Friday, 11 November 2016

Fiddling While Rome Burns

It's clear that last nights shocking footage shown in the Channel 4 Cutting Edge Secret Life of Prisons documentary even surprised many criminal justice insiders and is a disgrace that any government minister worth their salt would feel oblidged to respond urgently to. But we have the clueless Liz Truss at the helm and she continues to fiddle while Rome burns. This from the website:-

IMB Reform: National Council to be Scrapped and Replaced by a Chair and Management Board

The Secretary of State for Justice, Liz Truss, has approved plans to overhaul the national governance structure for Independent Monitoring Boards (IMBs).

In July 2014 the Ministry of Justice received an independent report it had commissioned by Karen Page Associates (KPA) (read the report) which looked at the current national IMB system of monitoring in our prisons and in a severe condemnation of the current management and governance arrangements concluded that “critically, IMBs did not have enough credibility with key stakeholders” and that there should be, for the whole national IMB system, “urgent root and branch review and reform of sponsorship, governance and leadership.”

The KPA Review found among other things:

  • Some members did not inspire confidence because of the way they undertook monitoring or because they seemed not to know enough about prisons or immigration removals systems. This minority could affect the way all members were perceived.
  • There were unexplained inconsistencies between boards in the way they worked.
  • Boards did not express their findings in a sufficiently compelling, evidence based way.
  • The arrangements at national level for sharing information and reviewing findings between government and IMBs were, with some exceptions, not sufficiently focused and business-like. There were missed opportunities for cooperation and shared approaches with government and with other government sponsored independent bodies.
In response to the KPA Report the Ministry of Justice set up a closed, invitation-only, Governance Review with three suggested governance formats going forward.

Mark Leech, the Editor of The Prisons Handbook, and an invited contributor to the review said:

“The consultation proposed three potential models for IMB reformed national governance to address concerns around confused governance, leadership and accountability, the first two models really only consisted of a fudging of the current arrangements; Model 3 although not ideal represented the most deep-rooted governance reform – like the majority of the contributors to the Review I opted for option three and this has now been approved, with some minor changes, by the Secretary of State for Justice.”

Key features of the revised Model 3 include:

President and National Council replaced by a Chair (a part-time, paid public appointee) and Management Board (a mix of IMB members and Non-Executive Directors, all unpaid, each with their own specialism). The Management Board will be responsible for setting the policy and strategy, taking on a more executive role than the current National Council does and will be accountable to the Chair.

Management Board to be supported by a network of working groups and regional representatives (a function currently provided by the National Council) to support chairs and members in the regions.

IMBs continue to be supported by the Secretariat, with the head of the secretariat line-managed by a civil servant but task-managed by the chair of the management board, in accordance with directions set by the Management Board.

A new Governance Framework, sitting alongside the Monitoring Framework, to set clear roles and responsibilities for each part of the governance structure.

It is important to stress that the structure of IMBs (Chair, Vice Chair and Board Development Officer), their monitoring role and their right to inform the Minister of any concerns will not change under these proposals.

The Ministry of Justice has said that these changes will of course take time to implement and further changes may be required as the Prison Reform proposals take shape.

Commenting on the decision to implement a revised Model 3 Mark Leech said:

“In May this year, in The Prisons Handbook 2016, my Editorial posed the question as to whether the time had come for IMBs to be abolished as my view was that, as the KPA Review found, the IMB as a national organisation, lacked any credibility with prisoners and indeed with many prison staff too. My Editorial was followed by an article written by the then Chair of Hollesley Bay prison IMB Faith Spear, writing under the pseudonym of ‘Daisy Mallet’.

“Faith’s article, “Whistle Blower Without A Whistle”, exposed a shambolic system of monitoring in our prisons that was – as the KPA Review also found – unfit for purpose and in need of complete reform. Mrs Spear’s article lifted the lid on a system of prison monitoring in which IMB Members, despite their clear legal independence, were ‘gagged by grooming’ from speaking to the press and, among other things, were coerced in many cases from discharging their full monitoring functions by, for example, failing to visit the prison during night. “It was a powerful article, and one that set in motion a savage train of events which has seen Mrs Spear treated disgracefully; she is currently suspended from the IMB and facing disciplinary action at the end of this month.”

