Friday, 13 October 2017

Something's In The Air

Regular readers will not be surprised to hear that I often have periods when I think I'm wasting my time with this blog. "It's all been said; the end is nigh; nobody is listening; nothing can be done; etc etc.," but then suddenly the heavenly bodies seem to align as if by some mysterious force and you get the distinct feeling something's definitely in the air. Here's the BBC's Danny Shaw writing a few hours ago:-  

Ex-prisoners lack support, says probation head

Too many prisoners leaving jail are merely being "signposted" towards rehabilitation services, the head of the Probation Service has admitted.

Michael Spurr said a new system of offender supervision in England and Wales "wasn't working" as it should. Low and medium risk offenders are monitored by staff from 21 community rehabilitation companies (CRCs). Managers involved say the system doesn't provide firms with enough incentives to tackle re-offending.

Mr Spurr addressed the issue at the annual conference of the Prison Governors Association near Derby, where one governor told him that 200 prisoners had been freed from the jail he runs with "next to nil" resettlement provision. Mr Spurr responded: "CRCs are not working as we would have wanted them to work," adding that for many there was only a "basic resettlement service" available for offenders. "Basic signposting is what's going on in a lot of places," he admitted.

The system was introduced by Chris Grayling, when he was justice secretary, to reduce re-offending rates among the 270,000 people who are released from prison each year or serving community sentences. For the first time, inmates let out after serving terms of less than 12 months were also subject to monitoring.

A new state body, the National Probation Service (NPS), was set up to supervise offenders assessed as posing a high risk of harm, with CRCs responsible for the rest, from 2015. Although the NPS is considered to be performing satisfactorily, there are huge difficulties at the CRCs. In a highly critical speech last month, Dame Glenys Stacey, the Chief Inspector of Probation, said: "Although there are exceptions, the community rehabilitation companies... are not generally producing good quality work, not at all."

Dame Glenys said new ways of managing offenders had "largely stalled", there'd been little "meaningful" improvement in helping prisoners resettle on release and less involvement by charities and voluntary groups than expected. "We often find nowhere near enough purposeful activity or targeted intervention or even plain, personal contact," she concluded.

There appear to be three underlying causes. First, the speed of the reforms. Mr Grayling wanted the plans to be embedded by the time of the 2015 general election to make it near-impossible for Labour to scrap them, should they be elected. That meant replacing 35 probation trusts with a part-privatised system within two years - without any pilot scheme.

Jacob Tas, chief executive of Nacro, a crime reduction charity which has a "strategic partnership" with the private firm Sodexo in six CRC areas, said that was a mistake, given the upheaval that had resulted. "If you engage with this size of change, from my experience it's a good idea to test it out first and see and then learn and then make it better."

The second reason concerns the CRCs' contracts. They're required to hit 24 performance targets relating, for example, to the timely completion of reports, but only 10% of their predicted payments depend on cutting re-offending. 

"We're hitting our target but maybe missing the point," said Chris Wright, chief executive of Catch 22, a charity which is sub-contracted by three CRCs to work with offenders. He said ministers had put an "industry of bureaucracy" in place to keep companies under control. "In a classic government way, they think the best way of holding people to account is by building a bureaucracy which ultimately takes you away from doing the things that really matter," said Mr Wright.

It was a concern Mike Trace had when the charity he's in charge of, the Forward Trust, was bidding for CRC contracts. "What became clear through the process is the innovation and the creativity to reduce re-offending was less important than the legal and financial risks or benefits," said Mr Trace. His organisation, then known as the Rehabilitation for Addicted Prisoners Trust (Rapt), withdrew from competing for contracts. "I've got to say we were quite relieved not to be awarded any because they look to me to be misdirected and wrongly shaped," he said.

Thirdly, the way the payment mechanism for the CRCs was designed has left them with higher costs and lower income than they expected, leaving resources thinly stretched. As a result, the government has adjusted the contracts, paying the CRCs extra money, which the Ministry of Justice said would amount to an additional £277m over seven years. Over a decade, the maximum potential value of the contracts is put at £6.5bn.

Michael Spurr said taxpayers would still end up paying less for probation than they did before the Grayling reforms, but after his acknowledgment of how "basic" the service is in many areas, some may question whether it's providing value for their money.


This from the Independent:-

Criminals could be banned from drinking after they are released from prison

'At a time when prisons are full to bursting, expanding the channels back into custody even further seems frankly barmy,' says reform campaigner

Former prisoners could be barred from drinking alcohol after their release from custody under new measures aimed at reducing reoffending rates. The proposals would give probation officers across the country, the power to enforce tailored restrictions on criminals when they are released. They would be allowed to ban prisoners from drinking alcohol, gambling or accessing online content. Breaching the rules could result in their recall to jail.

