Thursday, 23 March 2017

More On Titan Prisons

"Final decisions on the new prisons will be subject to planning approvals, as well as value for money and affordability."

Liz Truss, Ministerial Statement 22 March 2017

Here we have the view of the Howard League on the plans for Titan jails:-

The Howard League for Penal Reform has today (Wednesday 22 March) responded to the government’s plans to build four new prisons. Andrew Neilson, Director of Campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “The government is pinning a great deal of hope that its capital investment in new prisons will help to solve the current crisis behind bars, with very little evidence to support that contention. Prisons across the country are afflicted with problems of deaths, violence and drugs – modern and old alike.

“The real driver behind these new prisons will be cost. Today’s announcement confirms that the Ministry of Justice is still committed to building larger prisons which can make economies of scale, even though smaller institutions can be safer and more stable.

“Ultimately we will only transform the prison system if we do something about a prison population which has doubled in the last twenty years. Until politicians grasp the nettle that we simply jail too many people and for too long, then governments will continue to preside over prisons that shame the nation.”


Of course the whole subject of building Titan prisons has been looked at before. This from the Prison Reform Trust in 2008:-

Titan Prisons: a Gigantic Mistake

Building US style huge Titan prisons will do little, or nothing, to cut crime and instead destabilise the criminal justice system for years to come by bringing about future overcrowding crises and higher reoffending rates. In a report published today at the end of the public consultation period on Titan prisons, the Prison Reform Trust reveals that the government has no proper evidence or adequate funding for its desperate plan to build giant prisons. It points out that it is not too late to avoid a costly and damaging mistake by investing in more effective measures instead.

The report, ‘Titan prisons: a gigantic mistake’ publishes a new analysis based on data from the Chief Inspector of Prisons, comparing small and large prisons against 154 different factors used to assess safe and effective prisons.
  • In two-thirds of the factors compared (102/154), smaller prisons scored significantly better than large ones;
  • In 38 of the 102 areas, the disparity exceeded ten percentage points;
  • For 19 of the 24 factors concerning safety, small prisons scored significantly better. For example, 38 per cent of prisoners in large prisons said it was easy to obtain illegal drugs, compared to 26 per cent of prisoners in smaller prisons;
  • For resettlement, small prisons were better for 18 out of 28 compared and were worse for only one.
Plans for three Titan prisons, each holding 2,500 prisoners and with the first opening in 2012, were proposed by Lord Carter’s review of prisons and accepted by ministers in December 2007. A Ministry of Justice consultation on how Titan prisons might work was launched in June and closes today.

The report also warns the government is repeating past mistakes by prioritising prison building over tackling the underlying reasons for the rising prison population. A report published last month by the influential cross party House of Commons Justice select committee found the prisons crisis to be a direct result of the Government failing to follow its twin track strategy of reserving prison for serious and violent offenders and using community orders, rather than ineffective short prison sentences, for minor offenders.

The cost of Titan prisons is also highlighted in the report as an area of concern. Initial government statements indicated the cost of the entire prison building programme would be £1.2 billion before ministers clarified the cost would be almost double that at £2.3 billion. This excludes all associated and running costs.

The report reveals that the estimate for the construction costs of Titan prisons has already increased by 30 per cent from £350m to £450m each.

The report is heavily critical of the approach taken by Lord Carter and expresses concern that his review’s call for Titan prisons runs counter to expert advice and may have been predetermined at the outset. The report reveals that only 17 of the 51 organisations, agencies and individuals Lord Carter met during his review inquiry were consulted on Titans. Of these 9 were private companies – construction firms and private prison operators with a clear vested interest in a prison building programme. Six were government departments.

Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, accused the government of acting recklessly in an economic downturn and said:

“The government is on the verge of making a massive, costly and hugely damaging mistake that will destabilise the criminal justice system for years to come. Giant US-style prisons may be easier to build but all the evidence here and abroad says the price we would pay in running them, and in higher reoffending rates, is far too high.

“If ministers want prisons to be focused on rehabilitation, rather than warehousing offenders until they are released, then it is not too late to make these plans disappear as fast as they appeared. Ministers should look at the evidence and listen to the people who run and regulate our prisons.