You can read the Editorial and Mrs Spear’s expose: here

By implementing Model 3, the new governance arrangements of the IMB will see the much-needed scrapping of the discredited and dysfunctional ‘IMB National Council’ and its completely ineffective ‘President’.

Mr Leech said: “Model 3, although the option that brings the most change, is not ideal – real reform will only come when the IMB are removed from the MOJ completely and placed within the Prisons Inspectorate, along with whom it forms a part of the 20-strong National Preventive Mechanism, which discharges custodial monitoring duties owed to the United Nations, but sadly that was not an option that was on the table.”


As an aside, just look at these recall figures for women, teased out of the MoJ:-

Asked by Kate Green (Stretford and Urmston) Asked on: 27 October 2016
Ministry of Justice Prisoners' Release: Females 

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, how many women were received into each prison under licence recall in the 12 months (a) prior to and (b) following the introduction of Transforming Rehabilitation.

Answered by: Mr Sam Gyimah Answered on: 07 November 2016 

The Government’s Transforming Rehabilitation programme included the extension of licensed supervision to those receiving sentences of under 12 months. This was brought into effect by the Offender Rehabilitation Act 2014 in February 2015. Before that, the prison into which recalled offenders were received was not recorded centrally. The number of women received into each prison under licence recall for sentences of all lengths in the 12 months since February 2015 is provided in the table below.

Bronzefield 246
Eastwood Park 194
Foston Hall 120
Holloway 108
Low Newton 67
New Hall 159
Peterborough 159
Styal 211


Meanwhile, the Justice Committee is due to start taking Oral Evidence as part of their Prison Reform Inquiry:-

The Justice Committee hears from Governors and Executive Governors of Reform Prisons.

Inquiry: Prison reform
Justice Committee
Ministry of Justice white paper: Prison Safety and Reform

The six Reform Prisons began operating this summer as part of the Government's prison reform programme. The Justice Committee is opening oral evidence for its prison reform inquiry by hearing the experiences and findings so far of their Governors and Executive Governors.


Tuesday 15 November 2016, Committee Room 6, Palace of Westminster

At 9.45am
Ian Bickers, Executive Governor, HMP Wandsworth
Nick Pascoe, Executive Governor, HMP High Down and HMP Coldingley
Jo Sims, Governor, HMP Coldingley
Louise Spencer, Governor, HMP High Down

At 10.40am
Ian Blakeman, Executive Governor, HMP Holme House and HMP & YOI Kirklevington Grange
Chris Dyer, Governor, HMP Holme House
Nigel Hirst, Governor, HMP Ranby
Angie Petit, Governor, HMP & YOI Kirklevington Grange
Neil Richards, Executive Governor, HMP Ranby


  1. After that documentary, the escapes from Hmp pentonville, the riot in Hmp Bedford, the prison officer that just had his throat cut in IoW, Liz Truss should be resigning.

  2. They need to put a group of real experts in charge so that they can work together to sort out the mess. Get rid of Truss and replace with a team of experts including Judge, magistrate, prison governor, maingrade Prison Officer and PO..Howard League reprasentative..drugs and mental health experts and some reformed ex prisoners..forget about MOJ and NOMS as experts because they have clearly failed by allowing all the power to shift to private companies. Scrap NOMS!

    1. And invest some money into it. Thought+ organisation + investment = success

  3. "Ian Blakeman joined HM Prison Service (HMPS) in 1986, and was appointed as Director, Commissioning at the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) in October 2013."

    Is this the same Ian Blakeman due to give evidence today?

    1. Could be - but not due to give evidence until next Tuesday 15th November.

    2. If only I could learn to read things properly! Thanks Jim. Wonder why someone might leave such an influential role as Director of Commissioning?

  4. Truss has just started give her a chance . She will fix it all over time

    1. Yes the problem is that who will replace her, the person will come from the same pool. The first step to solving a problem is recognising there is one, i dont see this happening from conservatives or labor.

