Saturday, 8 October 2016

News Roundup 4

There seems to have been a lot going on just lately and I'm conscious a number of matters have passed us by with little or no time to mention them, let alone discuss them, so some of the following may be a little old. 

The report by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons on HMP Bedford supplies yet more evidence that CRC's are not delivering effective Through the Gate (TTG) services as promised by Grayling and as the main plank of the whole TR programme. But more significantly, it also raises in my mind what the point is of having an Inspectorate if the recommendations are simply ignored? This extract by Peter Clarke from the report:- 


HMP Bedford is a local category B and resettlement prison for young adult and adult men. At the time of this inspection it held 493 prisoners. It was last inspected in February 2014 when we made 72 recommendations. On this occasion we found that of those 72 recommendations, only 12 had been achieved and four partially achieved. In light of this it is hardly surprising that this is a disappointing report. It is hard to understand how such an abject failure to address clear recommendations from HM Inspectorate of Prisons has been allowed to happen. Clearly neither local management nor the National Offender Management Service accepted responsibility for ensuring that action was taken. As a result, standards in the prison have declined to unacceptable levels.

In the key area of safety, a mere three out of 17 recommendations were achieved. Although the prison had good knowledge of where and when violent incidents were occurring, far too little was being done to analyse them and take effective action to reduce the violence. The levels of self-harm among prisoners had increased dramatically since the last inspection, and despite the fact that there had been self-inflicted deaths, not all recommendations made by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman had been embedded into practice. 

As in so many other prisons, it is quite clear that the ready availability of drugs, particularly new psychoactive substances (NPS) was having a serious impact on the safety of the prison. Despite this, there was no effective drug supply reduction strategy in place. Our survey showed that the number of prisoners saying that it was easy or very easy to get drugs had almost doubled since the last inspection. The number saying that they had developed a drug problem while in HMP Bedford had risen from 4% to 14%. The stark reality is that prisoners told us it was easier to get illegal drugs in the prison than it was to get clothes or sheets. 

The physical condition of the prison was also poor, with many prisoners living in crowded and cramped conditions. The details of the living conditions endured by prisoners are set out in Section 2 of this report, and do not need repeating here. Suffice it to say damaged furniture, graffiti, shortages of clothing, damp clothing hanging on homemade washing lines in cells, and dirty, unscreened showers do not offer basic levels of decency.
When it comes to preparing prisoners for release, only three of the recommendations made at the last inspection had been achieved. Offender supervisors had infrequent contact with prisoners on their caseload. Delays in implementing the community rehabilitation company (CRC) arrangements meant that resettlement arrangements were weak. The CRC was not able to provide accurate data as to how many prisoners were released homeless, or into education and training.



S46 The quality of offender management work was undermined by the regular cross-deployment of uniformed offender supervisors, who had infrequent contact with the prisoners on their caseload. The management of higher-risk cases was better, with a focus on motivation and progression. Home detention curfew arrangements were weak. Public protection arrangements had improved and were mostly good. Too many prisoners were transferred without an offender assessment system (OASys) assessment to inform their move. The demand for resettlement services was high but resettlement assessments and plans were poor. There was little evidence of prisoners receiving help in finding accommodation or employment, or assistance with debt and financial problems on release. Work with families was very good. Outcome for prisoners were not sufficiently good against this healthy prison test. 

S47 At the last inspection in 2014 we found that outcomes for prisoners in HMP Bedford were not sufficiently good against this healthy prison test. We made 12 recommendations in the area of resettlement. At this follow-up inspection we found that three of the recommendations had been achieved, one had been partially achieved and eight had not been achieved. 

S50 The backlog of offender assessment system (OASys) assessments was relatively small but this masked the fact that far too many prisoners were transferred on without one. The quality of OASys assessments was mixed, with those completed by probation staff of a better quality than those completed by uniformed offender supervisors. Few prisoners applied for home detention curfew and too many were not considered in time or were released late. 

S51 The screening of new prisoners for public protection issues and to identify contact restrictions was mostly good but in a small number of cases further checks were required. When risks were identified, contact restrictions were applied promptly and appropriately. The role and effectiveness of the interdepartmental risk management team had improved considerably and multi-agency public protection arrangements (MAPPA) levels were confirmed well ahead of release, which promoted the prison’s involvement in release planning. Information exchange between the community rehabilitation company (CRC) and the OMU was poor, which potentially hindered good risk management. 

