Friday, 26 January 2018

No Prison Reform Without Probation Reform

"I don't want to come across as misty-eyed about the new prison minister, but I thought Rory Stewart intends to be hands-on and ensure that where HMIP recommendations are made, they are implemented and identified individuals in the bureaucracy are held to account. It's early days but he doesn't spout the usual defensive bullshit."
"the obvious disappearance of a Minister for Probation"..Oh God, first they stick their fingers in their ears, now they have just walked away. Bastards."
"They haven't walked away - Spurr is dancing merrily on Probation's grave. If Spurr has to leave his job tomorrow, he can rest easy in the knowledge that he has single-handedly killed off the pinko arse-wipers, the soft liberal do-gooders & the middle-class spoon-feeders. All that's left is for Gauke to delete the second 'P' in the departmental moniker & its a wrap!" 
Rather than just being dismayed, I think I'm getting increasingly angry. I'm angry that Michael Spurr is still at his post despite chaos reigning in pretty much every part of his empire. I'm angry that we don't have a Minister for Probation any more, despite there being a Prison AND Probation Service and I'm angry that nobody seems to be saying anything about it. It's a disgrace and I invite readers to draw conclusions regarding individuals and organisations who should be saying something.

Increasingly, the agenda seems to be just about what's happening in prison and what needs to be done about it, but we all know probation must be a part of trying to sort out the mess that Grayling created.  It's to be hoped Rory Stewart appreciates this sooner rather than later. This in the Guardian:-

Prisons minister Rory Stewart: we need clean jails, not abstract policy

Rory Stewart, the new prisons minister, has vowed to “get back to basics” to ensure clean, safe jails after a damning official report on rat-infested HMP Liverpool said conditions were the “worst ever they could recall”.

Stewart, who has been in the job for two weeks, told the commons justice select committee on Tuesday that previous ministers had not felt it was their job to get involved in operational details, but “I disagree”. The former foreign office minister told MPs: “My instinct is we need to get back to basics. We need to absolutely insist that we are going to run clean, decent prisons. There have been too many very abstract conversations in the past two years about grand bits of prison policy.

“We are turning up and saying, ‘Why is this a filthy prison?’ and asking, ‘Why has it not been cleaned?’, and people want to talk about grand issues of sentencing policy or reoffending policy. Making prisoners feel they are in a safe environment without broken windows is really important.” He said that on a visit to Liverpool prison on Monday he saw that almost every window was broken on one wing. “There’s too much saying, ‘We’re going to deal with this by setting a new key performance indicator’ and ‘We’re going to deduct some money if you don’t reach your KPI’, rather than spending time on the ground and saying, ‘This is disgusting. Sort it out.’

“If I’m not able in the next 12 months to achieve some improvements in making these prisons basically clean with more fixed broken windows and fewer drugs, I’m not doing my job.” He was speaking during an unusual session of the committee. It focused solely on the inspection report on Liverpool prison, published last week, which revealed a filthy jail with rats, cockroaches, broken windows and piles of rubbish.

The head of the prison and probation service, Michael Spurr, admitted to MPs it was a “personal failing of mine” for not recognising the extent of the deterioration at Liverpool – despite the situation being pointed out in inspection reports in 2013 and 2015. Spurr said the escape of a man serving a 30-year sentence had focused attention on security at Liverpool, and that unanticipated population pressures and budget cuts last summer had seen governors simply “in coping mode” in jails across England and Wales.

“We took our eye off the ball very badly in terms of decency at Liverpool through that period. It coincides with a period where we’ve had to reduce costs substantially – a 24% reduction in our budget. It coincides with significant changes across the way we deliver services both in prisons and in probation with Transforming Rehabilitation,” he said, referring to the government’s programme for how offenders are managed in England and Wales from February 2015.

