Thursday, 12 October 2017

No More Prison Closures

It would appear that someone in authority has woken up to the fact that prison numbers are rising and we're running out of places to hold them. This from the Guardian:-

Closures of ageing jails on hold for five years as prison numbers soar

The head of the prison service has ruled out any closures over the next five years, shelving a 2017 Conservative manifesto pledge to shut down and sell off dilapidated Victorian jails across England and Wales.

Michael Spurr, the head of Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation service, has said it had been an “incredibly difficult” summer after an unexpected summer surge in prisoner numbers to a record 86,000 prisoners, and further rises forecast to come. “I anticipate that we won’t close any prisons this parliament,” Spurr told the annual conference of the prison governors’ association in Derby on Wednesday.

It is now expected that Hindley young offenders’ institution and prison in Wigan, and Rochester jail in Kent, both of which had been earmarked for redevelopment, will now remain open. Home Office plans were also revealed this week to turn the Verne immigration detention centre in Dorset back into use as a prison, reducing its capacity by 20%. 
Spurr said plans to provide 10,000 extra prison spaces this parliament were still on track, with the 2,100-place HMP Berwyn in Wales opening in phases.

Michael Gove made a high profile pledge when he was justice secretary to close “ageing and ineffective” Victorian inner city jails. The revival of longterm “new for old” plans was enshrined in the latest Tory manifesto, which promised to “invest over £1bn to modernise the prison estate, replacing the most dilapidated prisons and creating 10,000 modern prison places”. It now seems likely that manifesto pledge will be abandoned.

Spurr said Ministry of Justice officials were “still trying to understand” the reasons behind the surge in the prison population between May and August this year, when it went up by 1,200. He told the prison governors he had never known the jail population to rise by so much in such a short space of time. “It did shock us through the summer,” he said.

Officials believe the unexpected rise might have involved a number of factors, including major court cases finishing and changes to police bail arrangements. The unforeseen surge in prison numbers was accompanied by a sharp upwards revision of prison population projections. Prisoner numbers are expected to hit 88,000 by March 2022.

The former director general of the prison service, Phil Wheatley, told the Guardian in August that the summer surge in numbers was adding to the pressures on a jail system that was “already woefully short of space” and subject to frequent riots that took out cell spaces. He said the rise in jail numbers had “more or less wiped out” the value of a boost in the number of prison officers and prevented the closure of older jails.

Meanwhile, the chief inspector of prisons has revealed that substantial numbers of convicted sex offenders who have been sent to a Yorkshire prison with problems with violence in order to “stabilise it” have not been provided with adequate programmes to challenge their offending.

Peter Clarke said that over the course of the past year number of sex offenders held at Doncaster prison had trebled as part of a deliberate policy in order to help to stabilise the prison because of the serious problems with violence. He said that while levels of violence had been reduced they were still too high and came about at the expense of the rehabilitative needs of the sex offenders. The prison service confirmed that decision to increase the number of sex offenders at the Serco-run prison was not national policy but part of a local strategy to improve stability at the jail. A new specific houseblock with a regime for sex offenders had been opened.

Probation officers will be able to impose new licence conditions on prisoners leaving jails including bans on alcohol, gambling and access to online content, under changes announced by the prisons minister Sam Gyimah on Thursday. He said those who failed to stick to the tailored restrictions could find themselves recalled to jail.


Meanwhile Tornado teams had to deal with trouble at another prison overnight, possibly linked to the recently-introduced smoking ban. This from the BBC website:- 

Long Lartin: Prison staff 'attacked with pool balls'

Staff were attacked with pool balls during a disturbance at a high-security prison, the BBC understands. Up to 80 inmates at HMP Long Lartin in Worcestershire became violent, forcing staff to retreat, a source said. BBC home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw said he understood about 10 "Tornado teams" of riot officers were sent to the prison on Wednesday.

The Prison Service said the incident had been "successfully resolved" by Thursday morning. No staff or inmates were injured, it said. "We do not tolerate violence in our prisons, and are clear that those responsible will be referred to the police and could spend longer behind bars," it added.

Our correspondent said there had previously been serious violence in local and training prisons, but to have a disturbance like this at a high-security jail would cause alarm at the MoJ. He said staff on E wing had retreated and it had been secured, so the troublemakers could not go elsewhere. There were also reports of a separate protest elsewhere in the jail, our correspondent said. The disturbance followed riots at a number of jails in recent years, including Lewes, Bedford, Birmingham and Swaleside.