“We are committed to improving the supervision of those on probation and challenging offenders to reform and lead law abiding lives on release," said Probation Minister Sam Gyimah. He said that the measures would help ensure more "intensive rehabilitation" took place in the community, adding they would help to "protect the public and tackle the issues that lead offenders to commit crime."

But prison reform campaigners condemned the move as "frankly barmy". Shadow Justice Secretary Richard Burgon said the government's privatisation of the probation service had created a "crisis" in the sector and it was already failing to fulfil its existing duties.

"These measures will not address the root cause of this failure," he said. "In recent weeks the government has been forced to admit that it has handed tens of millions more to these failing private probation companies.This is further rewarding failure at a time when violent reoffending rates are up and as offenders struggle to get access to the basic services, such as housing and employment, needed to help them leave behind a life of crime." He added that under a Labour government "no option will remain off the table" in restoring the probation service, including renationalising the sector.

The numbers of prisoners surged over the summer to a record 86,000, with projections that numbers could reach 88,000 by March 2022. Prisons across the UK have experienced increased volatility in recent months, prompting growing calls for the Government to reduce the number of prisoners. The Prison Governors' Association said a riot at high-security Long Lartin prison earlier this week should set "ringing alarm bells at the most senior level". Inmates reportedly attacked officers with pool balls during the incident.

Responding to the new measures, Andrew Neilson, Director of Campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “At a time when prisons are full to bursting and the numbers of people being recalled behind bars are already rising fast, expanding the channels back into custody even further seems frankly barmy, The Ministry of Justice has clearly failed to think this one through."

He added that the criminal justice system was not the best place to treat alcohol and gambling addiction, and "misguided efforts" such as an alcohol ban would only set more people up to fail. “Our prediction is that recalls will soar and reoffending will not fall [after the powers are granted to probation officers]. Instead, a criminal justice system that is eating itself will just get bigger and the crisis in prisons and probation will only worsen," he said.


  1. Jacob Tas, chief executive of Nacro, a crime reduction charity which has a "strategic partnership" with the private firm Sodexo in six CRC areas, said that was a mistake, given the upheaval that had resulted. "If you engage with this size of change, from my experience it's a good idea to test it out first and see and then learn and then make it better."

    Oh Mr Tas, if only you had been strong & not let the McDowells lead you into making such a mistake!

  2. "Give the CRCs more of our money so they can employ more professionals"

    But Dame Glenys, the Govt gave them £80m to GET RID of those professionals...

    1. Yeah because , the ones they got rid of were not the sort of professionals they wanted at all. The sort of "professionals" they want now are the experts in making nothing look like something. The London CRC who struggle to recruit the robots they now need to carry out their nothing tasks for their nothing company have decided to build up their management structure further by appointing partnership, intervention and performance quality managers for each of their 4 LDUs. That appears to be how they are spending the extra money they received from the government. What these new managers would be doing is not entirely clear to me I will admit. But my experience is that managers delegate, tell their underlings what to do and give them tasks. What a good thing we at the receiving end are just robots and not professionals.

    2. Yet another chance to share my favourite Andrew Selous quote from Hansard written answers:

      "Under the enhanced voluntary redundancy scheme opened in advance of the transition of the Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) to new providers, probation staff were able to apply for voluntary redundancy on the basis that they would leave the service by 31 March 2016. The total cost of these redundancies was £16.4m. All remaining Modernisation Fund monies were awarded to CRCs. Redundancy funding was allocated pro-rata to CRCs based on their size and estimated future staffing requirements.
      As stated in my answer to questions 900, 898, 902 and 901, we have no plans to reclaim any monies allocated to CRCs from the Modernisation Fund; and consequently there have been no discussions with CRCs about this. Contract Management Teams are embedded in each CRC, closely monitoring how all monies are used and robust processes are in place to ensure all expenditure is correctly spent."

      Or "here's a shitload of public money to pay off the staff your business model says are excess to requirement; but in reality you can use it for whatever you want because we just need this TR thing to get going. As long as you reward the collaborators who helped us crash this thing through (£16.4m to ex Chiefs, Chairs, senior lickspittles) you can do what you like."

    3. Lickspittles is a good word to choose but I do prefer Flying Monkeys.

  3. Mr Spur says it is not working as it should. I would say it is not working at all. I must admit that I too am vaguely encouraged by the attention gradually given to certain issues such as the cruel benefit system, housing, the ridiculousness of the current government. I am half thinking that these issues now get the treatment from the media and that government figures are now willing to talk about anything at all as long as we can all be distracted from what is happening with Brexit. But who cares why. Still, from talking to action there can still be a long way to go.