Spurr said that in Liverpool’s case, 50 cells deemed unfit had been brought back into use to cope with an unexpected surge in numbers last summer, shortly before the latest inspection: “That shouldn’t have happened. It happened in a context of … significant pressure on the service.” He revealed that the governor of Liverpool prison was moved two days after the inspection report and was now working on counter-terrorism in the prison system, reporting directly to him.

After the session, a criminal justice consultant, Rob Allen, said that two years after David Cameron had set out “a grandiose vision of a ‘modern, more effective, truly 21st century prison system’, the new prisons minister has told MPs he wants one without rats, cockroaches and garbage”.


Rob Allen has this to say to the new minister:- 

Hercules or Sisyphus? The Task Facing New Prisons Minister Rory Stewart

There’s been reassurance from the Prisons Minister at the House of Commons Justice Committee. In struggling prisons, the most significant facilities management issues are checked up on in Whitehall every week. Although “heavily operational, it’s “all important to delivering a decent regime, and we are getting to that level of detail to make sure this works”.

This isn’t the back to basics approach announced on Wednesday by new minister Rory Stewart but the evidence given by his predecessor Sam Gyimah back in November 2016. Given that the squalid living conditions endured by many prisoners at HMP Liverpool - the subject of the latest hearing - somehow escaped Mr Gyimah’s detailed attentions, it’s not unreasonable to ask whether Mr Stewart will do any better. Reformers are born optimists so let’s hope so. Good for him for taking responsibility for sorting out the prison crisis and offering to be judged on the results.

More and more Inspection reports have revealed the scale of the challenge in creating the “modern, more effective, truly twenty-first century prison system” promised by David Cameron. The reality is that it will take a year to repair or replace the cell windows at Liverpool - and that’s if the Prison’s Action Plan is actually followed, unlike the one produced after a 2015 inspection.

Stewart is right to say that the recommendations made by inspectors should drive reform agendas in establishments. He could have added that Independent Monitoring Boards' and Ombudsman's findings deserve greater attention as well - the former in particular as they produce much more frequent reports. And he’s thinking about whether the Inspectorate itself should be bolstered so it can follow up on itself on the problems it identifies. But is he right about how to achieve change in prisons?

The local failures at Liverpool appear to cast doubt on the idea of giving Governors more and more autonomy but Stewart is fully signed up to the idea. At least twice he used military analogies in describing the prison service. Governors, like Colonels should be left to run their own show under the watchful gaze of Brigadiers who intervene when things go wrong. It’s not an altogether comfortable comparison. Prison staff are not soldiers fighting an enemy. There are plenty of other institutions - schools, colleges, hospitals, which can provide better models for much of what the prison service should be doing. There is always a risk that security, control and justice get out of kilter in a prison. The Committee heard that bosses were so concerned about security following an escape at Liverpool, they ignored mounting piles of rubbish, vermin infestations and degrading cell conditions.

Stewart was dismissive too of grand concerns about sentencing and other abstract policy questions which he thinks have distracted attention from the day to day problems in prisons. Here he is wrong. As the Council of Europe 's anti torture watchdog has reported following their 2016 visit to the UK, the implementation of the prison reform programme will be unattainable without concrete steps to significantly reduce the current prison population. The Government’s response, published this week? They do not propose to set arbitrary targets for reducing the prison population, but to achieve it via a combination of early intervention upstream and on reducing reoffending after release for those who are sentenced to immediate custody.

Disappointing though that may be, even these modest strategies require a genuine policy commitment from housing, healthcare, education, business and local government. Stewart‘s job is to negotiate that as well as fixing broken windows. Unless he and colleagues find some way to cut prison numbers his task will not be that of Hercules but of Sisyphus.

Rob Allen



    1. Prison careers service cuts criticised by charities

      The contracts of more than 200 dedicated careers’ advisers employed by the government to help prisoners turn their lives around will end in March in a “sudden and unexplained” move that charities say will seriously hamper rehabilitation efforts.