Any disturbance at a prison is worrying, but at Long Lartin it's particularly worrying. It's one of the highest-security prisons in England and Wales; two-thirds of the inmates are serving life sentences. Normally the higher staffing ratios and older age of the prisoners means you get less trouble. But like all prisons, Long Lartin has suffered cuts and has lost a fifth of its staff.

HMP Long Lartin is a maximum security jail which also holds up to 622 male inmates. The category A prison has housed a number of high-profile inmates, including radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza and murderer Christopher Halliwell. Four prisoners have been killed at the jail in the last four years. Child murderer Subhan Anwar was strangled in 2013, while killer John York was beaten to death in his cell in 2015. In June 2016, Sidonio Eugenio Teixeira was killed using a rock wrapped in a pair of socks. Two inmates who murdered a fellow prisoner were jailed for life last month.

An inspection report published in 2014 described a "calm, well controlled prison". "But, while violence and bullying were few, there continued to be some very serious incidents," it added.


  1. The only way to solve the problem is to lock up Lidington, Giymah and Spurr in one of the worst prisons on 22 hour lockdown and leave them there until they are motivated to actually addrtess the issues and make the necessary changes

    1. "this managerial nonsense known as transforming rehabilitation"

    2. Early release won’t cure a prison service that has become a national disgrace

      Andrea Albutt, president of the Prison Governors Association, deserves huge credit for ending the organisation’s long, agreeable slumber. Under her watch, it has issued increasingly alarmed dispatches to ministers from the frontline, where her members preside over institutions awash with drugs and violence, denuded of staff and, as she puts it, “full to bursting”.

      Overcrowding in prisons is an affront to decency, an engine of disorder and a remarkably stupid way to prepare prisoners for a useful life after release. It’s also an incredibly stressful and downright dangerous environment for staff. This week Albutt essentially called for ministers to grow a pair: to ease the pressure through some form of executive early release of prisoners, regardless of the political consequences.

      Politics aside, there are two problems with this. First, executive release undermines the rule of law and victims’ confidence in the system. I do not believe that magistrates are sending people to prison unnecessarily. In my own experience I have seen sentencers make heroic efforts to spare offenders custody. Sometimes custodial sentences are the only option available to give communities a rest from prolific offenders who wreak havoc. We often lose sight of the fact that short-term custody, when the conditions are right, can provide a place of safety and structure for chaotic offenders to address their problems and access services.

      The second problem with executive release is the current state of the probation system, which would have to cope with a significant increase in workload at a time when it is already struggling to cope. The service has been hollowed out and broken up by a series of ill-conceived and unnecessary reforms.

      The impact of this managerial nonsense, known officially as Transforming Rehabilitation, is laid bare by successive damning reports by the chief inspector of probation, Dame Glenys Stacey. Performance has dipped sharply across the country and places such as London are, according to her, more at risk as a result of an inability to monitor minor offenders. The system is already failing to safeguard the community, and executive release would only magnify this problem.

      In the long term we need to wean ourselves off our addiction to locking people up cheaply. This, coupled with remote and incompetent corporate management of the prison system, has created the human disaster described so vividly in this week’s highly critical report by the chief inspector of prisons, Peter Clarke, on living conditions in Britain’s prisons.

      Locking two people up in a crumbling prison cell built for one for sometimes 22 hours a day, and forcing them to defecate inches from where they sleep and eat, is not only demeaning, it is actively driving prisoners to drugs (in one prison easier to get hold of than soap) as a means to escape boredom and squalor. We desperately need to create alternatives to this sort of custody which command public confidence and help rescue the potential of those who offend against us. But you just can’t do that with a Poundland criminal justice system.

      Albutt is right, however, that urgent and decisive action is required. We must create a surge of prison officers to take back large parts of our prison estate that have become effectively lawless. Nothing hopeful can be built in places where there is no safety and where the state is routinely humiliated. Nothing.

    3. The Ministry of Justice ought to exercise some humility and admit frontline staff cuts went far too far. It should issue a plea for a national reserve taskforce to be created from recently departed staff, augmented as a last resort by the military if this is necessary, and go in to regain control of our most disordered prisons.

      When you restore order, you restore predictability. Regimes can run again. Services to prisoners can be delivered, and personal security improved. Relationships between staff and prisoners also improve, and rehabilitation becomes a reality instead of the current darkly comic abstraction.

      Contrary to popular belief, most prisoners want the staff to be in charge and most prisoners, given the right support, can change their lives. Ungoverned spaces where the drugs subculture is now firmly entrenched must be reclaimed.