    1. Sept 2012:

      "Closure announced as prison capacity under review

      Kenneth Clarke, the then Secretary of State for Justice announced the closure of HMP Welllingborough earlier this summer.
      The decision to close the prison was made because there are too many unfilled places within the estate. HMP Wellingborough, with 588 places, was selected after a thorough evaluation of all establishments taking into account age and economic factors, such as operating costs, outstanding maintenance issues, location and strategic function across the estate.
      Announcing the decision Kenneth Clarke said: “While the prison population rose as a result of last summer’s civil disturbances, since
      April it has been falling. Coupled with new modern prison places at HMP Oakwood and HMP Thameside which began to come on stream earlier in the year, we now have an opportunity to close some more prison places.”
      Michael Spurr, NOMS Chief Executive Officer, said: “We must continue to look at ways to operate as efficiently and effectively as possible. The prison population has settled at levels that mean we have headroom in the estate. The financial reality is that HMP Wellingborough requires up to £50m of investment to maintain operations at acceptable levels for an extended period.”
      It is expected the prison will close without any compulsory redundancies."

  4. I struggled with allowing probation to add license conditions yesterday. Particularly as the examples given pertained more (in my opinion) to health and social welfare issues then criminal justice issues.
    But I'm now coming around to the idea that it's really an attempt to force a far greater relationship between probation services and the third sector.


  5. Is the Panama programme on Monday regional? I've tried to set a reminder but it says Panama how safe is your operation.


    1. The government have closed the doors of Walton prison to new inmates because it is full, the ECHO has learned.

      It emerged that HMP Liverpool wasn’t accepting new inmates after court officials at Liverpool Crown Court were told on Thursday they would have to rely on other local prisons to house newly convicted criminals. The Department of Justice say that the closure is a temporary measure while the Prison Service carry out renovations and maintenance at the 162-year-old jail.

      The news that some of the cells are closed comes just days after the prison regulator revealed the grim conditions at HMP Liverpool. Photographs released by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons showed graffiti-plastered walls and a shower area where an electric cable was hanging exposed from the ceiling. Litter was strewn across walkways and one image even showed a cockroach.

      A Prison Service spokesperson told the ECHO: “We will always have enough places across the estate for offenders committed to custody by the courts. HMP Liverpool is operating at capacity while maintenance work is carried out on a number of cells. This is a temporary measure and are number of other local prisons have space to take offenders in the meantime.”

      Just last week an investigation was launched after Carl Newman , a prisoner at HMP Liverpool, died at the jail. The prison, which is the second largest in the North West, has eight wings, all of which are currently full. When operating at full capacity it is home to 1,222 people who have been convicted of a crime or are on remand awaiting trial.

      The prison doesn’t just serve the Merseyside courts but houses people sentenced in courts in Wigan and Blackburn as well.


  8. Victoria Derbyshire this morning apparently. Will be about failing CRC's. Catch on I player. Yes, The truth always comes out in the end!

  9. Liverpool prison forced to close doors to newly sentenced prisoners because it is named and shamed..however there are many more similar or worse. So will the others also do the same? I think they should. It is the only way to force change.

  10. Grayling, NOMS & co: TR is a great idea

    Almost everyone else: No it isn't

    Grayling, NOMS & co: I'll prove it

    Almost everyone else: Please don't bother

    Grayling, NOMS & co: I'm in charge. Its a great business model. It'll cut unnecessary staff numbers, punish the bad people & save millions of pounds for the taxpayer.

    Greedy Multinationals: Hi there Chris. Here are our business plans, just give us guaranteed returns for the duration of the contract & an unconditional pile of money up front.

    Grayling, NOMS & co: See!! Its a great idea.

    Two years later [Grayling is no longer available]...

    Michael Spurr [NOMS/HMPPS] said a new system of offender supervision in England and Wales "wasn't working" as it should... one governor told him that 200 prisoners had been freed from the jail he runs with "next to nil" resettlement provision. Mr Spurr responded: "CRCs are not working as we would have wanted them to work"

    Greedy Multinationals: "the system doesn't provide firms with enough incentives to tackle re-offending."


  11. The blog references The Forward Trust which was known as RAPT.
    Guess who is now calling the shots there?
    John Biggin. The former Serco prison boss who ended up working at London CRC under Helga Swidenbank and Paul McDowell.
    Small world.

  12. Someone who used to be an ACO at London CRC posted this on social media. Sounds like London Probation has an interesting history. She no longer works for probation and it's about a Guardian article on Harvey Weinstein.

    How many of us - women and men - can read this and say I've always called out people who've sexually harassed others? I can think of several times in my working life when I've seen things, heard things that I now wish I could go back and make a fuss about. But I was young, there was a power imbalance, there were too many perceived risks.
    And I can also recall many times women have warned me about men I may be working with and many times I've given such warnings to female colleagues, normally those younger than me or with less power/authority.
    I consider myself so fortunate to work where I do now, but I think back to places I've worked before and people I've worked with, and there is so much I wish I could change.
    If you are currently a bystander in a situation you know is not right, reach out and speak up. Your voice may be the one that makes a massive difference.