      The decision by the Ministry of Justice to cancel the work of the National Careers Service in jails in England and Wales will cost jobs and make it harder for individuals to build crime-free lives, according to a coalition of 23 organisations.

      Tom Schuller, who chairs the Prisoner Learning Alliance, said careers advisers in prisons were critical for helping people to gain relevant qualifications, build up a CV and connect with employers on the outside, particularly given the lack of access to the internet.

      “Careers advisers carry out a vital role in our prisons, helping people to build crime-free lives after release by supporting them to access education and to find work. The sudden and unexplained decision to cut this service will leave hundreds of prison staff without jobs and thousands of prisoners without the best chance of making a successful return to our communities,” he said.

      “We believe this decision will put further pressure on a system already under inordinate strain. We therefore call on the government to urgently explain and review its decision to cut the National Careers Service in prisons.”

      A Ministry of Justice spokesman confirmed to the Guardian that the contracts were being ended in March and said the department was reviewing options that would give governors more control.

      “We are committed to providing education and training to deliver more effective rehabilitation to address the needs of offenders,” he said, stressing that the programme had been run by the Education Skills Funding Agency.

      However, sources made clear that it had been the MoJ’s decision, not that of the ESFA, to close off the advice, which will be offered only in the community and not to inmates from March.

      An MoJ source said there were other schemes such as the Offender Learning and Skills Service, community rehabilitation companies and Department for Work and Pensions work coaches providing advice inside jails.

      But Schuller argued these were not equivalent, saying job coaches visited just before an inmate’s release and did not offer rolling support before that. “It is not good enough to suggest that DWP job coaches will simply replace careers advisers in prisons. The two have different functions, as is reflected by the fact that both roles will continue in the community.”

      The government would not provide information on how many careers advisers would be lost in prisons, but the PLA said the 121 jails in England and Wales had an average of two dedicated workers each. Prisoners tended to have access to three sessions a year to help them prepare for work after prison.

      The alliance said NCS workers would lose their jobs if their employers failed to find a new role for them, and most of those it had contacted were about to become unemployed.

    2. Why? Its a No-Brainer. Yet another private sector contract to hand out to one of the usual suspects, e.g. "Interserve has signed a £12 million contract with the Ministry of Justice to run six employment workshops at HMP Berwyn, a large new prison in Wrexham for five years."

      Same old MO of Spurr's HMPPS, just as with TR etc etc - make committed, experienced long-serving public sector staff unemployed whilst replacing them with private sector contracts.

      Spurr, of course, isn't averse to taking the public purse for as much as he can fit into his bank account though.

      PAC, JSC - WAKE UP!! The man's a fucking menace.

      Potted history - Spurr joined the Prison Service in 1983 as a prison officer in HMP Leeds. Within a year he moved to HMP Stanford Hill & started training as an Assistant Governor.
      He was Deputy Governor of HMYOI Aylesbury & shortly after became No.1 Governor of the same establishment in 1993.
      1996, No.1 Governor of HMP Wayland, and afterwards in the same position at HMP Norwich. In 2000 he became Area Manager for London North and East Anglia, & then Eastern region. In 2003, he became Director of Operations for the Prison Service & in 2006 he was announced as Deputy Director General of the Prison Service.
      Following the reorganisation of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) in 2008, he took on the role of Chief Operating Officer & thereafter made Chief Executive of NOMS in 2010, taking on full responsibility for running/ruining (delete as applicable) the prisons and probation services.

      Spurr was appointed Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) in the 2014 Birthday Honours - ??"for services to Christopher Stephen Grayling", aka helping ensure TR happened??

    3. from The Times (some paywall stuff hidden):

      "An anti-terrorism expert who led a government review into extremism among prisoners has called on the prison service boss to resign because of the “chaotic state” of jails in the country.

      Ian Acheson was commissioned in 2015 to investigate Islamist extremism in prisons. He said Michael Spurr had become “part of the problem” after two damning reports into squalid conditions at jails in Liverpool and Nottingham by Peter Clarke, the chief inspector of prisons."