      Prisons can and should be places of hope and transformation. Even in these acutely difficult times, against the odds, some prisons are doing just that. But all too often our jails – and jailers – are broken. In the end we need significantly more staff, or significantly fewer prisoners. The status quo is untenable. Something has to give.

      • Ian Acheson, a former prison governor, led the 2016 independent review of Islamist extremism in prisons, probation and the youth justice system

  2. I've just noticed this little snippet and my initial instinct is that such a move will only increase the number of recalls to prison for non compliance of condition.
    Wondering what those in the know might think?


    1. Criminals could be barred from drinking alcohol or gambling after they are freed from prison under a new drive to tackle re-offending.

      For the first time, probation officers will be able to impose tailored restrictions on individuals released on licence. The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said conditions could include a ban on alcohol, gambling or access to online content. Those who fail to comply with requirements face being brought back to custody.

      Probation Minister Sam Gyimah said:"We are committed to improving the supervision of those on probation and challenging offenders to reform and lead law-abiding lives on release. We want to ensure that more intensive rehabilitation takes place in the community and it is vital that probation staff have the tools they need to work with offenders to help them integrate safely back into society. These new measures will help to protect the public and tackle the issues that lead offenders to commit crime."

      Licence conditions are put in place when an offender is released from custody as a way of preventing them from committing further crime. Until now, the range of conditions that can be imposed come from a standard list. They can include living at a specified address, a ban on travel abroad without permission or not making contact with a named person.

      The changes, which will be underpinned by a statutory instrument to be laid in Parliament on Thursday, mean prison and probation staff will also have the power to target a specific issue that may increase the risk of an offender committing crime.

      Additional licence conditions will be applied on a case-by-case basis where the standard requirements are deemed insufficient to ensure the individual's successful integration into the community, prevent re-offending or to ensure the protection of the public.

      Officials said evidence of breaches could be drawn from sources such as questioning during supervision meetings, an offender coming to the attention of local police or information from the community making its way back to the offender management officer.

      The new measures form part of efforts to bring down re-offending rates estimated to cost society £15 billion every year. The MoJ said alcohol is a "known factor" in re-offending for some individuals.

      From January to March, 5,347 offenders in England and Wales were recalled for breaching the terms of their licence.

    2. Oh good god when will Giymah shut up. Nothing the man does or says addresses a single problem plaguing prisons or probation at the moment

  3. Desperate times calls for desperate measures, but this must be as desperate as it can get.
    From the BBC website.

    Hundreds of alleged or convicted sex offenders have been placed in a prison to tackle high levels of violence, a report has found.
    Inspectors said the "deliberate policy" was aimed at "stabilising" the population at privately-run HMP Doncaster.
    This had been done without adequate measures to support the men and the risk they pose, the report said.
    Serco said staff had worked hard to address complex challenges.
    The Prison Officers Association said increasing the number of sex offenders in jails could help reduce violence because they largely had a less volatile temperament towards staff and other inmates compared to prisoners with non-sexual offences
    At the time of the inspection in July the number of men on remand for, or convicted of sex offences had trebled to just over 300.
    The chief inspector of prisons, Peter Clarke, said this increase meant "in effect, this large cohort of men was being denied the opportunity to make progress".
    He said a strategy was needed that "clearly identifies how men convicted of a sexual offence will be offender managed".
    The HM Inspectorate of Prisons report found levels of violence at the jail had reduced sharply but still remained high.
    It highlighted that poor behaviour from inmates often went unchallenged but said the jail was "more stable" overall compared with a previous inspection in 2015.
    The Ministry of Justice confirmed that HMP Doncaster was chosen as a suitable prison to hold an increased number of sex offenders.
    Jerry Spencer, Serco contract director at HMP Doncaster, said a "great deal" had been achieved but added: "We know there is much more still to do."

  4. It's just a plot to decimate the sex offender cohort by having the violence turn on them as it's well known that sex offenders are more at risk of attack in prison than other types of prisoner

  5. Apparently, according to Sam G, the governments manifesto commitment to closing outdated Victorian prisons during this current Parliament is still on.
    Must not be talking to Michael S, because he said the opposite yesterday as today's blog post confirms.

    1. The future of Dartmoor Prison has been thrown into further doubt

      Confusion surrounds the future of Dartmoor Prison, which has been earmarked for closure, after bosses reportedly said “we won’t close any prisons this Parliament”.