“The way out of this hole is not to carrying on digging by building super-sized titan prisons in a futile attempt to catch up with rising prison numbers. Instead the billions earmarked for Titans and the massive prison building programme should be used far more effectively to resource sentencing options which would see addicts getting treatment, the mentally ill gaining access to healthcare and petty offenders doing enforced community work to pay back for the harm they have caused.”

The report sets out a range of policy measures ministers should implement immediately to relieve the pressure on places. These include:
  • a national network of police and court schemes diverting many people with mental health needs or learning disabilities away from the criminal justice system into health and social care;
  • the full and immediate implementation of the Corston review to end the unnecessary imprisonment of women for minor offences;
  • adequate funding for community orders so that the courts have confidence in their availability and effectiveness;
  • better treatment for offenders with drink or drug addictions;
  • the establishment of a Sentencing Commission based on the existing Sentencing Guidelines Council to end ‘sentence inflation’ and help call a halt to the politicisation of sentencing.

And from a House of Commons briefing paper Feb 2016:

"A consultation paper, Titan Prisons, was published in June 2008. The summary of responses was published by the MoJ in April 2009. With it came the announcement that there would be no Titan prisons. The stated reasons overlapped with the potential difficulties identified by Lord Carter, the Prison Reform Trust and others:

We have (...) come to the conclusion that the additional risk, novelty and complexity involved in building 2,500 place prisons is likely to increase the cost. In addition we believe they are unlikely to provide the correct environment in which to rehabilitate offenders.

It has, though, been suggested by some commentators that the MoJ’s volte face was in fact attributable to the recession and concerns about the difficulties in obtaining planning consents in the face of what was likely to be strong local opposition. In announcing (with some apparent reluctance) the demise of Titan prisons, Jack Straw said that the Government intended instead to build five prisons of up to 1,500 places"


  1. Ah well, at least its a few more quid for the govt's favourite construction & facilities companies and their shareholders.

  2. I've just re-read Truss's comments about the prisons programme in the context of 08:27 above, and its quite clear that she regards prisons as an 'economic lifeline'. Crime DOES pay...

    "Truss said: “This significant building programme will not only help create a modern prison estate where wholescale reform can truly take root, but will also provide a thriving, economic lifeline for the local community – creating hundreds of jobs for local people and maximising opportunities for businesses.”"

  3. This is probably where Interserve will recoup their money from after their shares crashed through the floor - never a doubt they'll get this gig - highly likely as with TR they've probably already signed on the dotted line.

  4. Every comment I read yesterday on the net about this new prison building programme referred only to the economic impact on the areas where these prisons are to be built. Local businesses, service industries, and even taxis ferrying visitors from train stations to the prison was mentioned.
    No longer will Port Talbot only have TaTa Steel to feed it's economy.
    There wasn't anything said about what impact these super gaols may have on rehabilitation or offending on a whole.
    It's my view that you can build as many prisons as you like. Build them as big as you like, but until you do that in parallel with changes to social policy, you're pissing in the wind. It's just warehousing.
    Philip Davis MP this week was calling for longer sentences and an end to early release. I don't know what qualifies him to argue that case. Prison sentences have been getting significantly longer for years now, yet the prison population still grows.
    What does it matter to someone if they get 5 years or 7 years after your first couple of weeks? It's What you've got you get on with it.
    It's the same as taking out a mortgage. Might of liked a 15 year one, but hayho it had to be a 20 year one instead. Whilst certain circumstances may cause you concern over repayments at particular times, you think in 20 year terms, that it could of been 15 years hasn't any consequence to your thinking.
    So longer sentences don't work. Bigger prisons don't work. Prison in itself doesn't work.
    Crime and reoffending is a social problem, and as such requires social solutions. There will always be a need for prisons, but not one that caters for 85,000 and rising.



    1. First-time offenders may be able to avoid a police record, as part of plans by Devon and Cornwall Police to prevent reoffending.

      A three-year deferred charging "GPS Pathfinder" pilot to be launched in June follows a similar ground-breaking scheme in Durham.

      After arrest for a low-level offence – and if the victim agrees – a first-time offender will be assessed for their suitability for the new deferred charge scheme.

      If the offender accepts the offer they will meet a key worker within 24 hours who will draw up a

      They will have to sign a binding contract which will require them to commit to:

      No reoffending during the course of the contract.
      Undergo restorative justice with any victim.
      Undergo support or help from outside agencies.
      Do 18-36 hours voluntary work within the community.
      Compliance with the contract means there will be no criminal conviction, although the offence will still appear on an enhanced DBS check.

