Monday, 19 February 2018

Prison Crisis - MoJ Economical With Truth

You've got to hand it to the Guardian, they're really doing a good job reporting on all aspects of the mounting criminal justice crisis and over the weekend, published two articles highlighting the dire prison situation. Here's the first:-  

Are Britain’s prisons facing a meltdown?

Few in government can now deny that our jail system is in severe crisis. Yet no one seems to want to tackle it

It is highly likely that Khader Ahmed Saleh felt fear in the weeks before he was murdered. And if he did, the wiry young father from London’s tight-knit Somali community would not have been alone. In a recent survey, more than two-thirds of his fellow inmates inside Wormwood Scrubs prison admitted feeling unsafe. That finding was published weeks before Saleh was stabbed to death on the afternoon of 31 January.

Last Thursday Saleh’s family and friends assembled outside the west London prison, demanding answers in relation to another violent tragic episode inside the UK penal estate; one that has left three inmates charged with murder. As they protested and mourned, the distinctive Victorian towers of Wormwood Scrubs loomed large. Behind its high, weathered brick walls, living conditions have plummeted to a level which should shame a wealthy 21st-century society.

According to a report by the chief inspector of prisons published 53 days before Saleh, 25, was murdered, rats and cockroaches routinely gorge on litter dropped from broken windows into the prison yard. Conditions in the Victorian-era C wing, where Saleh died, were so chaotic that food routinely ran out and inmates survived on “mountain survival” dried-food packs.

Those who have observed Britain’s prison estate at close quarters have been uniformly shocked by what they have witnessed and what they have been told. Peter Clarke, a methodical, down-to-earth detective who once ran Scotland Yard’s Counter Terrorism Command, was asked by the Ministry of Justice in 2016 to investigate the prison estate. He notes as a matter of “particular concern” the 40 to 50 violent incidents each month. Every two days a member of staff is assaulted.

Prison officer David Todd has patrolled both Wormwood Scrubs and served in the British infantry in Derry during the Troubles. The 47-year-old has little doubt which was the more intimidating. “I feel more vulnerable walking the landings in British prisons than I did walking the streets of Northern Ireland,” he says. Even after 27 years of life as a prison officer, Todd describes the narrow walkways of Wormwood Scrubs as “very daunting”. In some jails, he adds, one officer is left to oversee 100 inmates. Organised gangs hold huge power. It is, says Todd, the precise opposite of a controlled environment. Or at least of one controlled by the state.

Ex-offender and former drug abuser Mark Johnson founded the charity User Voice to encourage prisoner rehabilitation. “Being incarcerated in this country at the moment,” he says, “is being in a system tantamount to torture. You’re in a place of chaos. You may have left behind a life of chaos but it’s like going from frying pan into the fire.”

Overpopulated, under-resourced, drug and pest-infested and terrifyingly violent, no public institution in England and Wales, according to expert consensus, has deteriorated more dramatically and more profoundly in recent years than our prisons. Todd has seen many things he wants to forget but cannot. Once he watched an inmate smoke spice, the synthetic drug that renders users catatonic, before flinging himself headfirst off a second-floor landing, arms by his side, making no attempt to break his fall. He found a prisoner in the kitchen in a Kent jail with his stomach sliced open. He remembers an inmate with mental health problems who would sit in his cell, silently eating his own faeces.

Government data published six days before Saleh was murdered confirmed that prisons in England and Wales have never been more dangerous. Assaults and serious assaults are, according to the Ministry of Justice, at record levels. In the 12 months to September 2017, 28,165 incidents were recorded – a 12% increase. Of those, 7,828 were assaults on staff. The rate of attacks continues to escalate. During the last quarter of 2017, another high was set with assaults rising to 86 a day, 24 of them against staff.

Independent analysis by the Observer of 220 official prison inspections, covering 118 adult jails in England and Wales, found that more than two in five were unsafe for prisoners. Self-harm inside prisons has also reached record levels – there were 42,837 incidents during the year to September, an increase of 12%. On an average day, there will be 117 such incidents. Eight inmates will be hospitalised. Someone takes their own life in prison every five days. Todd says prison officers quickly become accustomed to dealing with the “shocking” loss of blood after an inmate slices their wrist with a razor.

