Monday 31 October 2016

News Roundup 7

This from Private Eye:-


I noticed this on the Inside Time website:-  

The Parole Board has experienced an increase in the demand for oral hearings since the Osborn, Booth and Riley judgment handed down in 2013. This has resulted in delays for a considerable number of prisoners waiting for an oral hearing date. The listing prioritisation framework, which was developed to help us manage the increased volume of cases, currently prioritises recalled determinate sentenced prisoners above most other prisoners when allocating oral hearing dates each month. Unfortunately, this has resulted in the majority of other prisoners experiencing much longer delays before their oral hearing date is set. We recognise that we need to change our current approach in order to ensure fairness across the system.

To address this problem, we have developed 4 trials that we will be piloting from now until the end of March 2017:

1. We will work closer with PPCS to make more effective use of the option of ‘executive release’. Eligible cases will be considered for executive release at an earlier stage of the parole process, before a case is directed to an oral hearing. We hope this will reduce the number of cases waiting in the queue for an oral hearing date and allow prisoners to be released more quickly.

2. We are extending the cut off point for determinate cases with an upcoming Sentence Expiry Date (SED). We currently conclude cases directed to oral hearing if the SED is within 12 weeks’ time of the oral hearing directions. This is because there is insufficient time to schedule an oral hearing before a prisoner will be automatically released. This will now be extended to 24 weeks.

3. We will change the listing prioritisation framework so that prisoners who have 12 months or less before their SED will no longer be prioritised. This means most recall cases will no longer be listed ahead of other sentence types, resulting in a fairer system. A full review of the listings framework will take place by April 2017.

4. We are looking into the possibility of using Ministry of Justice video link rooms across the UK to host hearings for determinate sentence prisoners. Currently, we can only host video link hearings at our London based office which limits our capacity. We hope that by creating regional hubs across the UK, more cases can be heard more swiftly. This will also hopefully ensure prisoners with determinate sentences will not be disadvantaged by the above pilots.

We are taking a flexible approach to these pilots and if any prisoners believes that they have exceptional circumstances that warrant prioritisation of their case they can write to the Parole Board. Such circumstances can include, but are not limited to, medical/mental health issues and/or compassionate reasons for example.

If you believe you are affected by one of the above pilots then we strongly recommend you seek guidance from a legal representative or a member of prison staff.


On the shocking increase in suicides in prison, this from the Guardian:-

New crisis in prisons as suicides hit record levels

Suicides in prison have reached “epidemic” proportions, with rates of self-harm and violence soaring to unprecedented levels. In addition, experts say the situation in women’s jails is now worse than a decade ago, when a landmark report was commissioned amid widespread concerns about deteriorating standards.

In the 12 months to 16 September, there were 107 self-inflicted deaths in prisons in England and Wales – almost double that for 2012, when 57 people took their lives, and nearly seven times the 16 suicides in 1978, when the current recording system began.

Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, has used her blog to highlight that at least 26 prisoners have taken their life since Liz Truss was appointed secretary of state for justice in July, the equivalent to one suicide every three days.

Crook, who describes suicides in prison as having reached “epidemic proportions”, said the situation was the worst she had known in her 30 years of campaigning.

“I haven’t seen anything like this, this is really, really bad,” she said. “There used to be enough experienced staff to know when someone was in distress, but they don’t have time to talk to anyone, there simply aren’t enough of them. I’ve been in prisons recently where you have two uniformed officers on duty with several hundred men on the wings. All they can do is go along the landings and open all the doors to allow people to fetch their lunch and then go back down the landings and shut all the doors again. They can’t say anything to anybody because they haven’t got time.”
Last Sunday, Celeste Craig, 26, became the 19th woman prisoner to take her own life this year. With two months of the year still to go, the number dwarfs the levels of a decade ago when the Corston report warned that too many women were being jailed for minor offences while their mental health needs, addiction problems and troubled backgrounds went largely ignored.

“I was commissioned to write my report in 2006 because in two years, 2003 and 2004, a total of 13 women took their own lives in prison,” Lady Corston said. “Now we’ve had 19 in one year which is a scandal.”