    4. Prisons chief Michael Spurr ‘adds to chaos in jails’

      Anyone able to give us a bit more of this article? Thanks.

    5. This from telegraph in Feb 2016 might provide context?

      " The proposal to hold terrorists separately was reportedly raised in discussions as part of a review into radicalisation in jails. The study, ordered by Michael Gove, is being carried out by Ian Acheson, a former prison governor.

      A Whitehall source said: "Michael Spurr [the head of the National Offender Management Service] is concerned that Acheson is going to come to the wrong conclusion." "

    6. This seems to be relevant as well - perhaps some kind of grudge match? BUT... take careful note of the suthors' credentials:



      UK prison imams are free to spread hatred: Preachers found to be distributing extremist literature including homophobic and misogynistic leaflets

      • MoJ-appointed imams 'routinely distribute extremist literature' in prisons
      • Leaked report found hate pamphlets and CDs in more than 10 jails
      • Review ordered by Michael Gove but not cleared for publication yet
      • It was led by former prison governor and Home Office official Ian Acheson
      • Muslims make up 14.5 per cent of inmates in prisons across the UK
      • Majority of British imams are trained in the conservative Deobandi tradition

      Muslim preachers approved by the Government are routinely distributing extremist literature in British prisons leaving hundreds of inmates at risks of radicalisation, a leaked report has found.

      The extremist review, ordered by Michael Gove last year, found extremist CDs and pamphlets in more than 10 jails in November, it was reported today.

      Inspectors also found hate tracts encouraging the murder of apostates, misogynistic and homophobic leaflets and extreme Islamic literature preaching contempt for British society.

      The report is said to have sparked panic among officials who are worried about being seen to have lost control of jails - but ministers have not yet approved its publication.

      A leaked version of the review, which began in September under former prison governor and Home Office mandarin Ian Acheson, was published by The Times today.

      The findings are understood to have sparked an urgent internal alert because of the risk of ‘severe reputational damage’ to the Ministry of Justice.

      There was evidence that a large number of clerics were from the Deobandi sect, which traditionally promotes conservative anti-British ideology.

      A website promoting the Deobandi movement says loyalty is owed only to the global brotherhood of Muslims while integration into British society is denounced.

      But Michael Spurr, chief executive of the National Offender Management Service (Noms), has praised the movement saying that its teachings support 'fundamental British values such as democracy, individual liberty and mutual respect'."


      An anti-terrorism expert who led a government review into extremism among prisoners has called on the prison service boss to resign because of the “chaotic state” of jails in the country.

      Ian Acheson was commissioned in 2015 to investigate Islamist extremism in prisons. He said Michael Spurr had become “part of the problem” after two damning reports into squalid conditions at jails in Liverpool and Nottingham by Peter Clarke, the chief inspector of prisons.

      Liverpool prison was revealed to have “infestations of cockroaches . . . broken furniture, graffiti, damp and dirt”, while Nottingham was last week described as being “fundamentally unsafe”.

      Acheson said Spurr should “leave the stage” and called for “a new regime” to be “put in place where the relentless focus is bringing back order and control across the system”.

      He added: “There’s no more time for hand-wringing — people’s lives depend on it. We must then return prisons to their primary purpose: to make society safer by rehabilitating those who offend against it.”

      There has been disquiet among Whitehall officials and ministers about Spurr’s role as head of the prison and probation service, which he has held since 2010. He is expected to give evidence before the justice select committee on Wednesday.

      The Ministry of Justice, which is reponsible for the prison service, said: “We are realistic about the challenges faced by prisons and know that change will not happen overnight.”


  2. This is devolved in Wales. The National Careers service is in England.

  3. Yup really smart move on the part of the MoJ to current the careers advice contracts. And their solution seems to be that probation can provide such advice instead. Not sure on what planet this will happen.