    2. Do you think we were born yesterday! She will no more 'fix it' than those who came before her. That is why we need to remove power from her and hand it to people who actually want to do what is best for those involved, public, prisoners and staff rather than just for political gain or to feather their own nest.

    3. I am not a Truss apologist but... These issues of grave concern, utter incompetence & total catastrophe within the prisons system have been simmering for years. Blue Labour didn't make any difference, so King Kenny Clarke was possibly the most liberal & radical Justice Sec in recent times (and that's an astonishing thought!) before the Vicious & Dim Grayling stuck the boot in. The Cerebral Gove spoke eloquently about nothing & did Sweet FA; now Twinkletoes Truss is facing the music.

      I agree she hasn't a clue & should go... but all we'll now get is some reactionary stormtrooper who's idea of resolution will be to crush everyone, increase the punishment, totalitarian control & restraint - playing right into the hands of the vindictive control-freaks who run NOMS. Michael will be rubbing his hands as he pours old-school prison poison into the Minister's ear whilst keeping an eye on his ever-increasing salary & pension pot.

    4. Or Gove comes back - in politics, anything is possible.

    5. NOOOOOOO!!!!!!!! Please not the neglecter of children, the pompositer of Westminster, the friend to the stars, the moonlight dancer, sidekick to DangerMouse, the Tosser that is Gove. Surely PM May, lover of The Donald, isn't that twisted?!?

  5. 9.14: has anyone noticed how the women are put in charge when there is a real mess to sort: may, truss. When difficult things have to be explained to the media is when women get to speak.

    1. Except for napo hq where no-one (male or female) seems to speak to anyone about anything unless its an egocentric blog from the GS.

  6. HMP Portland advertising for prison officers. Basic pay for 37hours is £20,751pa. This includes 17% unsocial hours payment. Basic wage therefore of around £16,800 - flat rate of 8.74 an hour. Paltry salary for the risks involved. No wonder the prisons can't recruit.

    1. Not bad for simply opening and closing doors

    2. True. But you never know what is behind door number one. Or two. Or three. Or four.....

      The wages suddenly look a lot less attractive now.

  7. Truss will fix it over time? I would argue that she hasn't got the luxury of time, not if she wants to stop people dieing.
    It's simple she needs to do something now or more people will lose their lives.


  8. Recruit 2,500 more prison officers? Balderdash

    The central plank of the government’s plan to deal with the prison crisis is the recruitment of more officers. They claim they are going to recruit an additional 2,500 front line officers, and this will allow staff to be responsible for six prisoners each, forming relationships and overseeing their journey through the prison system. Balderdash.

    Government ministers have been promising that there would be more officers on the landings for the past two years and it has not happened. Repeating the promise does not make it happen.

    The previous prisons minister announced repeatedly that 1,700 additional prison officers would be recruited. New figures published this week show that 1,315 prison officers were recruited in the 12 months ending September 2016. The headcount number of prison officers (band 3-4) as of 30 September is 14,607. This compares to 14,689 in June 2016 and 15,080 in September 2015. In 2010 there were 20,000 frontline prison officers. So the prison service still losing numbers despite national, and expensive, recruitment campaigns.

    There is a retention problem and so apparently, I hear on the grapevine, that the plan is to recruit 8,000 in the desperate hope that some 2,000 will stay more than a few weeks. That’s an expensive undertaking, costly to the taxpayer and disruptive of people’s lives. Also, it is very bad public relations as the prison service will have inflicted a bad experience on thousands of people who wanted to go into a public service but walk away because they find it intolerable. They will tell people about it.

    If the answer to the prison crisis is new staff then at least 5,000 would be needed (and retained) just to get back to the status quo before the swingeing cuts.

    In response to a call from the local MP, Emily Thornberry, to close Pentonville prison following a murder, escapes and revelations about appalling conditions, the Ministry of Justice came out with a trite and misleading statement:
    “We announced a major overhaul of the prison system last week including 2,500 extra frontline officers. These extra officers and new safety measures will help us crack down on the toxic cocktail of drugs, drones and mobile phones that are flooding our prisons. Our measures will create prisons that are places of safety and reform giving prisoners the education and skills they need to turn their backs on crime for good.”