The Corston report made 43 recommendations, but much of its impact has been reversed, she said. “In 2003 there were 9,000 women taken into our prisons,” she said. “In 2009, two years after my report, it went down to 5,724.

“Now, at a time of staff cuts, there are 11,000 women going through our prisons this year. We are back to the same old story. Women prisoners, who are 21 times more likely [than average] to commit suicide, are being sent to prison for ridiculously short times and nothing is achieved. I am very depressed about it all.”

Deborah Coles, director of Inquest, branded the death toll in women’s prisons as unacceptable. “We see the brutal consequences of criminal justice policies that see prison as the default solution and incarcerate some of the most disadvantaged women in prisons that are ill-equipped to keep them safe. These deaths raise the question as to why women were in prison in the first place.”

The rest of the prison system is also experiencing profound problems. Statistics published by the Ministry of Justice show that the death rate in prisons in England and Wales – which includes suicides, natural causes and homicide – has risen to almost one a day. In the 12 months to the end of June 2016, assaults in men’s prisons rose to a record high at 22,915 – an increase of 69% in only three years. Over the same period there were 36,440 incidents of self-injury – equivalent to 100 per day.

The crisis comes as Truss prepares to make her first major speech as justice secretary this week. She told the Observer that prison reform was her priority and that she was committed to making jails safer. “These statistics demonstrate the serious violence and self-harm in our prisons,” Truss said.

“The consequences are devastating and go far beyond the confines of the prison walls, spilling out into our streets and communities. That is why I have invested an initial £14m at 10 of our most challenging prisons, and shortly I will be publishing a white paper outlining the much needed reform across the prison estate to 2020 and beyond.”

But Crook said the crisis merited a more urgent response. “Legislation will be introduced some time next year, by which time 100 people will have taken their own lives. She [Truss] has to do something now,” she said.

“It’s deeply distressing that this sort of thing is still happening almost 10 years after the Corston inquiry,” said Ben Summerskill, director of the Criminal Justice Alliance, who pointed out that half of all prisoners return to jail after release. If we had any other industry in the country where half the products got returned to the factory, ministers would have acted decades ago,” he said.


Finally, the Howard League press release on the subject:-

Prison statistics reveal a bloodbath of assaults, suicide and self-injury

The number of people dying in prison has risen by 21 per cent in a year as safety in jails deteriorates further and faster, figures seen by the Howard League for Penal Reform reveal today (Thursday 27 October). Statistics published by the Ministry of Justice show that the death rate in prisons in England and Wales rose to almost one a day – a record high of 324 in the 12 months to the end of September 2016.

They included 107 prisoners who took their own lives as the suicide rate behind bars rose by 13 per cent to unprecedented levels. The number has almost doubled since 2011-12, when 57 people died by suicide in prison.

Official records of assaults and self-injury incidents show that prison safety is declining at a faster rate year by year. The total number of assaults recorded in prisons increased by more than 34 per cent to 23,775 – about 65 per day – in the 12 months to the end of June 2016. Assaults recorded in men’s prisons rose to a record high at 22,915 – an increase of 69 per cent in only three years. Assaults in women’s prisons have also risen, increasing by 25 per cent in a year.

In the 12 months to the end of June 2016, 36,440 incidents of self-injury were recorded in prisons. This equates to 100 per day and represents a rise of 26 per cent compared to the previous year. The number of incidents of self-injury by men in prisons has more than doubled in six years.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: 
“The Ministry of Justice is presiding over a bloodbath of assaults, suicides and self-injury in prisons. Cutting staff and prison budgets while allowing the number of people behind bars to grow unchecked has created a toxic mix of violence, death and human misery. The Secretary of State for Justice, Elizabeth Truss, has declared that making prisons safer is her priority, and we expect her plans to be made clear next month. But today’s figures show that we cannot wait for legislation – bold and radical action is needed now to stop the death toll rising further. The Howard League is about to publish a plan of action to tackle the immediate problems. We will be suggesting that small behaviour change by magistrates, prisons and probation could ease the pressure on prisons and save lives. I will present this to the Secretary of State at our meeting next month.”