S52 Categorisation reviews were up to date. Attention was given to progressive moves in some cases but far too many prisoners were moved on without an assessment or sentence plan to inform the suitability of their move. Despite good efforts to transfer category B prisoners, including sex offenders, to more appropriate prisons, the lack of places nationally meant that some stayed at the establishment for too long. 

S53 The demand for resettlement services was high, with an average of 90 prisoners released a month. Delays and difficulties in implementing the CRC arrangements had led to problems in delivering some resettlement services, which were weak. Resettlement assessments were not thorough enough, and in some cases risk-of-harm issues were not taken into account when providing help. Pre-release resettlement reviews were poor as they did not include the prisoner or result in a meaningful release plan. 

S54 In our survey, about a quarter of prisoners said that they had arrived with housing problems and money worries. The CRC was unable to provide accurate data to identify the number of prisoners released homeless, or assess the impact of accommodation support or the debt advice provided. S55 Too few prisoners benefited from timely interventions to support their employment, training or education on release. A skills action plan was not undertaken for all new arrivals to develop their employability skills. Far too few prisoners attended the employability course or had assistance in preparing a CV, and the virtual campus (internet access for prisoners to community education, training and employment opportunities) was not used to support job search. There were no reliable data to establish the number of prisoners released into employment or training on release. 


From the BBC website:-

Offender scheme 180 Degrees 'may increase crimes'

A programme designed to cut reoffending rates actually made criminals more likely to offend, a Ministry of Justice (MoJ) study has found. The police-led 180 Degree scheme covers Norfolk and Suffolk. The Ministry of Justice study found 81% on the scheme reoffended within a year compared with 69% who were not on it. A spokesman for the 180 Degree scheme said the findings might reflect the fact its clients were more closely watched than other offenders.

The study also found those on the £1m-a-year scheme committed more offences - on average 4.56 each - than the 3.25 offences per person found in the control group. At any one time, there are between 280 and 290 offenders on the scheme. The Ministry of Justice said both those on the scheme and the control group who were not were "similar offenders" and said its findings were "statistically significant". The ministry's Justice Data Lab said: "The overall results show that those who took part in the scheme were more likely to re-offend and had a higher frequency of re-offences than those who did not."

The Ministry of Justice did not respond to questions about either an explanation for the higher likelihood of offending of those on the scheme or whether its findings were likely to be explored further.

Norfolk Constabulary's Insp Danny Kett, who manages the 180 Degree programme, said although the report has only just been published it was based on "old data". He also claimed the findings might be due to people on the scheme being more closely monitored than other offenders (hence more likely to be caught). 
  • Support offered ranges from organising accommodation, to help with training courses or finding work to assistance with claiming benefits
  • Offenders are referred onto the 180 scheme by organisations involved including the police or probation service
  • The 180 Degree scheme is one of a number of integrated offender management schemes in operation in England
  • Each offender is given a "bespoke management plan" based on their needs in a bid to prevent reoffending
Up-to-date figures comparing those on the scheme with those who were not, however, were not available when the BBC contacted Insp Kett. "The scheme has come on quite a long way since then," he said, adding the report did not include details about either reductions in offending or the types of offences committed.

Insp Kett said: "If they step out of line," he said, "we know about it and we will report them." Just last week in Norwich, he said, a shoplifter was identified wearing an unusual top which resembled one of the "clients" on their scheme. When the client arrived the next morning for a meeting with his probation officer he was wearing the same top and was arrested and charged. If he had not have been on the scheme, we would not have known who he was," said Insp Kett.


From the BBC website:-

Housing shortage means many women 'feel safer behind bars'

Many women feel "safer in prison" because of a lack of suitable housing for female ex-offenders, a former inmate has told the BBC. "Jess" said she had been expected to "walk the streets all day" after being placed in sheltered accommodation that only allowed tenants indoors overnight. It comes as a new report suggests six out of 10 women leaving prison are unlikely to have a home to go to.

The Ministry of Justice said it was committed to working with ex-offenders.

Jess - not her real name - served around a year in jail for fraud and robbery and was later placed in housing, organised by the prison, after being released on an electronic tag. Once the tag was removed, she had to leave the accommodation and found herself without a home. She then contacted the charity Women In Prison who helped her find a place in sheltered housing.

"The only downfall with that one was that you were able to sleep there, but from, I think it was... seven o'clock in the morning to six o'clock in the evening you weren't allowed to be in there," she told BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour. What do they expect me to do? They literally expect you to walk the streets all day which isn't very good, especially if you're vulnerable."
'In and out'

Jess lived in two further housing complexes before she was able to find a landlord who would accept her housing benefit, which enabled her to secure a one bedroom flat. She criticised the lack of help given by the prison to help her find a permanent home. "From my experience seeing other people in prison, to be honest, I don't think they're that big of a help when you're in there. I've seen girls come in and out of prison when I was there due to the fact they were on the street and they felt safer in prison."

