer24 October 2016 at 14:49

    It's all nonsense. What needs to be done is;

    1. Get rid of NOMS
    2. Separate probation from prisons (they do not go together)
    3. Join the probation service back together (it should have never been split) and resource it
    4. More use of (adequately resourced) community sentences
    5. Reserve (adequately staffed) prisons for the most serious and repeat offenders

  6. just hangin' around waiting for the fireworks

  7. Michael Gove to be working with Howard League for Penal Reform.

    1. Told you so, but no one listened!


  8. From December 2000:

    "In exercise of the powers conferred on him by paragraphs 2(4) and (6) and 3(4) of Schedule 1 to the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000 (“the 2000 Act”)1, the Secretary of State hereby makes the following Regulations:

    1 These Regulations may be cited as the Local Probation Boards (Appointment) Regulations 2000 and shall come into force on 22nd January 2001.

    2 A local probation board shall have a maximum of 15 members.

    3 A member of a local probation board shall be at least eighteen years of age on appointment.

    4 The following shall not be appointed as a member of a local probation board:
    a - a person employed under a contract of employment with a local probation board; or
    b - person who is subject to the notification requirements of Part 1 of the Sex Offenders Act 19972.

    5.1 Persons appointed to a local probation board shall, so far as practicable, be representative of the local community in the board’s area.
    5.2 Without prejudice to the generality of paragraph (1), where practicable, four of the persons appointed to a board shall be justices of the peace for a commission area falling within the area of the board and two of the persons so appointed shall be members of a local authority for a local government area (within the meaning of section 270 of the Local Government Act 1972) which falls within the area of the board.
    5.3 Persons appointed to a local probation board shall, so far as practicable, live or work (or have lived or worked) in the board’s area.

    6 A member of a local probation board other than the chief officer shall be appointed for a term of three years and shall be eligible for re-appointment.

    7 Save for a chief officer, no person shall serve more than two terms as a member of a local probation board."

    1. Offender Management Act 2007:

      "11 Abolition of local probation boards and transfers of property etc and staff

      (1) In consequence of the provisions of this Part, the local probation boards constituted under section 4 of the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000 (c 43) are abolished.

      (2) Schedule 2 (which contains provisions relating to transfers of property etc or staff in connection with the abolition of local probation boards or the implementation or termination of arrangements under section 3) has effect."

  9. I love the crc and meetings targets. I get up early for this my Xmas bonus awaits