Since October, the parliamentary justice committee has been investigating what no one now denies is a crisis in our prisons. According to Bob Neill, the committee’s Conservative chairman: “We really need to have a serious conversation about what we use prison for. Society has to think about that.” Neill cited a vignette from a recent inspection of HMP Liverpool as illustrative of the challenges facing the penal estate. “The inspector went into one cell where the shower wasn’t working, the lavatory was broken and flooding. There was a mattress with a guy on it with mental health problems who had been there for six weeks. How much of our prisons now are just warehousing for people with mental health and other issues?”

One answer to that question comes from the Criminal Justice Alliance, which estimates that 21,000 mentally ill people, a quarter of the current jail population, are currently imprisoned, competing for just 3,600 high-security and medium-security beds reserved for mental-health patients in English prisons. The British Medical Association says the average life expectancy of a prisoner in England and Wales is 56, less than conflict-ridden, poverty-stricken South Sudan. The statistic, warns the BMA, is “a worrying reflection of the overall wellbeing of those in the secure estate”.

At the root of so much squalor, violence and distress is one inescapable truth: we are as a society incarcerating too many people. Official data revealed on Thursday that the number of prisoners in England and Wales rose to 84,255 – the highest imprisonment rate in western europe. A quarter of a century ago in 1993, the prison population stood at 44,552. Two-thirds of prisons are officially overcrowded.

Lord Woolf, the former lord chief justice who wrote the report on the 1991 Strangeways prison riot, said that a complete government rethink was required, beginning with the need to address overcrowding. “I’m afraid we’ve got to have a complete reassessment of the situation. Although you can’t change the situation overnight, there has been a complete breakdown in recognising the fact that serious action is needed and recognising that the only way to do it is to have a long-term plan.” If any plan is to succeed, the prerequisite will surely be a reversal of the deep cuts that have stripped away thousands of experienced prison staff. Between 2012 and 2016, as the prison population rose, frontline staff fell by more than 7,000. A commitment to recruit 2,500 new prison officers has since been made, but Todd feels it is nowhere near enough.

Between 2016 and 2017, 57 prison officers left their jobs but only 21 were replaced. On C wing, where Saleh was killed, supervision problems were noted. Lack of staff meant too many prisoners were locked up in their cells, some for as long as 23 hours a day. Denied any purposeful activity, prisoners become desperate to kill time. Drug use has escalated, in particular the use of spice, the synthetic cabannoid described by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman as a “game-changer” capable of quickly transforming a passive inmate into a dangerous aggressor. Todd said: “It makes someone who is normal into an absolute animal. It’s hideous.” Clarke found drugs were “easily accessible” inside Wormwood Scrubs. The wing where Saleh died contained the prison’s unit for dealing with inmates needing help with substance misuse.

Given what amounts to the slow-motion meltdown of the prison estate, Rory Stewart, the new prisons minister, faces instant pressure to make an impact. Battle-hardened observers are already sceptical. Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform charity which campaigns for change, recently met Stewart. “As he pointed out, this is his fourth or fifth job in two years. He says he doesn’t know how long he is going to be there – and we’ve had six secretaries of state in seven years. “No wonder the system is in chaos. It’s a shambles.”

Many agree that Stewart’s initial challenge is to somehow cap, then lower, a prison population which is proportionately twice that of Germany’s. In the longer term, other issues require fixing: namely how to deal with the specific challenges of a fast-growing group of older prisoners aged over 60, largely driven by historic sex offending. Other demographic issues also need to be addressed, the chief of them being why there are so many black and ethnic minority people among the prison population. If the demographic makeup of inmates locked up reflected those of England and Wales, there would – as the Labour MP David Lammy recently noted – be 9,000 fewer black and ethnic minority people in prison, the equivalent of 12 average-sized prisons.

Stewart must also urgently examine future prison privatisation. The Ministry of Justice expects the private sector to play a role in running prisons, but after a period of cross-party consensus, support for this is now waning. Among one of the less reported failures of Carillion, the government contractor which folded last month, was its role in maintaining Wormwood Scrubs. So hapless was its performance that the firm was deemed to represent “a threat to the security of the prison”.