      Dartmoor Prison, at Princetown, was singled out by the Ministry of Justice as being too old and costly to run sustainably, four years ago. And at that time, the Government warned the 200-year-old category C facility could be closed within a decade.

      Its likely closure was further cemented in 2015 when the Government ministers announced plans to replace the country’s “outdated Victorian” jails as part of a major investment in the prison estate.

      But fresh doubt has been cast on the move after HM Prison and Probation Service chief executive Michael Spurr was reported to have told a conference he anticipated “we won’t close any prisons this Parliament”.

      The Tories pledged at the election to invest £1 billion in developing the prison estate, including replacing the “most dilapidated” jails and creating 10,000 “modern” prison places.

      Justice Minister Sam Gyimah faced calls from Labour to apologise for shelving a general election campaign promise. The issue was discussed during an urgent question in the Commons about yesterday’s disturbance at HMP Long Lartin.

      Shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon raised Mr Spurr’s remarks as he questioned whether the Government’s approach to prisons improves or worsens safety.

      He said: “Yesterday the head of the Prison Service ruled out shutting down and selling off dilapidated Victorian jails across England and Wales. This amounts to a shelving of a 2017 Conservative general election promise.

      “So does the minister believe that housing more and more people in Victorian conditions will leave our prisons more safe or less safe? Will the Government apologise to the country for yet another broken election manifesto promise?”

      Mr Gyimah repeated the question asking about the commitment to close down Victorian prisons before stating: “That remains so within the course of this Parliament.

      “Of course our first priority is to make sure that we are in a position to provide accommodation for all those sentenced by the courts to ensure public protection, but that commitment still very much remains the case.”

      Dartmoor Prison, which is leased from the Duchy of Cornwall, has the capacity for up to 660 inmates and employs some 300 people from the surrounding area. It also draws a large number of tourists every year – a key source of income for local business.

      “If the prison were to close potentially there could be a major effect on the economy of the village itself,” Devon county councillor Philip Sanders said when the closure was first mooted. “And of course even if it were to close, no one has said what it might become.

      “We are very fortunate to live in a part of the country where unemployment is not at the same level as elsewhere. But that doesn’t mean it will be easy for people to find alternative employment.”

  6. For fucks sake! How about putting some more controls on the betting and gambling companies who make so many peoples lives a misery or limiting sales of alcohol. Could start by banning its sale in garages for a start. Online gambling and gambling cafes etc are an absolute blight. Why not punish the 'pushers'? Also on the same note why not do something to prevent prisons being 'concerned in the supply of drugs'?.We all know they are and that they turn a blind eye to drug dealing within their walls..get real!

    1. In full agreement 18:01

      Just like those with drug addictions, people with alcohol and gambling rooted offending cannot be deterred by telling them that if they do it again they'll end up in trouble maybe even go to prison too.
      I don't believe that even those at the MoJ are silly enough to think that Imposing licence conditions of not to do something will reduce reoffending.
      How can it be policed to start with?
      If what's said in interview can be used to support a breach, will probation have to start recording interviews?
      If someones caught drinking or gambling when their licence says there not to, what will they say to the magistrate?
      "I relapsed. I wanted to ask my probation officer for help, but I was frightened I'd be sent to prison".
      And what does the probation officer do when someone commits an SFO thats related to alcohol or gambling when it was the Probation officer that imposed the licence condition?
      "please explain why you thought something was serious enough to make it a licence condition, but haven't done anything else to prevent this SFO?"
      I think personally it will drive a further wedge into the relationship between client and supervisor and only achieve pushing their problems further underground which helps no-one.
      I think it's an all round bad idea, but I'm willing to be convinced otherwise.


  7. Justice Committee launches TR inquiry:

    1. This simplistic explanation still annoys me.

      The National Probation Service (NPS)—handle high risk offenders (the NPS is a public body); and
      Community Rehabilitation Centres (CRCs)—of which there are 21 across England and Wales—handle low and medium risk offenders and services are delivered by private or third sector organisations (eight private organisations run the 21 CRCs).

      This is inaccurate and misleading. Yes, the NPS deals with all offenders assessed as presenting a high risk of serious harm at the time of sentence or if the level of risk increases to high during the sentence. If the risk reduces to medium, the case remains with NPS. They also deal with anyone convicted of a violent or sexual offence with a custodial element of a sentence of 12 months or more, any registered sex offender, any foreign national at risk of deportation and any high public interest case, whatever the level of risk of harm. The CRC gets everything else.