Sunday 30 October 2016

Pick of the Week 18

Surprised at author's seemingly emotional 'let them fail' conclusion. Problem with privatising key public services is that they cannot be allowed to fail. Think about it, staff and service users take the brunt, the Criminal Justice System is challenged, bad news day(s) for Tories etc. The government needs to bring forward funded solution/strategy which means taxpayer to rescue. Post Mortem of idiocy that brought mess about gets then lost in the long grass. I think that will be direction of travel and not 'let them fail' which granted has an emotional appeal.

Which is exactly why there should be no market in essential public services. Markets, businesses, companies fail all the time.

CRC's may be failing but it doesn't stop those at the top being handed out huge payouts for 'hitting targets'. One in Cheshire given a five figure bonus on the basis that her staff hit targets. In a recent staff event we raised concerns about high workloads etc and the same manager told us to shut up and get on with it or leave. It's a shambles and a disgrace that she's profiting from treating staff like this.

I still believe the responsibility for their impending catastrophic failure lies with the Private Companies. It was their duty to conduct all necessary checks on what they were buying into. It is unfortunate for them, that they did not do all the due diligence necessary and they failed to employ people who knew anything about front line work to do those checks. Therefore, the adage, law of Tort, says Buyer Beware; and on failing, they should have no recourse to a defence of "I didn't know guv"! Hell scud it into them!

I remember being told that the bidders weren't allowed to ask existing staff questions about anything to do with the work; I think this had to do with not giving one a competitive advantage over others. Presumably they were free to pay for advice from one of the dodgy consultancy firms formed by ex-probation staff who couldn't cut it on the front line anymore. No doubt they all swallowed the line that staff in the public sector don't know how to innovate, and assumed there were rich pickings to be had. My only sympathy is for the staff who continue to suffer under the rule of these imbeciles.

I remember them being ushered around our office all smiles in suits soaking up the complete and utter bullshit being spouted at them by a couple of ACOs who are now long gone with their pockets stuffed with EVR cash no doubt muttering 'so long suckers'.

Aye, there are some fancy second homes in rural Europe recently acquired by ex-probation managers - one emailed me a few weeks back asking if I was interested in "mates rates" rental... Cheeky Bastard! Still, they won't have to cope with Trump Corp Probation Services.

Government will, in time, argue the split is why the CRC's are failing. They won't use this as a reason to renationalise but to give the CRC an increasingly large share of the cases and responsibility for increased risk.

E3 will pave the ground for this to happen. Court team bolted onto HMCS. Prison teams managing cases up until a few months before release. Community based OMs moved into CRCs (initially as a high risk team) and then job done. No more NPS.

"It is worth recalling that before the government embarked on the transforming rehabilitation programme, every probation area had been rated as excellent or very good. It is possible for probation to recover its position as a good public service. But only if it is freed from the failed privatisation experiment so foolishly imposed upon in."

Hmmm having been on licence since before TR and continuing to be I can certainly attest that from a service user's point of view there is little difference between pre and post TR. The service in my area was always shit and continues to be shit post TR. I'm not clear who decided that things were all hunky dory before hand but the service users clearly were not consulted in the determining of that.

Pre and post TR the same shit from service user's point of view as opposed to an award winning service: I wish the person who wrote that would explain from his/her point of view. As a PO my observation has always been they we were judged and awarded by our ability to deal ably and consistently with all the procedures and bureaucracy, and now we no longer can. 

As far as I am aware, apart from some notable exceptions, we were not judged and awarded by our ability to reduce reoffending or by making things happen which were likely to cause that reduction. Much of the rhetoric was anti service user holier than thou speak, and way before the split. An integral part of the way I operated was to strike uneasy bargains in terms of time and effort between process/bureaucracy and effective interventions which made the difference to a particular service user. That is until the PPO/IOM schemes came along and made those interventions more acceptable and manageable, if you were lucky enough to work in one of those teams. 

Things like the programmes and safeguarding when they were working well did make a difference to people's lives, but all in all when service users say that they can barely tell pre- and post TR apart I am not that surprised. Pre-TR there was not at a sufficiently high-level the rooting for the service user or consistent enough investment in those rehabilitative intervention options which would have made a difference to a lot of our service users. And much of the time staff were not trusted to be able to make sound suggestions. Anything not from "the top" was considered worthless.