On the basis of his visits to HMP Liverpool, Peter Clarke made a series of recommendations for improvements in our jails, emphasising among other things the urgent need to address the issue of overpopulation. On Friday a justice committee report condemned the government for failing to act on his advice. He is reportedly exasperated by the lack of a coherent response from Whitehall. Campaigner Mark Johnson said simply: “Report after report of evidence is being unearthed and yet nothing is changing. We need to start asking the question: what is prison for? We need to talk about what is happening.”


In another article, the Observer goes into some greater detail:-  

Exclusive: shock figures reveal state of UK’s brutal prisons

Observer analysis of inspection reports shows two in five jails are unsafe and inadequate conditions prevail in over two-thirds

The scale of the crisis engulfing Britain’s prisons can be revealed, after an Observer investigation found that two-thirds are providing inmates with inadequate conditions or unacceptable treatment. An analysis of hundreds of inspections covering 118 institutions found that a staggering 68% are now providing unsatisfactory standards in at least one respect, with two in five jails deemed to be unacceptably unsafe. Rory Stewart, the prisons minister, described the state of some jails as “deeply disturbing”. Writing in the Observer, he concedes that prisons are rife with psychoactive drugs, and see “increasing levels of violence committed by prisoners, and horrifying rates of self-harm”.

Speaking to the Observer, Lord Woolf, the former lord chief justice – who oversaw an inquiry after the notorious Strangeways riot in 1990, in which two people died – warned that there was a real risk of such an outbreak happening again. “[If] you ask me whether we have gone back to where we were pre-Strangeways, I think we are there in that sort of territory,” said Woolf. “It is not confined to one of our prison establishments. It is across the board. There has been a complete breakdown in recognising the fact that serious action is needed, and recognising that the only way to do it is to have a long-term plan, with somebody in charge of it throughout the term.”

All prisons are tested to see if they satisfy basic standards for safety, respect for prisoners, access to purposeful activities and help when they leave the institution. In each area, they are deemed as being good, reasonably good, insufficient or poor.

The Observer investigation found that in the most recent inspections of adult prisons in England and Wales, 80 out of the 118 jails examined were providing insufficient or poor standards in at least one area. Only 7% of prisons – just eight – received a “good” rating across all four categories. An alarming 44% were providing poor or insufficient safety, and almost half (47%) offered insufficient or poor access to meaningful activities – often leaving prisoners locked in cells for very long periods. Two in five prisons were providing inadequate assistance to prisoners as they left – a major problem in tackling reoffending.

As many prisons were deteriorating as improving, with conditions worsening in 41% since their last inspection. The worst-performing prisons, such as Bristol, Guys Marsh, Liverpool, Nottingham and Wormwood Scrubs, were also overcrowded. The government is attempting to reduce the prison population by exploiting an underused scheme to release thousands more prisoners early. Governors have been told to review cases of inmates refused release under a home detention scheme, allowing them to stay at home under curfew and with an electronic tag.

The latest official figures show that self-harm and assaults in prison are at a record high, with critics blaming cramped cells, a shortage of staff and prisoners spending too long locked up in poor conditions. The chaos has seen self-harm reach a record high of 42,837 incidents in the 12 months to September 2017, up 12% from the previous year. Assaults have reached a high of 28,165 incidents over the same period. Serious assaults are up by 10%. Of these, 7,828 assaults were on staff.

The judiciary, MPs and campaigners are calling for a wholesale rethink of what is expected of the prison system. Bob Neill, Tory chairman of the justice select committee, said: “This shows the system is in a state of crisis. We really need to have a serious conversation about what we use prison for. Society has to think about that. “The immediate issue is that we’re failing to provide decent conditions in too many of our establishments, [and] as many are getting worse as have improved.” He said too much money had been taken out of the prisons service under the coalition government. While a plan to recruit an extra 2,500 prison officers was announced at the end of 2016, the measure only partially made up for the 30% cut in numbers suffered since 2010.