    Even should they manage to recruit and retain 2,500 officers, which as I have said is unlikely, the staff would be spread across all the prisons that are in a similar state to Pentonville. That would give each prison somewhere between 10 and 40 additional officers each, hardly enough to make much difference in a 24/7 service.

    If the answer to the prison crisis is new staff, then at least 5,000 would be needed (and retained) just to get back to the status quo before the swingeing cuts. To go further, to have enough properly trained and skilled staff to work in a ratio of one to six, as we are being told is the objective, they would need to recruit many thousands more than that.

    This is just fantasy anyway as staff are voting with their feet. They will not stay working in a prison for less than they can earn in a supermarket, in prisons where they face daily violence and vitriol coming from prisoners who are caged in filth and idleness. It’s not just prisoners who are in prison, it is staff too.

    Frances Crook

    1. The recruitment and retention of prison staff is just one aspect of the current crisis, but I feel that by itself it is only part of the solution.
      HMP Frankland was opened during a near year dispute with the POA where staff were working to rule. It was opened and staffed for several months by the army. I think that given the dire state of prison staffing levels, Truss should consider the use of the army again, if only to help 'hold the Fort' until they can be replaced with newly recruited prison staff.
      But its every area of the prison system that's knackered, and she needs to take action fast, and she needs to be pragmatic, and some of the actions she needs to take may not please her Tory friends, especially where substance misuse is concerned.
      Where there's a demand there will always be a supply. It would be foolish to think that drug use in prisons can be stamped out completely. So for me it needs to be damage limitation.
      Prisoners choice of drug was once upon a time cannabis. Drug testing introduced punitive penalties, and less detectable drugs like herion replaced cannabis on the supply chain. Then came 'legal highs' spice, which was totally undetectable until recently, and that replaced herion as the drug of choice.
      Prisoners will use whatever drug that is less likely to get them caught and therefore less likely to attract punishment.
      It's not all about trying to stop in total drugs in prison, although keep working to restrict the supply. It's more about how you can dictate What drugs prisoners are going to use if they are indeed going to use them.
      If herion use or the use of psychoactive spice was to attract a punishment of 28 days addition to your sentence, but the use of normal cannabis attracted a £5 fine, then it would be cannabis that was used in prisons, and not the harder harmful ones that are causing such disorder and misery.
      I'm not arguing for drug use to be allowed in prisons, I just think it's time to get real, and take a pragmatic approach, that can help the welfare and wellbeing of all in the prison system staff and inmates alike.


    2. But how ridiculous of Thornberry to talk as she seems to have done about closing Pentonville?

      It is over a decade ago since I was there and obviously from what I read, particularly in the "Know the Danger" Facebook website it is one of the prisons where there are serious problems.

      It has had some major internal updating work done in the last twenty years and has the critical advantage of location for the courts and the families. There also needs to be a central London prison for women.

      By all means close Pentonville - but only if you have a clear plan to locate the number of prisoners it holds there as near to the centre of London as it is. All the other London prisons are just that bit further out and some quite difficult to reach by public transport for people outside of London - as many probation folk will know.

      I am not sure where exactly the new "Holloway" is - somewhere near Sutton, I believe - well I know from experience that Downview is not easy to get to from even (say) Bow, London E3. Time and cost of getting too and fro are major issues - unless all the courts are also to be moved from central London and the home areas that the prisoners come from.

    3. "Repeating the promise does not make it happen."

      A phrase that could, and should, follow any Government policy announcement.

  9. Probation Workers do PR Video in NPS recruitment drive:-

    1. More recruitment news.

  10. Yay PSO's who do the same standard of work for a cheaper price. Good idea.

    1. PSO' s don't do 'the same standard of work (as a PO) - it is fundamentally different. What is happening is that the PO role is essentially being done away with (that of constructive clinical supervision) and PO's are being expected to deliver A'PSO' service. It is NOT the other way round.

  11. From the FT.

    1. This is good news. Makes sense, joined up. More please.

  12. English prisons in grip of financial crisis says financial times.

  13. BBC Wales focus on Conner Marshall's case.