The death of 'Advise, Assist & Befriend' is a fair point which has been often discussed here, i.e. CJA 1991 politicised probation; various other Acts during the '90s consolidated that move; the choreographers of the new millennium brought us NPS v.1 & OASys; then the creation of Noms imposed death-by-bureaucracy, Trusts, "metrics", totally shit IT systems & a new ethos of Control and Command which ensured that senior probation staff with years of compassion-focused knowledge & experience were squeezed out, to be replaced with ambitious bullies eager to please their masters, shit on their staff, ignore the end-user & progress into the Noms hierarchy.

I agree, "let them fail", and they will! It'd be sooner rather than later if Napo, the Probation Institute and probation senior management (the probation officer qualified NPS and CRC) would stop being complicit in this mess!!

This is all very well but I am seriously worried that one day I will turn up at work, CRC, and there will literally be no one there but me! Our team is so small, we have lost admin support so already multi tasking, staff off sick for long periods and delius problems are constant. Really, can we take much more? We desperately need someone experienced and pro probation at the helm in our CRC. Not a brainwashed puppet. I for one would love to see our previous CPO back at the helm. The current director and existing ACO's have lost all credibility because they have failed to speak out and towed the line to keep the privateers and their pockets lined. If they want to be part of any post TR service then they need to stand up to the private companies and fight for the future of probation and its credibility admit that TR is failing and speak out, speak to Noms/MoJ and work with the unions. Ok, they may get the sack but they can walk away with their heads held high and then return to help sort out the mess once the privateers go. Many PO's and PSO's have already done this and hopefully some of them will also do the same.

A good point about markets failing - though let's remember that in several CPAs there was only one bidder, meaning that there was no 'market' as such at all! TR was predicated on the Tory mantra of 'private good, public bad', and the assumption that the public sector Trusts were bloated and full of non-jobs. Funnily enough they are now discovering that the magic of competition won't suddenly uncover mystical new ways of lean, efficient working that people who had done the job for decades were ignorant of.

I am in the CRC but not the one in question here. My managers have informed us that there is no limit to the cases they will pile on our caseloads. If they need allocating they will be allocated no matter what our workload is already. Call me old fashioned but is that not totally unreasonable and grounds for a grievance? Do grievances even count for anything any more?

We are being told similar things - it's not about the number of cases that you hold but the throughput. Get them through their Order as quickly as possible, never mind whether it worked or not, otherwise you'll drown in allocations.

At one level, it makes no difference how many cases you hold - be it 50,100, 200.There are still only 7.5 hours in the working day, and you can only do what you can do. Harden your heart, look after yourself and record everything on delius. It is my understanding that the MoJ can access delius independently (whereas previously files had to be requested for inspection) and that they roam around the system checking records. 'Workload issues', 'operational issues' and 'staffing issues' are phrases I use regularly.

What on earth was that all about Glenys? Placating the sentencers? Had I been a sentencer listening to that I would have been none the wiser. And those RARs, it is a mystery what they are meant to be for. Not easy to know where to signpost people so they can be "seen to" and their offending behaviour cured. Even if you signpost someone to go somewhere you would need to have a system whereby you can check that they have attended. You would have to have an agreement with the relevant organisation that confirmation of attendance would be ok. Apparently you are not supposed to count attendance to see probation officer as a RAR session. But at the same time probation staff get slated if the service user hasn't been "seen". 

Time was when "relationship" played a part in the process, when a service user would have some continuity, seeing one officer for a while, establishing a rapport and from there begin to acquire the confidence to take on the world differently. Time was when end to end work was the buzzword. I am not saying there is only one way to skin a cat. Having options and flexibility is good. But you can signpost till you are blue in the face, you still have to be sure that the organisation you signpost to is not just another signposting organisation. Who will actually do the actual work with people when in austerity Britain all services have been pared down to the bare bones?