Frances Crook, the chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, a charity that campaigns for change in prisons, said that the revolving door of political leadership for prisons was a big part of the problem. “We’ve had six secretaries of state in seven years,” she said. “No wonder the system is in chaos.” Woolf said that overcrowding urgently needed to be tackled. “I’m afraid we’ve got to have a complete reassessment of the situation,” he said. “Whenever there is a particularly nasty crime, what parliament wants to do is have a new offence and put sentences up – and so we go on.”

Stewart, who was appointed prisons minister last month, writes that he wants to tackle the flow of drugs into prisons and improve basic cleanliness. “Criminal gangs have become ever more skilled at pouring new psychoactive drugs into prisons,” he writes. “And partly as a result of these drugs, there are increasing levels of violence committed by prisoners, and horrifying rates of self-harm. Half of prisoners reoffend within a year of leaving custody – costing billions to the economy – and, more importantly, ruining the lives of tens of thousands of victims. “But I strongly believe we can improve our prisons and that we can make progress at pace.”

"The government is attempting to reduce the prison population by exploiting an underused scheme to release thousands more prisoners early. Governors have been told to review cases of inmates refused release under a home detention scheme, allowing them to stay at home under curfew and with an electronic tag."
Despite the MoJ wanting to try and play down the situation, many have been saying that several times the pressure on prison numbers has been so severe that there were only days away from declaring an emergency which would involve prison use of police cells. Maybe they need to liaise with their Home Office counter-parts because, due to police cuts, there are far fewer custody suites of any kind nowadays. 

I'm reliably informed that the situation had become so desperate that suitably-qualified HQ staff have been involved in touring prison establishments in order to facilitate executive releases. Of course we are all now aware that prisoner release of any kind has top priority, hence the rush to re-write the HDC process, referred to above, and announced last month. There are grave dangers in what is being proposed as the changes pretty much remove probation involvement around risk assessment:-  
"The Revisionistas strike again. i.e. in the same vein as their Glorious TR-iumph of kicking fiendish social workers into the gutter, they have now re-imagined HDC as being previously a grey, onerous task that has been magically freed from red-tape & drudgery by the courageous, swash-buckling MuskeTories. Huzzah! Gins all round!!"
"Also not good that risk is not a reason to refuse HDC! Where previously supervising officers were asked their views on whether they support (or not) release, this is no longer a question asked on HDC forms. The only issue is whether they have a suitable address. You can comment on risk but it's abundantly clear that release will happen if that address is deemed suitable. I'm currently on my 4th HDC report for the same high risk case. They really want every one with an address out asap."
"Words from HDC Clerk (similarly unimpressed with the change in decision-making process: “it’s a right now, not a privilege... I can’t think of many occasions where someone wouldn’t get it.”
Some have high hopes of Rory Stewart, the new Prison and Probation minister (although he's chosen to drop the 'Probation' bit), but sadly he talks a lot about drones but neglects to mention that most drugs get into prison via staff and pedals two lies in his Observer article:-
"In order to help this and many other things happen – such as increasing the quality of education in prison, boosting employment prospects and ensuring accommodation on release – we are recruiting an extra 2,500 prison officers. The recruitment is going very well, and we are close to hitting that target ahead of schedule."
It's news to us that there's any "ensuring accommodation on release" because we all know TTG is just an urban myth and in relation to prison officers, "The recruitment is going very well"  comes as a surprise to many, including Civil Service World who thinks he's been caught out telling porkies. This from their website:-

MoJ accused of ‘misleading public’ on prison officer recruitment

The Ministry of Justice has been accused of misleading the public over the state of staffing levels in UK prisons, following its announcement that a recruitment milestone will be reached nine months early. This week the department said its target of delivering a net headcount increase of 2,500 staff by the end of 2018 – set by then-justice secretary Liz Truss in 2016 – was on course to be met within the coming weeks, showing that the drive was working.

But union the Prison Officers’ Association said the MoJ was “massaging prison officer recruitment figures” in a way that gave a “massively false impression” of a service that was still in crisis after years of budget cuts. The latest figures, released by current justice secretary David Gauke, showed a net increase of 1,970 officers between October 2016 and December last year, with numbers up from 17,955 to 19,925 across bands three to five.