    Link to a document prepared by Spurr as NOMS was being birthed

  5. I wonder just what Rory Stewards perception is of the 'basics' he talks about getting back to?
    It suggests he knows what the basics should be even though his position is new to him.
    If you have an electrical problem you employ an electrician. A plumbing problem you employ a plumber. It's a no brainer, they're trained in their specific fields and know what they're doing.
    Yet a Minister can be in the treasury or education one minute, and then employed to sort out crisis in the prison system the next!
    Shouldnt it be horses for courses?


  6. If you're allergic to wordy posts of old information, skip this now.

    Select Committee on Home Affairs, 16 March 2004

    * Spurr on being in control...

    Mr Spurr: Historically prisons have grown with a good deal of differentiation in what is provided and how a regime has been developed, which had a lot to do with how governors saw that establishment. Increasingly over recent years, with a much clearer strategy from the centre and much clearer line management with our managers and governors, it is not the case that governors determine entirely what is going to happen in an establishment. There is a much more strategic approach now in terms of both work and offender behaviour programmes.

    Spurr on working with prisoners...

    Q344 Mrs Curtis-Thomas: ... I notice you said the number of people engaged in training and then we looked at the amount of time allocated per person and it sounds pretty good but could you tell me what is the optimum amount of time a person needs to be in prison to access that training package...

    Mr Spurr: I would say that in terms of optimum time I do not think there is an optimum time in that respect. I would be reluctant to say how long you should imprison somebody for the length of time you would need to train them because I think it is the wrong way to look at it but if you were to look at it in that way you would have to look at individual need and it would vary with individuals depending on where they are coming from and depending on what their needs are when they come into custody. We do have with short-term sentences a difficulty with the length of time prisoners are with us, particularly with young offenders, in what we do. What we are doing, which I think is right, is to focus on the key things that we can do in the time available. If it is very short then it will be very basic resettlement needs that we will be able to tackle.

    Q345 Mrs Curtis-Thomas: What does that mean in English?

    Spurr on Private versus Public...

    Mr Spurr: If I can answer that. We have got much better in recent years at looking at the differences between establishments and whether establishments are performing well or not. I have monthly bilaterals with each area manager and I go through each individual establishment's performance in detail looking at over 40 performance indicators and not just at those performance indicators but what lies behind them for each individual establishment every month. We assess establishments on a quarterly base and now publish those assessments indicating what standard of performance we believe establishments are at. We have a benchmarking programme which is looking to improve performance with establishments with three levels, identifying the best performing establishments which we designate as high performing establishments and performance testing the least well performing establishments where we require the establishment to meet standards which if they do meet them we will give them a service level agreement and if they do not meet those standards we will put them to market without a public sector bid. So that is at the other end. In the middle we have a performance improvement planning process for middle-ranking establishments to improve their performance. All of that has been developed over recent years and that is ensuring we are spreading good practice because in terms of that benchmarking programme we are requiring area managers and governors to look at what the best are doing and bring their establishment up to that standard. That is the whole point of the programme. I would take issue with one thing. I do not think it is true that there is a wide disparity in everything between private and public sector. There are some things in which private sector establishments have done better than public sector.

  7. Select Committee on Home Affairs, 16 March 2004

    Eithne Wallis, Head of the 'original' NPS & Phil Wheatley, Spurr's predecessor.

    "The cheque is in the post"

    Ms Wallis: If I could, first of all, explain that in building OASys together [prisons and probation] we were building both a micro assessment tool—namely a tool to assess risk with the individual offender—but we were also building a macro-strategic planning tool. If I could separate those for a moment. In terms of using it as an offender assessment tool, it is in all 42 probation areas, and we have trained about 11,000 staff and everywhere it is now in use. By early next year, for example, we will produce about a quarter of a million court reports and I would expect OASys to be used as the offender assessment tool in the bulk of those reports. Certainly by early next year in each of the cases actually supervised by us then that should be there in use. In terms of the technology, developing OASys and making it possible for probation and prisons to have a joint offender assessment database, then we expect that connectivity to be in place in the spring. By something like May we would hope that our two systems will be able to converse and talk together.