The other thing to take into account is that the RARs are "up to", which theoretically means there is no obligation to complete all or any of the RAR sessions. Are the sentencers aware of how wishy washy, unspecific and badly written this law is? Glenys does not appear to have pointed this out in her speech.

Some of this is good but some of it not so much. For example a smaller NOMS? NOMS should be done away with entirely as it serves no useful function whatsoever & merely adds a layer of bureaucracy that is unnecessary. It's functions should be done in house at the MoJ like they used to be.

As for giving governors more power, well first you would need to weed out all those ineffective and corrupt governors (Hello Helga Swidenbank) and have some sort of mechanism to ensure that governors get some sort of psychological assessment to ensure that they are the right people for the job not simply the next in line for a lucrative boost to their career or rewarded for failure so that the extra power is not abused.

In our NPS team meeting in a office 'up north' we were asked to look for cases to pass to new PSO's who arrived 2 weeks ago, they have no experience and have had no training. They all look like they have come straight from school. If only the public knew this is how seriously their safety is being taken. The whole shitty mess is an absolute joke. But so, so worrying. Where will it all end? Tragedy no doubt. Somebody do something before it's too late.

Oh, and more essential, mandatory training - parole and oral hearing stuff! I concede this would be helpful, but none of us can access the justice academy website! More reminders arriving every week to get it done! We are told we can log in using free standing PC's in the office - we don't have one! Some guys arrived last month with an all singing, dancing photocopier and scanner, plumbed it in, and our fax and PC hasn't worked since! The solution it seems, is to do the work on your home PC, really? I work with someone who doesn't even own a mobile phone, so how can she get equal access to learning and self development? We have been told we will soon be receiving lap tops, one per office, but no expected date of arrival! Needless, to say, once I've done the on line stuff, I will once again be hunting high and low for a classroom, to complete the training! Crock of shite!

Sounds like NPS is in a sorry state too. At CRC things were still working ..ish at BGSW CRC up until about a year ago. Then they did away with a perfectly usable system My HR, which we could use to quickly fill in our timesheets and request leave or toil and brought back old methods that take ages to complete and then swap some managers around and no one knows what the hell is going on.offices move, phone numbers change constantly, new system or person for pool car booking. 

Call WL IT to report that you have problems with delius and they just log it and ask you to call your CRC IT team who are rapidly shrinking. Staff leaving on a weekly basis and their tasks having to be swallowed by someone else. And that is before the major cuts we are now facing! Try to transfer a case to another area, good luck with that! 

No more joined up system, all using different e mail providers so can't just tap in a name anymore. What happened to napo directory? London CRC apparently needing that new wall mounted invention a lot these days! Any more news? Training? What is that? A rare commodity these days! Remember all the great training we used to have from experienced probation officers who had earned their stripes moving around within the organisation? If I think back to the training I have had over my career, the courses I can actually remember what would stand out would be this:
A trainer who inspires respect through broad knowledge and experience that relates to your organisation. 
A common objective and ownership. All staff owning a way of working and feeling enthusiastic in taking it forward and making it work.
Putting the service user/public at the heart of what we do.
This could also apply to the pre-requisites of any functioning organisation.

Are you all deluded? If the NPS was interested in staff training and development it wouldn't be replacing qualified PO's with PSO's. Nor would it have just replaced the previous sub-standard PQF PO training with the far worse PQiP PO training.

Training in the NPS cannot really be called training. You'll see various training advertised on the civil service website we're directed too by various 'NPS Communications' emails, simply so they can blame us for not accessing or implementing training when something goes wrong. It's either online tick box rubbish or a self read workbook/document that doesn't tell you anything new. If you manage to get onto a classroom based training it will be a PowerPoint presentation (not training) by NOMS trainers who can't or won't say anything more than the script in front of them.

Have not been on any Nationally Mandated training since 2014. Cannot find my way round the Phoenix system. I get told to look on this site or that site and cannot find them, cannot get on them when I do, cannot access the right page should I actually find them and finally cannot find any relevant training in the mass of pointless programmes when I do. Its a bit shit really.