The MoJ said a further 1,582 new recruits had been offered roles and booked onto prison officer training courses, meaning the government was on target to recruit the 2,500 officers “nine months ahead of schedule”. POA general secretary Steve Gillan welcomed the increase in officer numbers but insisted that the current drive would not be enough to “undo the damage of years of cuts” that began under the coalition government.

He said that the government figures were “smoke and mirrors” that did not properly reflect the changing nature of the prison workforce since 2010 – particularly for entry-level grade prison officers in band three, whose numbers he said had fallen by 16% over the past eight years. According to the MoJ, there were 24,831 prison officers in bands three to five in March 2010, of whom 983 were custodial managers at band five, and 3,940 supervising officers at band four. The remaining 19,908 were prison officers.

Gillan said the MoJ’s latest dataset included 3,333 staff in bands four and five, meaning that POA estimated there were 16,592 band three prison officers. “In March 2010 there were 19,908 prison officers [at grade three] and as of 30 December 2017 there were 16,592 – a cut of 3,316,” Gillan explained. Further, in March 2010 there were 7,698 operational support grades and as of 30 December 2017 there were 4,422. That’s a cut of 43%." The union said it was calling on the government and the MoJ to “stop misleading the general public”.

Truss’s recruitment drive – announced at the Conservative party conference in 2016 – came against the backdrop of concerns over violence and suicide rates inside prisons, and has not been helped by staff turnover levels. The latest figures show the annual turnover rate among band three to five prison officers is 9.7%. Lauding his department's recruitment “milestone”,​ Gauke acknowledged that prison officers often worked in “very challenging, difficult and dangerous circumstances” and that issues in the secure estate needed to be dealt with “head on”.

“I am determined to tackle the issues in our prisons head on and I am committed to getting the basics right so we can focus on making them safe and decent places to support rehabilitation,” he said. “Staffing is the golden thread that links the solutions we need to put in place to drive improvement, so I am delighted our recruitment efforts are working.”

Civil Service World offered MoJ the opportunity to comment on the POA's observations. It declined.


  1. Probation Officer19 February 2018 at 07:40

    Why is it that we’re always interested in these ex-prisoners providing eye witness accounts and being mentors, volunteers and set up rehabilitation companies, but never do any seem to work in prisons or probation? Many are educated and work experienced so why isn’t there more probation officers that have been to prison / have criminal records? They would be more understanding and less prone to recommending prisons sentences and recall as if it were sweets. The same with prison officers, would they not be more able to understand and prevent some of the problems caused by the failing prison system? Go a bit further, solicitors, police, magistrates, judges. Instead we have a system where criminal records follow people forever and render them lepers in the workforce. I’ve never heard the HMPSS, POA and NAPO comment on this either!

    1. Was never always thus - I have a lively 'history'. When I was interviewed in early 1990's for DipSW we had a lively discussion about my disclosure form. The biggest issue for the Home Office representative on the panel (now a 'grand fromage' within HMPPS) was the fact I wasn't wearing a suit & tie to the interview, which was the only basis used to decline my application. That was overruled, I was cleared by Home Office vetting & completed the DipSW.

      I found my 'history' became increasingly valuable in informing my work as a PO. Ten years later I was on a panel selecting TPO candidates & one of the more senior members of the panel simply refused to accept candidates with ANY criminal convictions. When I enlightened them about my 'history' they demanded that I was removed from the selection panel (I wasn't) and continued "You shouldn't even be employed by us." That person soon became a leading light in the development of probation policy & implementation of - and cashing in on - CRCs.

      But the vengeful fuckers have long memories. They don't let anything go until they have exacted their revenge...

      ... Fast Forward to 2013 & I was eventually punished for my sins against The Establishment - sifted into, then discarded by, the CRC. Now its my turn*:

      "The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he, who in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy my brothers."

      * rest assured I don't intend to shoot them.

    2. Truth be told, I had a ‘history’ myself in my teenage years. I disclosed in my TPO interview during the question “give an example of something you’d do differently”. Jaws dropped, but they let me through because I had the education and experience. I believe the panel stood by their belief in rehabilitation and change, and gave me a chance. Back then employing a percentage with criminal records was encouraged, I recall a visiting home office minister commenting on it as an action that needed to be increased. Fast forward many years and I’ve proven them right, I’ve been an asset to this job but sadly, I’ve seen both colleagues and offenders oppressed by colleagues, managers and the system for having criminal records. I’ve sat on those very same recruitment panels and the comments have been shocking. I’ve watched it all quietly, with my cards close to my chest.

