Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Dartmoor and Resettlement

Flagged-up by a reader yesterday and reported here in the Guardian, there are serious problems with resettlement in a far-flung part of the prison empire:-  

Dartmoor prisoners 'being released without proper preparation'

Hundreds of high-risk prisoners, many of them sex offenders, are being released each year from Dartmoor prison without proper preparation, in a “shocking and unacceptable” public protection failing identified by the chief inspector of prisons. Peter Clarke said more than 200 men had been released from one of Britain’s oldest prisons in the past 12 months, and an even higher number of releases was expected next year.

He said HMP Dartmoor, in Devon, did not have sufficient staff or resources to effectively prepare the men for release or provide sufficient support to minimise their risk of harm to the public. “This was a shocking and totally unacceptable situation, given the generally high-risk population being released from Dartmoor,” he said.

The prison, which opened in 1809 to house Napoleonic war prisoners, held 600 high-risk prisoners when it was inspected in August. More than 70% were convicted sex offenders and the remainder violent offenders serving long sentences. Dartmoor remains under threat of closure. Despite a pervasive damp in many cells and a curtailed regime because of staff shortages, the inspectors report that the men were “generally positive” about the amenities and staff-prisoner relationships.

The chief inspector said his most serious concern related to the preparation of inmates for release. He said that because Dartmoor was not a resettlement prison it did not have adequate resources to engage in pre-release preparations. The reviews of prisoners’ risk levels that did take place were often last-minute, and some high-risk prisoners the inspectors spoke to were anxious because they were unsure where they would live and did not know what arrangements had been made to manage them in the community. There was only very restricted access to sex-offender treatment programmes in the prison.

The chief inspector said: 

“We had significant concerns about the lack of clarity relating to the prison’s resettlement and risk-management responsibilities, and in particular its inability to carry out adequate pre-release planning for men being released from the prison. While we considered Dartmoor to be well led and making strides in some important areas, it was being hampered by confusion nationally about its role, doubts about its future and inadequate resources to do the job it was being asked to do. The solutions to many of the most significant concerns we raise in this report are not in the gift of the governor; the active support of HM Prison and Probation Service is needed.”

Michael Spurr, the HMPPS chief executive, said all high-risk offenders released from Dartmoor were supervised by the National Probation Service. “The vast majority are released to approved accommodation and all are seen by their probation officer on the first day of release to reinforce their licence conditions,” he said. “A review of risk management arrangements has taken place and a new senior probation officer is also already in post to oversee the management of higher-risk offenders.”


I'm surprised Michael Spurr decided to infer blame on a prison SPO and didn't make mention of the impending shake-up of how probation in prison will operate under OMIC, the Offender Management in Custody initiative. We've discussed this before and noted that Facebook is fast becoming the 'go-to' place for professional guidance and support. The issue is still of concern to many prison-based probation staff, as evidenced by this recent Facebook discussion:-

Can anyone point me in the direction of the near future plans for the probation officer role in prisons, please? I've been out of the system for a while. I appreciate there may be some regional variations. Thanks in advance.

Prison PO becomes the OM for NPS cases with community OM being allocated 10 months prior to release with exceptions (very high risk, public interest etc). If sentence is under 12 months community OM remains in place. Only PAROM 1 will be needed for parole as the current SPR L completed by OS will no longer be required. OM changes if case transfers prisons. CRC cases get allocated Prison OS as OM with all cases having key worker on wing (personal officer role currently).

Prison OS as OM will also hold NPS cases which are PSO suitable under the tiering tool...

Who does Parom 1, prison or community OM?

Looks like Prison OM but no idea how they will have local knowledge required of release area for risk management planning. IPPs and Lifers also need working out.

My understanding from the OMIC briefing day is that the community OM does the PAROM 1, but has to incorporate the views of the prison OM .... even if you disagree.

Maybe the community PO will do the resettlement bit as then it'll make sense?

I wish I knew for sure as it'll make the difference of how I construct my future as a Probation Officer.

The current plan is definitely that the community PO writes it. The OMIC model is a huge change and is going to completely restructure the service. It’s projected date is spring 2019, and much like TR, the message is it’s coming no matter what.

They’re starting an “impact study” from April as to where current probation staff live and how this corresponds to where the prisons are. No idea what they are going to do if some prisons have no one living within an hours commute like North Sea camp where they have had vacancies since the split. Spoke to a prison officer today who says they are so desperate for prison officers at some prisons down south they offer extra cash and hotels for people to work there for months on end. What a mess. OMIC ain’t gonna work without enough prison staff let alone probation officers.

It’s not just prison and probation either. The whole model also relies on PPCS and the parole board achieving really tight targets .... both of whom are also grossly understaffed. It will also need IT project to be fully implemented if it’s going to work, video conf etc will be key. We made the point that the infrastructure (IT/staff etc) was nowhere near ready... but it’s still being driven forward quickly.

Very true. They haven’t even got enough suitable interview rooms in prison or desk space. There’s a definite irony that we’re already rattling round offices in the community that are already too big for the number of staff. Think I need to try some blue sky thinking or whatever management call it.


  1. This from the Independent reporting on what the PAC committee had to say on prisoners with mental health issues.
    "don't know where they're starting from, don't know how they're doing, and don't know if what they are doing is enough."
    Its pretty damning.

    ' Getafix

  2. Just when did everything become so bloody complicated?
    The more it's tried to be fixed, the more complicated and chaotic it becomes.
    OS, OM, NPS, PSO, OMIC, PAROM 1, how can inside work with outside, who does this and who does that, when it should be done, who should do it?
    It all makes the EU (withdrawal) Bill seem so very simple.

    1. I think there are chickens coming home to roost. It isn't complicated. You need properly funded Prisons and properly funded Mental Health Services. We have had neither for a long time now and any attempt to maintain the illusion is failing.

  3. At the other end of the system read headline - 'Big drop in diversion from the justice system.' Diversion to what? Where are the army of volunteers to support diversion, where are the private sector with their innovation and creativity now that the public sector is so starved. Tumbleweed moment. Invest in people, invest in society, incubate a future we can all benefit from.

  4. Government probation reforms couldn't be any worse then active sabotage!!
    It's also reported in the Times.

  5. This is the article in the local paper