Wednesday, 22 February 2017

MoJ - Humiliation, Desperation and Rejection

Grayling's legacy just keeps on giving. Having got rid of all the most experienced prison officers to save money, we now have this confirmation that the cunning plan to entice them back into a Prison Reserve has spectacularly failed. I wonder why? 

Humiliation for government as just 10 ex-prison wardens join jail reserve scheme

A scheme to attract ex-prison officers back into jails has attracted just 10 people more than a year since it was set up, PoliticsHome can reveal.

The HMPS Reserve Scheme hoped to build a pool of 100 former officers employed on flexible contracts to help ease "operational pressures" in the system. Chris Grayling began recruiting for the scheme in 2014 when he was still Justice Secretary, but it failed to launch until November the following year. Ministers have now been forced to admit that it is a long way from meeting its goals.

Answering a written parliamentary question, Justice Minister Lord Keen said 

"As at 30 September 2016, the date of the most recent published figures, there were 10 prison officer reserves. They continue to be deployed on an on-going basis across the service in support of existing staff including after the riot in HMP Birmingham.”
Lib Dem peer Lord Beith, a former Justice Committee chair, branded the scheme “a failure and an embarrassment to Tory ministers”.

He said: 

"It is hardly surprising that retired officers have no wish to return to prisons with appalling levels of violence and severe staff shortages. A scheme which was planned to make hundreds of experienced officers available to help deal with the crisis has produced only 10 reserve officers. It is a hopeless failure. Justice Secretary Liz Truss needs to recognise that far more officers than the 2,500 she is talking about now need to be recruited and trained.”
Ms Truss made the pledge to recruit thousands of new prison officers in November - just a month before a string of major incidents hit English jails. Some 240 inmates were moved out of HMP Birmingham after what was dubbed the "worst prison riot since Strangeways". Another 60 prisoners took over a wing at HMP Swaleside on the Isle of Sheppey, while a jail in Hull was said to be “on the brink of a riot” in mid-December.

Meanwhile, the number of assaults in prisons in England and Wales reached a record high of 20,049 in the 12 months to September, up 5,995 on the year before. There were also 119 self-inflicted deaths in 2016, the highest number since records began in 1978.


In clear signs that the MoJ is desperate to do something, the decision was announced over the weekend to just throw money at the problem:-  

MoJ announce pay rise for prison officers at 31 jails

Thousands of prison officers are in line for a pay rise of between £3,000 and £5000 as ministers look to attract the “best talent” to work in England’s troubled jails.

Frontline staff at 31 jails in London and the South East will see their annual pay packets rise as part of a £12m package announced by Justice Secretary Liz Truss to boost falling prison officer numbers. The increase, which will be determined by how difficult it has been for each jail to recruit new personnel, means new starters could receive as much as £29,500 a year.

The Prison Officers Association welcomed the rise but said it was “papering over the cracks” following months of rising violence in prisons, dwindling staff levels and low morale. Prisons in London and the South East, including Wormwood Scrubs, Belmarsh and Pentonville, have been targeted as they find it harder to recruit new officers.

In November Ms Truss announced a fresh recruitment drive to employ an extra 2,500 prison officers by the end of 2018. This came on top of an extra 400 officers who will be in place by March. In a statement released last week the Ministry of Justice said it was “on track” to meet the target. Some 389 job offers have been made to new recruits. But it was revealed that the number of frontline staff fell by 347 to 17,888 in 2016.

Ms Truss said: "Prison officers do a challenging and demanding job day in and day out. I want front-line staff to know that their work, experience and loyal service is valued. We also want to attract the best new talent into the service, ensuring we recruit and retain the leaders of the future."

Steve Gillan, general secretary of the POA, claimed that “not a lot of thought” had gone into the announced pay increase, which he was informed of on Tuesday. "We welcome any new money," he said, "but we're a national service and this only applies to 31 prisons [out of more than 100 in England and Wales]. It doesn't apply to the operational support grades, so the lowest-paid people in the service are getting nothing. We pointed that out and there was a deathly silence."

He added: "The violence in prisons is out of control. The prisoners are in control, not the staff."


According to this in the Guardian though, it's not gone down too well with the POA:-

Prison officers' union dismisses pay rise as 'plaster over a wound'

A pay rise for prison officers unveiled by the justice secretary will not help a system that is in “meltdown” and is like “placing a plaster over a gaping wound”, according to the prison officers’ union.

Liz Truss announced that thousands of prison staff would receive a pay rise in a drive to increase staffing levels, as the government attempts to address the jail safety crisis. Frontline staff in London and the south-east will earn up to £5,000 more under a £12m package.

But the Prison Officers Association dismissed the initiative. “The latest attempt at placing a plaster over a gaping wound has been announced,” it said. “This decision will not solve the recruitment and retention issue, nor bring about operational stability in a prison system that is in meltdown.” In a statement it said it welcomed any additional pay for staff, but added: “The latest policy decision direct from the secretary of state sees another divisive decision on pay, which will enrage many who are left unaffected by this latest announcement.”