      When I was a teenager my own social worker disclosed being in prison, one of my uni lecturers was once in prison too. They didn’t have to hide their past and were encouraged to draw on it, whereas probation management told me to keep it hidden with the threat it ‘could’ be used against me should I not tow the line. Experience of many walks of life is useful in this job, and I know a few other colleagues that benefit from both theory and practice of being a prisoner, some overtly and some covertly. In my book these have always been the best probation officers and social workers, sometimes the best of citizens too. It doesn’t matter though because there’ll always be jobs I’ll never get and countries I’ll never visit because of something that took place many years ago. I made the NPS I think I’ll be vetted out at some point too, and I’ve already heard of colleagues with past convictions being forced in to lesser roles and locations because of new vetting processes. This is the hidden discrimination within our workforce which nobody cares about, not the unions, not the management, nobody.

      The pinnacle of justice rehabilitation is to employ those with past convictions in the very fields that provide rehabilitation. Instead our prisoners receive inhumane treatment and are discarded on release, those with criminal records forever trying to catch up with the rest of society but never quite getting there.

    3. There was an excellent award winning ex-offender engagement service in London that sought to employ ex offenders to offer peer support to needy offenders. MTCnovo weren’t interested in it continuing and made the inspirational leader - an officer of 40 odd years service - compulsorily redundant.

    4. These services are not enough, mere gimmicks. If ‘ex-offenders’ can be overtly employed for ‘peer support’ then why are they not being overtly employed as probation, prison, police officers and social workers?

      Hands up every probation officer that’s encouraged an ‘ex offender’ to become a probation officer? How’s about that for a future blog post title for you Jim!

    5. I would not encourage any ex offenders into probation either or from recent past. Probation officers do not believe in rehabilitation many of them seek alternate non casework posts and the snobbery of the rest is extreme they know who they are and so will readers.

    6. From total morons talking out of their backsides to incompetent know-it-all snobs. Yes, this would be 99% of probation officers. This would change if ex-offenders were actively recruited. Change the workforce, change the culture.

    7. I agree but we do need a mix. There are some remaining great POs of past and some who could develop over time but there are too many that actually vote Tory aspire to any management role and their self interest.

    8. "Probation officers do not believe in rehabilitation"

      "this would be 99% of probation officers"

      I would not recommend that 21:55 or 22:23 become probation staff. They make sweeping generalisations and don't demonstrate the ability to consider issues from other perspectives.

    9. But maybe 21:55 and 22:23 are offenders or already probation officers and this is their experience, meaning you yourself demonstrate inability to consider issues from other perspectives and perhaps are the foul majority they’re referred too!

    10. Maybe they are, but I suspect not. My guess is they are just sad individuals, trolling on here as a way of distracting themselves from their own issues.

    11. Ha ha. I think you just described yourself.

  2. I get pretty fed up with the argument of drugs drones and phones.
    They're not responsible for staff shortages. They're not responsible for budget cuts. They're not responsible for the lack of purposeful activity. They're not responsible for shortages of clothing and food. Chris Grayling is.
    It's an uncomfortable truth for the authorities, but they can't stop drugs entering prisons, and the drugs of choice getting in are causing significant problems with violence, selfharm assaults and suicides.
    If you stick a notice on the end of every prison landing saying that for whatever reason drug testing is to be targeted on sycoactive and class A drugs and as a consequence no one will now be tested for THC until further notice you will change the whole supply and demand of the prison drug trade.
    Herbal cannabis will become the drug of choice solely because it attracts no penalty whilst other drugs do.
    It dosent solve the drug problem by itself, but I would argue that it would significantly impact on violence and self harm and the day to day good order and discipline a prison depends on to function properly.
    I know the notion of turning a blind eye to cannabis use would rankle with politicians, but you have to use the tools you've got, and if politicians hadn't created such a mess in the first place it might not be something that would need to be considered.