      Any offender who does not agree to enter the GPS Pathfinder scheme or fails to stick to the terms of the contract will be taken back to court.

      They may be able to avoid a police record if they sign up to the new scheme and fully comply with it.

      Police and Crime Commissioner Alison Hernandez insisted that the new "GPS Pathfinder" deferred charging scheme was not soft on criminals.


      Blimey - this sounds a bit like old-style probation!

    2. There might be one or two old-style ex-probation staff working as key workers too!

    3. No it is not and not a chance 18:27 No tainting.

    4. Didn't Putin pilot this with DV offences recently?

  6. The Swedish idea isd that the optimum orison size is 100, any smaller and facilities and activities become impracticable.

    Scotland has probably going too small.

    Under plans unveiled by Justice Secretary Michael Matheson, a new small national prison with 80 places will be created, alongside five smaller community-based custodial units each accommodating up to 20 women across the country.

    The problem with micro prisons is facilities like a surgery will be vastly underused (you need a surgery for the local GP or else you have a lockdown because of lack of staff when you provide an escort to get the patient medically examined, access to a psychiatrist make take days leaving new intake medication. Very few activities can be offered on site but modern communications technology would allow distance learning.

    If the purpose of prisons is rehabilitation there has to be an optimum size, probably where the staff can recognise and remember all of their clients.

  7. There was a comment in the select committee blog about the loss of numbers of experienced staff. To try to quantify that observation I've done a rough calculation - in just part of one CRC area where 9 POs & 5 admin staff were jettisoned, they got rid of more than 200 years' of experience & over 25 years' investment in training.

    I wonder if anyone can get an actual figure on the nett loss of staff in the 21 CRCs since they took the reins in Feb 2015? A parliamentary question or FoI request would no doubt be stifled with "commercially sensitive" or similar stonewall response.

    1. I know of at least 9 PO's that have left Manchester CRC, its a big area and often people say such and such person has left so there could be many more. PO's are becoming as rare as hens teeth. The staff group has significantly reduced and I can see more and more people leaving, the stress levels are not manageable. It is sad to see all that experience walking away. I would also be interested in how many staff have left.

    2. An example of FoI stonewalling by MoJ:

      "Can you please tell me the costs of IT provision by Steria for
      probation services (i.e. for probation areas, probation trusts and for noms itself) in the financial years 2006/7, 2007/8, 2008/9, 2009/10, 2012/13 and 2013/14?

      Your request has been handled under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA).

      Please accept my apologies for the delay in replying. I can confirm that the department holds information that you have asked for, but in this case we will not be providing it to you as it is exempt from disclosure.

      We are not obliged to provide information relating to commercial interests. In this case, we believe that the information would, or would be likely to, prejudice the commercial interests of any person including the department who holds it (section 43(2) of the Act)."

  8. Probation Officer24 March 2017 at 08:29

    'Prison works' eh?!

  9. 3rd Deputy Director of London CRC announced. In addition to Helga, Paul and John who are all prison people we now also have Emily Martin who was DG at Wormwood Scrubs.
    The entire place is going to be run like a prison.

  10. How about improving the conditions in existing prisons rather than covering up the diabolical state of U.K prisons. I hear it from the newly released. If true 5 deaths in Bristol prison since October 2016. 3 suicides and 2 possible murders. In last few weeks an inmate set upon by 2 cell mates who stamped on his head and left him in a pool of blood because he owed £8 drug debt. Can anyone corroborate this? Inhuman to lock up 3 people in the same cell, always the risk of 2 against 1. Not all cells have a toilet and men waiting up to an hour to be escorted to the loo. Some resorting to going in the bin. This is inhuman treatment and we can't wait for prisons to be built. Something needs to be done now.

  11. Has anyone else noticed the newly created 'managerial' posts created within NPS. What about the front line where we keep hearing the jobs are needed but I have never seen so many managerial jobs created - it seems there are now 3 managers to 1 PO on the front line. This is totally farcical. No disrespect intended to CRC colleagues with this post as can only speak for NPS but it just seems to me there are a lot of management roles being created to the detriment of front line. CRC and NPS really need to be working together - Nice one Grayling - you buffoon