Speaking on the BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, Truss acknowledged that there was a “very difficult situation in our prisons” but declined to describe it as a crisis.

“I don’t believe the people who say that things can’t get better or that we need to suddenly release half of all the people in prisons to deal with it. We do have a plan, we are recruiting more officers, and for the first time ever – and this is what we are going to be doing in the prisons and courts bill this week – we are going to be saying that the purpose of prisons is, of course, about punishing people but it also has to be about reforming them.”

The cash injection comes as ministers attempt to improve recruitment and retention of staff amid surging levels of violence and record levels of self-harm and suicide in prisons in England and Wales.

Union leaders have repeatedly warned of low morale across the service, while figures released earlier this week showed a further fall in officer numbers last year. The pay increases will vary depending on how acute the recruitment difficulties are at the jail in question.

Staff at 31 establishments including Pentonville, Wormwood Scrubs and Belmarsh in London will see their annual pay increase by £3,000-£5,000. New recruits will also receive higher starting salaries of up to £29,500 – a rise of £5,000 on the current level.

Announcing the extra cash, Truss said prison officers did “a challenging and demanding job day in and day out. I want frontline staff to know that their work, experience and loyal service is valued. We also want to attract the best new talent into the service, ensuring we recruit and retain the leaders of the future.”

The move comes weeks after the minister announced a national recruitment drive to add 2,500 officers as part of her wide-ranging agenda. Dwindling staffing levels have been highlighted as assaults, self-harm and suicides all soared to record levels, and there has been a spate of major disturbances in jails.

On Thursday official figures revealed the number of personnel in key operational roles in public sector prisons in England and Wales fell by more than 300 to 17,888 last year. The leaving rate – the percentage of staff with a permanent contract of employment who left for reasons other than voluntary early departure schemes and redundancy – has almost doubled since 2012-13.

As well as the announcement on pay, the Ministry of Justice said thousands of new learning and development opportunities would be made available to staff nationwide. They will also be given specialist training in mental health and self-harm prevention.


Meanwhile, in other prison news, the good people of Braintree could shortly be in for a bonanza:-

A new 'mega prison' could be built on Wethersfield MOD site in Braintree and Tendring

A freedom of information request has revealed Braintree could be home to a new “mega” prison. Information supplied in response to the request, submitted by Open University lecturer Dr David Scott on behalf of two campaign groups, was made public on Monday.

The data provides a list of 20 local authorities which submitted plans to the MOJ about suitable land for building a prison capable of holding 2,000 inmates last year, including Braintree Council and Tendring Council. Braintree Council has confirmed it put forward the Wethersfield MOD site.

As part of a public response, Dr Scott said: “It is significant the 20 local authorities are concentrated in certain regions. If we read between the lines we can perhaps assume the next three proposed mega prisons will be located in regions that correspond with the highest prison crowding rates.”

Wethersfield is one of 12 MOD sites to be disposed of as part of the department’s plan to reduce the size of its estate by 30 per cent and has previously been considered for housing.

Graham Butland, leader of Braintree Council, said: “My personal view was that it might be a reasonable place for a prison. It’s fairly remote and it’s a brownfield site. It would create 1,000 jobs, not including construction, and the new Wrexham prison is putting in about £20 million a year into the economy, but we never heard back from the MOD or the MOJ.”

Alan Bowers, vice chairman of Wethersfield Parish Council, said: “It will be hard to tell what people will think about it. I think it’s more about the capacity, I would have thought there would be less people coming in and out than if the site was used for housing. People that work there might be interested in buying houses and there would be some employment in that, but not a vast amount.”

The Prison Service stressed that no decisions have been made on new prisons. A spokesman said: “We are investing £1.3bn to modernise the estate. This will include closing older prisons that are not for purpose and creating in their place high-quality, modern establishments.”

A spokesman for Braintree Council said: “More than a year ago the Ministry of Justice contacted us while in the process of identifying suitable sites for new prisons asking us if we had any sites which met a certain criteria. We highlighted that the Wethersfield MOD site possibly met their criteria. There has been no further communication or involvement.”


  1. This hasn't been publicised widely (from bbc wales)

    "Wrexham's new prison will accept its first inmates on 27 February, the BBC understands.
    The £212m category C "super-prison" HMP Berwyn can house 2,106 offenders, making it the largest in the UK.
    Work began on the site on the Wrexham Industrial Estate in May 2015 and recruitment has been under way for just over a year.
    The Ministry of Justice said the prison would open "at the end of February" but would not confirm an exact date."