    Mind The Gap

    Q256 Chairman: A substantial proportion of the people on short-term sentences will have got a drug problem. They seem to fall largely outside this system, both in terms of whether they get drug rehabilitation in prison or whether they are a priority on release. Is that right?

    Mr Wheatley: We will detox them. We will offer them counselling and the advice Counselling, Assessment, Referral, Advice and throughcare (CARAT) service, which they have access to. Many of the people we are detoxing are short-termers. The CARAT teams will—

    Q257 Chairman: When they leave they fall outside the Probation Service?

    Mr Wheatley: They fall outside the Probation Service. They do not fall outside the drug treatment system.

    Q258 Chairman: Whose job is it to hold their hand when they have been in for six months, they have been detoxed and they have come out? Who then picks them up in the community and makes sure they get drug treatment?

    Mr Wrench: This is where the CJIP really ought to make a big difference if you have got the people based in the communities they are going back to who are looking to receive them.

    Q259 Chairman: That applies to people irrespective of the length of their sentence?

    Mr Wrench: Yes, that is right.

    Ms Wallis: Could I just try and clarify the situation. I do not want you left with the impression that offenders come out on licence and simply disappear. Offenders on licence are picked up. The evidence is that, in terms of making immediate contact with them in holding to the standard of levels of contact, doing the assessment work and certainly strictly enforcing the terms and conditions, that work is done very systematically by probation. The evidence there is increasingly strong. What is more problematic for us is actually having available within that case management framework the actual offending behaviour programmes, access to the various treatments and assistance that they actually need. That is why, for example, we have been building together the national rehabilitation strategy and starting to try and enter into much stronger partnerships with accommodation providers, with education providers, looking harder at employment, and working with the drug treatment providers and so forth. I think we need to make the distinction between these offenders supervised and managed on the basis of current interventions as opposed to whether we have all the rehabilitative interventions available that we actually need. It is the second we still need to develop and are working hard together to try to plug those gaps.

  8. Ms Wallis: It is just two and a half years since the National Probation Service was created. We had 54 quite autonomous probation services before that and the Government took the decision that those should be deconstructed and the National Probation Service should be created. The whole focus of the new Service was a move away from our old responsibilities, which were couched legally in terms of advising, assisting and befriending, into a new organisation where the focus would be on keeping offenders to task to the terms of the orders, it would be about reducing recidivism and it would be about public protection, so in the last two and a half years what we have set about doing is profoundly changing our practice with offenders and with victims and we have been reskilling, retraining and retooling our staff. In the first instance, we have been building new building blocks for new sentences and offender practice. We supervise every day over 200,000 offenders and clearly the start point is that your staff must have a good tool for assessment. You have got to be able to differentiate what those 200,000 offenders have done, the level of risk that they pose and also separate out their needs, what was the offending actually about, and that is why with prisoners we have built the offender assessment tool which you have heard about, the expectation then being that when you have a sharp assessment, then you can build a good supervision plan, so we have been together again trying to build models of joint case management and we hope to roll those out next year. We have been building offender programmes and interventions so that sentencers actually have different choices now from what they had, for example, three years ago and that is the case. There are a number of new sentences, many new interventions and programmes available to tackle re-offending.