    1. Correct in every respect, Getafix. I seem to recall you have previously posted about the impact of MDTs on drug use in prisons, i.e. the shift from cannabis to opiates to New Psychoactive Substances (amusingly the acronym is NPS).

      The means of testing & the half-life of the known/proscribed drug inform the results. I guess there are no known figures for the half-life of the NPS, e.g. spice.

      The drug’s half-life = how long it takes for the liver and kidneys to break down and filter half of the amount of the drug in your bloodstream. As with calculating alcohol units. So if a drug’s half-life is one hour, after one hour you’d have half as much of the drug in your blood as you did when you first took it. After two hours its a quarter, and after three hours, an eighth, etc. Most tests aren't overly sensitive so a drug has probably effectively 'cleared your system' after five half-lives.

      THC’s half-life for infrequent users is about 1.3 days. Because THC can dissolve in fat, it will soak into the body’s fat stores and then slowly release over time back into the blood, prolonging its effects. Regular users can expect a half-life of five to 13 days, hence the 28-day rule-of-thumb many quote (five X 5 days, etc).

      Morphine is 1.5 to 7 hours - even compared to 1.3 days there's no competition! Methadone is 10 to 60 hours, still considerable less than cannabis.

      So the fear of MDTs drove people to move from relatively benign cannabis (not true for everyone, I know) to Class A & the totally unknown NPS options. Many moons ago I remember a Cat A prison governor telling a meeting "off-the-record" that he was happy to let the remand wing "smoke itself daft". He said it was the only way he could make the prison a viable, manageable environment. He was furious about the MDT policy and added he was so concerned he would have to consider early retirement - which happened soon afterwards.

      The Home Office research paper in March 2005 concluded "The prison service has invested heavily in MDT and the staff have shown high commitment to the proper implementation of this drug control strategy within the prisons. If the key aim has been to reduce all types of illegal drug use within establishments, then it is possible to say that through the reduction in cannabis use it has been a relative success... Overall the MDT programme has had a significant impact on cannabis but little impact on heroin use."

    2. link to document here

    3. A welcome reminder and thanks for posting. 177 pages from 2005 - A lifetime ago in terms of change and one can't help pondering on what similar research would throw up nowadays?

    4. In Scotland the prison population is falling. I wonder if it's a consequence of initiatives like this?

    5. GLASGOW Sheriff Court is to begin operating the city's first alcohol court to help offenders who commit crime while abusing booze.

      The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service confirmed the pilot court project will begin operating this month.

      The alcohol court, which is to be presided over by Sheriff Iain Fleming, is the latest 'problem-solving court' to be launched in Scotland and follows the creation of the successful drug court at Glasgow, which has been in operation since 2001.

      At the outset, the Glasgow pilot will apply to accused appearing in the sheriff summary courts who plead guilty to, or are convicted of, charges involving violence or dishonesty; public order offences; or drink driving offences in circumstances in which it appears or is accepted that alcohol abuse has significantly contributed to the offending.

      The pilot, however, is directed towards those who face charges which do not contain a domestic element.

      The offender must be a Glasgow resident and the target age is those aged under 35 who have two or more previous convictions for offences involving violence or dishonesty; public order offences; or drink driving.

      But The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service said the scope of the target group will remain the subject of review.

      If the presiding sheriff at the time of plea or conviction forms the view that an offender falling within those parameters may benefit from the problem solving approach the court will adopt, the sheriff will request an Alcohol Court Assessment Report and defer sentence to the next suitable alcohol court.

      The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service said: "The aim of the pilot court is to deliver sentences which are tailored to influence an individual’s behaviour and hold them accountable, with progress rigorously monitored by the same sheriff."

      The pilot scheme is supported by both the Social Work Department of Glasgow City Council and Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership.

      One of the city's leading charities, which helps people with addiction issues has welcomed the move.

      Addaction Scotland, which is the country’s largest drug and alcohol charity, said structured intervention can divert people from the criminal justice system towards the help they need.

      Andrew Horne, who is director of Addaction Scotland, said: “We fully support a new specialised alcohol court in the city. We believe that structured intervention can divert people from the criminal justice system towards the help they need. In addition, the court will monitor their recovery progress which can fuel people’s efforts to turn their lives around.”