  2. I'd be interested to know in this austere world of cuts & savings & "all in it together", just how much Grayling (& NOMS) has cost the UK taxpayer during his time at MoJ. I'm thinking of putting together a FoI request so any ideas would be welcomed. Thus far I have:

    - costs associated with redundancies & pensions for thousands of prison staff
    - costs associated with plugging the hole those redundancies left
    - costs of additional staff focused on expediting TR
    - costs of consultants for TR
    - costs associated with failed HMI Probation appointment
    - costs of new prison build programme
    - how much was actually given to CRCs from Modernisation Fund - £60M? £80M? £100M?
    - costs associated with 'book-ban-gate'
    - costs associated with rewarding NOMS management, e.g. payrise, bonus, pension enhancement
    - costs of re-branding (signage, stationery, websites, etc) associated with TR

    1. 08.18 -what about the costs involved with all the huge changes in the Probation Service. I know that the Blog today is about the prison service, but if you are calculating the cost to taxpayer of Grayling's time at MOJ, there is much more you can add about Probation- the IT system for starters.

  3. Costs of agency staffing due to increased bureaucracy. We've had very high turnover of agency staff.

  4. The Guardian:-

    Shaun Walmsley prison escape prompts call for urgent security review

    Joe Anderson, the Labour mayor of Liverpool, on Wednesday called for an urgent review into the “frightening” security breach.

    “It’s clear that it’s been planned and it’s frightening that it’s been executed. We need to get an explanation as to what security arrangements were around this prisoner and is it the right thing that during ordinary hours category A prisoners are allowed to make scheduled hospital appointments.”

    Anderson said he would ask the home secretary, Amber Rudd, to review security arrangements around category A prisoners making scheduled hospital visits.

    He added: “In view of the fact that he’s clearly had an appointment, and he’s been able to convey that to the outside world, there needs to be a review as to how much notice was given to him about his appointment.

    He said: “It’s just incredible really, unbelievable that a category A prisoner with such a history of killing would be in this position where he could plan and execute an escape, because that’s what it seems to me has gone on here.

    “We want an urgent review and I’ll be asking the home secretary to make sure there’s a review of how prisoners ... especially category A prisoners with a record of murder and gun crime, can visit, and be given notification of appointment.”

    1. "Walmsley was jailed with a 30-year tariff for killing drugs gang rival Anthony Duffy in May 2014.

      The trial heard that Duffy, 33, was "repeatedly and brutally stabbed" during a midnight attack in Aintree.

      Duffy suffered 28 wounds and died in hospital. Three other men were convicted of his murder."

      HMP Liverpool is a cat B/C prison.


    2. In my experience hospital appointments are never divulged to the prisoner or anyone else Until last minute ?

  5. Ambition 2020 Change Plan Workstream No2: Operational Reorganisation

    You will be aware that since November 2016, there has been an ongoing ACO consultation. This process has concluded and the new operational leadership structure is now in place.

    In line with our new operational model, I can confirm the following posts and successful candidates:

    · Area Manager, North East – name removed

    · Area Manager, North – name removed

    · Area Manager, North West – Vacant

    · Area Manager, South West – Vacant

    · Area Manager, South East – Vacant

    · Head of Contracts and Partnerships – name removed

    · Head of Community Payback – name removed

    · Head of Custody – Vacant

    · Head of Interventions – name removed

    · Head of Quality and Performance – name removed

    As there are four vacancies, we will shortly launch an internal recruitment process. The vacancies will be advertised in two stages. Firstly, we will seek expressions of interest for temporary promotions, and secondly, we will permanently appoint to those substantive roles. Further details will be provided shortly. We are aiming to fill all vacancies on a temporary basis by the end of March.

    Our new structure will enable effective management of teams and outputs, and monitoring of local outcomes. It will also ensure clear lines of accountability and service delivery, and help strengthen local community and partnership links.

    Name removed has kindly agreed to spend the next few months working on a special project, and during this time will report directly
    to Paul McDowell.

    Please join me in congratulating the new senior team members who will play a substantial part in implementing and embedding our new working practices.


  6. This is London update today. 15 ACOS started and now only 6 left.

  7. Ambition 2020 Change Plan Workstream No15: Recruitment

    Temporary promotion vacancies

    We have now completed the ACO consultation process and would like to invite expressions of interest for a number of temporary promotion opportunities we have across London CRC. The four
    roles are:

    · Area Manager, North West

    · Area Manager, South West

    · Area Manager, South East

    · Head of Custody.

    If you are interested in applying for these opportunities please email with your expression of interest.

    Closing date for applications is Tuesday 28 February, 9am, with interviews scheduled for the following week.

  8. And an hour later they start recruitment to posts of people they just made redundant.

    1. Using a contaminated ex-hm inspector of probation with what might be argued as a conflict of, & personal, interest in the success of CRCs as their 'consultant'. How cosy.

  9. Not humiliating, damning!!! See:
    Probation Chief Inspector: Community Sentences must improve
    By Russell Webster on Feb 22, 2017