A report by the Prison Reform Trust and Women in Prison - Home truths: housing for women in the criminal justice system - said 6,700 women were released from jail in England and Wales in the year to March 2016. It said 60% of them did not have a home to go to and often many ended up in unsuitable accommodation, such as hostels. The two charities found it was harder for women without stable housing to find employment, claim benefits or access support services, which could then increase their risk of reoffending.

Figures from the Ministry of Justice showed 45% of women were reconvicted within one year, according to the report. The Prison Reform Trust is calling for a cross-government strategy to ensure women receive timely advice and support to help secure housing.

Jenny Earle, director of the trust's programme to reduce women's imprisonment, said: "A tent and a sleeping bag are no answer to meeting the housing needs of women on release. Safe, secure accommodation is crucial in breaking that cycle of crime, and all the harm it causes to our communities, to victims, to the women involved and to their families."

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said it was working "extremely closely" with all offenders before and after release. "This gives them the support they need to find accommodation. However, the responsibility for making sure there is housing available ultimately lies with the local authority. We work closely with other government departments to make sure offenders are housed appropriately."


  1. 180 is really interesting. There was data when Norfolk / Suffolk had separate schemes which indicated a huge reduction in reoffending. Couldn't be two difficult to compare the two and find out what the differences are. Clearly IOM does work to reduce offending in some projects so this 'we keep a closer eye on them' doesn't wash. Is it that one was police led one probation led? Did the probation officers change in the split and offenders had to get used to new officers? What were the differences?

    1. If HMP Bedford was privately run it would add to the indictment. But it's an example of poorly-managed public prison. HMIP recommendations designed to improve the safety, rehabilitation and resettlement are mostly ignored – and in some areas performance has deteriorated.

      As for the 180 degrees programme, its ineffectiveness at reducing reoffending is, in the 180 degrees spirit, described, self-servingly, as a success in the detection of crime.

  2. There never has been any support for women leaving prison to find accommodation unless you're forced to go into approved premises as a high risk offender. Franted I was released before TR came into effect but was given zero help and support and in fact was actively prevented from finding accommodation prior to release by St Mungo's (working out of Holloway) and probation despite the fact there were no restrictions on where I could live. I ended up in a god awful homeless hostel surrounded by more criminals than I'd been surrounded by in prison for several months until I was able to find my own accommodation (again zero help from probation in this regard). All this waffling about support for prisoners is a load of crap and always has been. TR has merely pointed out to the world this.

  3. I can completely sympathise with the frustration here. I am sorry you have had all this trouble, and glad you found somewhere in the end. I am frustrated too that it is so hard to provide what people need on release from prison. Or even after people have been out for a bit. It is absolutely true that there is no mechanism in place that I have discovered for finding accommodation for people which can be reserved for them in time for their prison release. This is also my experience from both before and after the split. Most agencies whether voluntary or private will insist on getting proof of income for the person seeking the accommodation before starting the search. DWP will not process any benefit application in advance of release from prison. Hence because of two agencies being unwilling to adjust their modus operandi we have people coming out of prison with nowher to go and often there and then laying the foundations for their next trip back inside. Woulnt it be great if the. Arious ministries would stop paying lip service, stop their silo mentality and start working together for a simple solution for people who want to make a good start on their licence and be part of the human race. It's not rocket science.

  4. 9.21 nails it. Probably since the Statement Of National Priorities hit the Nowheresville Probation and Aftercare Service in 1984 probation has morphed from being a problem solving organisation to a process following organisation, working less for offenders/clients/service users/whatever and more for its own self serving bureaucracy. Pity really. Possibly redeemable but I doubt it.

  5. Yes,indeed 9.21. When I started in 1982 it was a pyramid shaped organisation, now it's an inverted pyramid shaped organisation. I despise what it has become. Forms, forms, forms, input, input, input. Meaningless targets, targets, targets that have nothing to do with helping people to change their life around.

    1. The bureaucratisation of probation has shifted the focus towards process rather than problem-solving. What makes resettlement so difficult is the use of custody in the first place. Since the explosion in the prison population in 1993, the years since have seen a doubling of the prison population. We spend on average a £1000 a week keeping someone in custody and then discharge them with £46. There is a chronic housing shortage and so why should it surprise that housing homeless ex-offenders is beyond probation wit and resources? It's a mess and probation have no magic wand.