  9. Ms Wallis: Could I just say that you know already that the Probation Service is not involved with those serving less than 12 months in the adult population. We hope that through Custody Plus, for example, when we get an opportunity to implement the Criminal Justice Act that will change and we would expect that when that is implemented, something like 63,000 of these offenders would actually start their time in custody and then come under the statutory supervision of probation. We have not been idle on this. What we have been trying to do in the last year is actually build the pathways, actually try to establish what good practice might actually look like between prisons and probation in that respect, anticipating the day when hopefully we will get the resource now that we have got the legislation. So we have run resettlement pathfinders in some areas, we have run a programme known as Focus on Resettlement. For example, we have looked very specifically at women prisoners as well in the adult population and I had indicated that we were building a joint case management model, so there are many things in process and laid to build good practice so that we know what it actually looks like and we know what other kind of organisations we need to help us to create the provision. Clearly for prisoners on probation, our staff with all their many competencies are not educationalists, they are not mental health experts and we cannot provide the accommodation ourselves, so we need to get those powerful relationships with other people. It would be giving a wrong impression to suggest that we are not trying to do anything about this or that our staff actually are not working with great determination to try and build the practice, get other providers on board and that is about the national rehabilitation strategy as well. We have also got a Joint Sentence Planning and Implementation Group between us already designing and building new sentences so that the moment we have the resource and the opportunity for sentencers to have Custody Plus and Custody Minus available, we will not just be starting then, but we will actually be ready. So I do not want you to have the impression that we have been sat simply watching this scenario and hoping and waiting. A great deal of effort has already gone into that preparation.

  10. Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence

    Examination of Witnesses
    TUESDAY 25 MAY 2004


    Q505 Bob Russell: You have raised the question of short-term prisoners and in the course of this inquiry we have been told many times that for short-term prisoners it is almost a question of "warehousing of human beings for the sole purpose of containment", which is the phrase that has been used. When judges and magistrates impose these short-term sentences do they tally up? The cost to the public purse across the year of keeping the equivalent of 40 people in prison over a year is £1 million. Just because someone is going for 28 days they may think there is only a small cost but, of course, once you start multiplying all those 28 day sentences or two month sentences you quickly reach £1 million. Are magistrates and judges aware of the financial consequences of what they are doing?

  11. I expect the challenge for Rory Stewart is of the Sisyphean variety. He may well turn out to be another glib politician, but there was something refreshing about a prison minister who readily accepted some operational accountability. His JSC appearance was specific to the conditions at Liverpool prison and back to basics was specific to physical conditions in prisons. All he was saying is that there is no excuse for tolerating squalor and infestation - having a clean environment without broken windows are basic requirements for decent regimes – you don't have to be an advocate of the broken window theory or feng sui to know it makes good sense. Extrapolating from 'back to basics' or criticising his use of military analogies should not be used to detract from the simple point he was making: there is no excuse for turning a blind eye to squalor and allowing it to become the norm.

    1. Herpes or Syphyllis? I think MoJ are well beyond the kissing pox and deep in the realms of terminal syphyllis.

  12. With regard to the invisibility of Probation - Last week there was a comment about the Parole Board on this Blog, which sought info from several organisations, such as Police, Courts, voluntary orgs, Social Services, etc but no mention of Probation! In the past we served a crucial role in assessments of risk and recommendations of release, liaising closely with the PO in prison, who liaised with other roles in the prison such as psychiatrist, who would also write their own reports with copies sent to us.Employment training, education,job advisors would be involved in prison in prep for release.

    The external PO would be crucial in having contact with the family, and bail hostels and police. We would have increasing visits to client,nearer anticipated release, and to confer with PO and all relevant staff.

    I've attended many Parole Board hearings, where reports would be read and discussed, with only PO and the client in attendance, also meetings in prison, with all relevant parties in attendance, making own recommendations. I have noted that sometimes the psychiatrist would write lengthy reports with previous limited contact with prisoner,or knowledge of their background and prep for release. And make bad misjudgements.

    I've also had one serious confrontation with Parole Board who had initially lost my report after i'd sent it before deadline, then made mistakes in client's background in the prison, made errors about info I gave and refused release because he'd not done required anger man. course, after I'd put in report that he'd completed course with excellence,confirmed by internal PO. Then they rejected it because the client was homeless, when I'd told them I'd secured excellent supported accom from voluntary organisation, with the current user about to move on, and with Probation agreeing to pay for holding it for a further 2 nights,(which went past his legal date of release) but they still denied him release because they said again that he didn't have accom! I was blazing and made several desperate calls to empathetic staff in Parole Board offices, who were running back and forward trying to contact relevant Board member, until 5pm on a Friday, who was not answering phone and had apparently gone away for weekend!