    1. I blew the whistle loudly & persistently on more than one sexually predatory, white, male manager in our organisation. Every single time I ended up under investigation for some fabricated, alleged "sackable offence" or other. They eventually manufactured a scenario that made it impossible for me. My union rep (napo) told me to "throw myself at the mercy of the tribunal & mitigate the damage". I told the rep to go fuck themself. I stood & gave the tribunal full disclosure of the history of events then left.

      I doubt much, if anything, has changed for the better.

    2. it hasn't :(

  13. I think women have been conditioned to believe they are somehow to blame for their harassment and abuse by colleages. It is sad that so little has changed over the past 30 or 40 years. Things I have tried to put aside about my own experiences but still feel angry about. Working as a residential worker and seeing my manager literally pull open a social workers blouse saying 'lets see more'. My fist ever job in a bail hostel at 23 and a colleage giving me a lift to bus stoo saying 'I just need to pick something up from home, come in while I find it'. Then realising what he was up to and managing to get out if danger by looking at photo of his wife and saying 'your wife is lovely, you must be really proud of her'. Older and wiser I was 29 when I became a probation officer. Ok, things were better but I still remember an SPO who had a 'reputation' and my colleage telling me he had 'turned up at my house unexpectedly but left when my dog growled at him' or his belittling me infront of colleages and then creepily buying me red roses at work! Or probation officers who were having relationship with the student probation officer whom they were practice PO for. Or a PO sexually harassing a colleage and her being told ' it's not his fault as he jas mental health problems'. So you see, no profession is immune and needs to look very closely at itself and how it helps women to feel safe and empowered.

    1. By the way..I will add that I did give evidence against the manager who assaulted the social worker. There was actually another male person in the room who would have witnessed the assault but conveniently said he 'was too absorbed in paperwork to notice anything'. The old boys club sticking together. So I sat in the hearing and gave evidence while he smirked at me. I am glad I did it to this day as I can live with my conscience. Part of the problem in my view is other men who cover up for these predators. So please, don't leave it all to the victims..don't be part of the boys club, support victims of harassment at work and speak out. You may find it difficult but not as difficult as living with your conscience if you don't.

    2. An important message. Thank you.

  14. And let us not forget the employed DV perps.

  15. Now a fifth death at HMP Nottingham in the space of one month.

    1. Nottingham Prison: Fifth inmate dies in a month

      A fifth inmate has died at Nottingham Prison in the space of a month, it has been confirmed. On Thursday it emerged four prisoners had died in four weeks, described by officials as three suicides and one drug-related. The Ministry of Justice named the latest deceased as Marc Maltby, 23, but did not give any further details. It said investigations by the independent Prisons and Probation Ombudsman were ongoing.

      The category B prison holds about 1060 inmates.
      Calendar years 2013-16 each saw three deaths, while 2007 to 2009 saw none. The previous highest numbers of deaths since 2000 was five in 2004. In July, an Independent Monitoring Boards (IMB) report said the prison had a problem with violence and drugs.
      During the year up to February, there were 199 assaults on staff, 457 prisoner on prisoners attacks and 82 fires.

      A Prison Service spokesperson said: "HMP Nottingham is working closely with health colleagues to increase the support available to vulnerable prisoners and are increasing staffing levels which will boost safety and stability at the prison."

  16. The number of suicides in our prisons is nothing short of a national scandal. Who are they and why do their tragic deaths illicit so little public sympathy? There needs to be an immediate public investigation into deaths in our prisons. 4 homeless people die in Bristol too over recent space of time. Spice being implicated..same in the prisons. Desperation, humiliation, loss of hope ans spice and no onw to care and thwre you have it.

  17. As someone who has left it often amazes me how much I could have earned by returning on a temp contract, locally as well, earning £25 to 27 per hour. The agency concerned would have taken a cut, the CRC would have taken a profit out of my labour and if I wanted to set myself up as a private limited company and employed an accountant, who would have taken his cut, then my tax liability would also have been cut (let some other bugger pay their taxes for my service). Some people seem to think this is good, dynamic, gig economy, the future. All I want is to earn a half decent living doing work I can believe in and that has integrity, a profession. Some people don't seem to think that is good. I don't mind people who bring a product to market that people want and is at an affordable price who then make a gazillion pounds, good on them. I do mind everyone taking a cash dividend out of public services and running them down. I think that is bad.

    1. Well said Anon at 23.12.

      Meanwhile I briefly thought today, or yesterday actually, may have been the day probation began to find its way again.

      Featured in BBC news at 6am BUT gone by midnight.

      Now maybe Panorama on Monday will bring us to the fore again.

      Note the MOJ ministers have been stum despite Spurr outing the truth at the Prison Governors Association this week. Well done BBC for at least reporting that.