Prisoners coming out of HMP Liverpool saying that inmates are forcing people to move cells and staff having no part in it. Wings with 2 staff and lawlessness - weak inmates being falsely accused by other inmates and forced to pay-up and intimidation rife. HMIP needs to start from scratch with the prison system as it is broken. HMP Kennet closing so cram those prisoners in already over-croweded establishments.

Knowing this is happening should probation staff be recalling to prison those who fail to comply with their licences?


In my area recall is the last resort when all else fails but I agree that the stories coming out of prisons now make me dread having to consider recall. Prison just doesn't seem to be working for anyone.

If you have serious concerns about someone being risk to general public or known potential victim then you have a duty to recall in the right circumstances. I think we need to use our discretion. The problem is we rely on having the right tools for the job and yet we know offenders we supervise will be at increased risk both personally and in terms of further criminal associations from going into custody. 

At CRC it is further frustrated because we don't write PSR's when someone re-offends and rely on NPS to reflect our views. I did what I could to argue a case for keeping one young woman in the community following harassment offences but they sent her down. Not doing well emotionally or physically and unlikely to reduce her risk once she comes out because no one is working on her issues in custody. What we need are stronger more effective community sentences. 

My seeing someone once a week for an hour at most will never be enough. We need multi disciplinary working with a team including probation officers, police, mental health, social workers, IDVA, housing, education..women's centres and men's centres, effective groups in the locality. What we could do with is effective services and funding yet we are being reduced to a handful of de-moralised PO and PSO's in offices not fit for purpose. We know what we need to do to make a difference, but we are ignored and decisions made by people who have never worked with offenders or disadvantaged groups. 

We could fund this by reducing prison numbers and moving funds over to community supervision. Also more approved premises instead of prison. Prison is extremely expensive and de-humanising. It is not about simply putting a tag on someone, however, and off you go but really being creative and understanding what package would work for each individual.

Didn't we have all of that before the split called IOMs Integrated Offender Management Teams? We even had a prison officer from the nearby prison seconded to the team. Guess what It Worked!

Exactly! But we need to make a case not to 'bring it back because it worked' but allow an egotistical politician or MoJ big-wig to call it something different and announce it as their latest knee jerk light bulb moment written on the back of a beer mat or inscribed into a satsuma! Then hey presto!

Violence in prisons is of course a very real and major concern for the CJS. However, the lack of access to health care and mental health services, addiction services etc should warrant just the same level of concern. The whole system is in such disarray that decision makers should surely face prosecution for their failings. Corporate manslaughter? Health and safety legislation? Failing in duty of care?

Just read the news article in the Northern Chronicle about the levels of violence, drugs, bullying etc going on in HMP Northumberland. Napo Northumbria branch raised this with the local media and MPs in 2014 and warned it would get worse. What a shock we were right! The contract should be taken off Sodexo. How can a company be awarded the contract for providing prison services and also the contract for supervising released prisoners. Can we ask Mr and Mrs Paul McDowall both working for Sodexo, but prior to that Noms employees and then so called independent Probation Inspector. It all stinks!

Sadly the way it works is that somebody has to die for changes to be made. HMP Pentonville is a public sector prison but look how much around it has been privatised and sold off. Of course people in prison and on release are going to kill and be killed when they're caged like animals for the period of sentence and then released to hardly any support from probation, social service, housing, mental health, and so on. Outsourcing plus cuts has led to this current disaster where CJS and public sector services are designed to be useless and the buck stops at the offices of the meerkat-looking Justice Secretary and the Thatcher-wannabe hag of a Prime Minister, and we have no idea how Brexit is going to affect it all.

In 2013 I read this in the Guardian:

"What happens when these firms, with their inexorable expansionist logic, bite off more than they can chew? We pay anyway. We paid G4S; we will pay it again when its prisons catch fire. We will pay A4e when it finds no jobs, we will pay Serco when its probation services fail. We will pay because even when they're not delivered by the public sector, these are still public services, and the ones that aren't too big to fail are too important. What any government creates with massive-scale outsourcing is not "new efficiency", it is a shadow state; we can't pin it down any more than we can vote it out. All we can do is watch."