      Andrew added: “One of our key aims at Addaction is to make substance misuse a health matter and not a criminal one. Giving people the support they need to break the cycle and consequently make lasting changes in Scotland’s drug and alcohol landscape, is better than the revolving door of the prison system.

  3. There is human horror that numbers in a newspaper article do not show. I have seen an image of a Prison Officer's head split open that was evidenced to me by a former Prison Officer. It was shocking. When we talk about record levels of self harm, suicide, violence between prisoners and toward staff there is a stark image imprinted in someone's, often many minds. It is not just people's physical well - being that is being put at risk but also their mental well being. Government penal policy and austerity measures in the prison system have rightfully faced severe criticism.

  4. Meanwhile, the probation service are actively working to direct staff who dont want to be there, into prisons under E3.
    They of course will remain in their ivory towers divorced from reality.
    Lions led by donkeys?

    1. Wasn't there some discussion on here sometime ago about the PI introducing a "rehabilitation officer" qualification?
      All inclusive definition, can work in prisons, probation, police or even handing out parking tickets.

    2. Parking tickets really what next? POs could never do that.

  5. The BBC reports on just how many prison officers have been recruited to London prisons in the last 18mths.
    Its not very many, and to be honest with the cost of living or cumuting in to London it won't be long before it becomes a city that is practically unserviceable.


    1. A recruitment drive to employ more prison officers has seen just 22 extra staff in government-run prisons in London since September 2016.

      HMP Belmarsh, Pentonville and Wormwood Scrubs have all seen staff numbers fall despite the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) recruiting 4,563 officers in 2017.

      The Prison Officers' Association (POA) has raised concerns over retaining staff after hundreds quit last year.

      The MoJ claims it has a strategy to help keep experienced staff in the job.

      Data seen by the BBC shows nearly 2,000 prison officers left in 2017, 487 of which were new recruits in the first year of their service.

      Rachel Long, who worked as a prison officer at HMP Wandsworth for nearly 18 months, felt the recruitment process was "fine" but echoed the POA's worries over keeping its employees.

      "On my training we had about 30 people for those six weeks," she said.

      "Out of all of them I think there are only five left in the prison service which is insane considering the training was about three years ago.

      "I do not think the problem is recruitment, I think the problem is that no-one stays once they are in they see what the conditions are like."

      Statistics show in September 2016 there were 1,832 officers working as custodial managers, supervising officers and prison officers in HMP Belmarsh, Brixton, Pentonville, Isis, Wormwood Scrubs, Feltham and Downview.

      By December 2017, this total figure had risen to 1,854.

      However, during that time period only Brixton (+34) and Wandsworth (+21) prisons gained staff.

      A number of prisons lost employees, including Belmarsh (-22), Pentonville (-20), Isis (-1), Wormwood Scrubs (-15) and Feltham (-3).

      Commenting on the data, Justice Secretary David Gauke said: "Staffing is the golden thread that links the solutions we need to put in place to drive improvement, so I am delighted our recruitment efforts are working."

      The POA claimed the government's recruitment campaign was "nothing more than smoke and mirrors".

      A spokesman said: "These statistics clearly demonstrate that enticing new staff into the job in the London area is simply not happening. A new pay structure and a return to a retirement age of 60 would encourage people to not only join but to stay in the job."

    2. How long until probation officers are politely instructed to transfer to work in prisons? A ‘developmental opportunity’ they’ll tell us, and no additional pay or danger money to sweeten the cyanide pill. Refuse!

    3. I'm puzzled by the sums, maffs weren't my strong point:

      (1854 - 1832) = 22 = net staffing gain 2016/17

      Staff Gains "during that period" = (34 + 21) = 55
      Staff Losses "during that period" = (22+20+1+15+3) = 61

      (55 - 61) = -6


    4. KPMG did the counting!!!

    5. “Commenting on the data, Justice Secretary David Gauke said: "Staffing is the golden thread that links the solutions we need to put in place to drive improvement, so I am delighted our recruitment efforts are working."”

      “... our recruitment efforts are WORKING”