    Then the following week they still insisted on rejecting release because the 2 paid nights had expired, leaving him homeless, when I'd told them he was NOT homeless, I'd come to arrangement with the org. to hold for a further period.

    I stayed in phone touch with his partner during this madness, and I recommended that he got solicitor onto it as I could go no further. He did so, he was released and he received compensation in due course. I was going to make a formal complaint to the Board but my manager warned me that if I did that, I would be disciplined, you do NOT upset Board members. But it is clear that they did not read reports properly, or were gormless, and getting paid a nice sum. But I do have admiration for the admin staff there, who put themselves out for me -except for one man on a different occasion, when I rang the Parole office on another vital situation, at 3pm on a Friday (I had just been informed) and a very unpleasant man asked - did I not have a life, and he had better things to do and was leaving to take his family away for the w/e!

    Soz, a bit lengthy, but I think I have demonstrated that the Probation Service did indeed, play a crucial role in the Parole reports, both externally and internally. And as for the Parole Board being able to retain secrecy on decisions made, I don't recall that happening 20 years ago, or even 7 years ago, before my retirement. I would talk openly and honestly with the client and their families, why they were being released or NOT being released etc. I would have thought that was essential info. Had I not done so, that man may never have been released!!! Or maybe the law has changed since my days, to keep ineptitude like the above, dark dirty secrets!

  13. A prison story from when the Conservatives were in power in the 1980s.

    family had a reasonable complaint - I think about location - an Essex man was held in Devon. The nprmal channels exhausted I said to the relative - as I had said since 1970s.

    Prisons run by HMGov - which is answerable ultimately ONLY to MPs - eleacted and House of Peers.

    Ask an MP to raise with relevant minister.

    They got the outcome they wanted and told me that on the phone the MPs secretary (very high up in Thatcher's Government -) said they only got that attention because the MP is so well placed.

    I have no doubt it was true.

  14. In other news:-

    Ministry of Justice launches new facilities management company

    The new company will take over the delivery of the prison Facilities Management (FM) services previously provided by Carillion such as cleaning, reactive maintenance, landscaping and planned building repair work.

    Around 1,000 staff, including 100 contractors, who were previously employed by Carillion will now move across to the new company, Gov Facility Services Limited, with their terms and conditions of employment preserved.

    These services, which are provided to 52 prison establishments located across South West, South Central, Kent & Sussex, Greater London and East of England, will continue unaffected in the transfer.

    Justice Secretary, David Gauke said:

    We have robust contingency plans and are taking appropriate action to ensure that the prison FM services continue to operate normally.

    I want to reassure staff that their jobs are secure and essential to making prisons safer and more decent.

    Permanent Secretary, Richard Heaton said:

    The Ministry of Justice’s (MOJ) priority is to ensure continuity of service. We are implementing our contingency plan for the prisons facilities management contracts held by Carillion.

    This means the work that was undertaken by Carillion will move to a new government-owned company set up for this purpose. I’d like to thank all the Carillion staff who are moving across into the new company, and reassure them that their jobs are secure. The vital work they do to maintain and improve our prisons is greatly valued and appreciated.

    The new company has already been created and will take responsibility for the prison FM services as soon as the formal transfer of staff has occurred.

    FM is a critical service for Her Majesty’s Prisons and Probation Service (HMPPS) and there is an ongoing need for a continuing service.

    MOJ and HMPPS will work with all relevant stakeholders to ensure a stable service which retains skilled and knowledgeable staff working on the FM contracts.

    The government has been clear that its priority is to ensure the smooth running of public services. Our robust contingency planning and preparations for the transition to Gov Facility Services Limited has meant there have so far not been any disruptions to prison maintenance.