Saturday 29 October 2016

What Needs to be Done

I notice the Director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies is blunt in what the government needs to do in order to repair the damage done to probation by TR:-

Let them fail

Far from trying to rescue the struggling privatised probation companies, the government should let them fail, Richard Garside argues

In its structure, planning, delivery and financing, probation across England and Wales faces major problems. These are problems created by government, through the ill-advised ‘transforming rehabilitation’ programme. Whatever its original intent, this programme is sabotaging, rather than transforming, probation work across England and Wales.

A problem foretold

Many of the problems faced by the fragmented probation services across England and Wales were foretold by the House of Commons Justice Committee, in a report back January 2014. Across a range of areas – programme design and definition of outcome, programme costings, transition planning and professional buy-in, to name but a few – the Committee’s report raised significant concerns and questions.

Things fall apart

Assessments published over recent months have vindicated the Committee's judgement. These include:
an April 2016 report by the National Audit Office, which highlighted a yawning gap between the estimated caseload volumes the private 'Community Rehabilitation Companies' (CRC) used to cost up their bids, and the actual caseload volumes they are working with;
a September 2016 report by the Public Accounts Committee, which found that delivery of probation services across England and Wales has become mixed and patchy, when it is not chaotic and inadequate;
a September 2016 report by the Probation Inspectorate into services for criminalised women, which identified a dramatic decline in the quality and provision of services;
and an October 2016 joint report by the Inspectorates of Probation and Prison on resettlement services for prisoners on short sentences. This report found that services were 'poor' and that 'there was little to commend' about them.
Earlier this month, the Financial Times reported that ‘almost every contract to provide probation services... is lossmaking’. Talks to resolve the problems faced by the CRCs had stalled, the paper also noted.

Market failure

The problems facing the CRCs are only likely to grow over time. At best, the government's current approach appears to revolve around attempting to make a badly-designed system work slightly less badly. The risk is that it will simply entrench the existing dysfunctions.

Instead, the government should embrace, not evade, the implications of market failure. The CRCs are struggling because the market in probation services, constructed by the former Justice Secretary Chris Grayling, was an ill-judged ideological experiment detached from the reality of how probation works in practice. 

The government should take decisive action to draw a line under the mistakes of the past and to place probation on a coherent and sustainable footing. Contracts with the CRCs should be brought to a close as soon as possible, to be replaced by a unified, public sector probation service, organised locally/regionally and coordinated nationally.

If the penalties for ending the CRC contracts early prove too costly, the government should adopt an incremental approach, bringing the CRCs back into public hands as they fail or surrender their contracts.

Things can get better

It is worth recalling that before the government embarked on the transforming rehabilitation programme, every probation area had been rated as excellent or very good. It is possible for probation to recover its position as a good public service. But only if it is freed from the failed privatisation experiment so foolishly imposed upon in.


Richard Garside is the director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies and senior visiting research fellow at The Open University. He came to the Centre in 2003 to set up the 'Crime and Society Foundation' project, becoming the Centre's director in 2006. Prior to joining the Centre Richard worked for Nacro, the crime reduction charity as head of communications.

Richard is the author of numerous pamphlets and articles and is in demand as a conference speaker. He also appears regularly in national print and broadcast media as a commentator on crime, criminal justice and social harm.


I notice that this article has already prompted some discussion on Facebook:-

Sadly they will not, this will be propped up at great expense while E3 destroys the NPS

Interestingly it has literally come down to a decision for the government to either prop them up (going against Tory ideology) or let them fail (following Tory ideology) The problem they have is that they created the conditions that set the companies up to fail and the companies could easily walk away claiming foul play and frustration of contract. This could then result in a crisis because all the companies owned by a particular owner may well be handed back and these are now being run differently from those companies run by their competitors. The companies are replacing all the key positions in these companies by non-probation people they have drafted in with lucrative benefits. These people will either go with the owners or the government will be landed with a considerable bill for a large number of persons who know very little about probation and contribute very little to the business other than lots of corporate vision about how good things could be if they had the money to spend but nevertheless are taking money out of it. In fact weren't these the people that Douglas Adams described as the telephone sanitisers etc who the NPS seem to be able to do without and yet are multiplying in the CRC like fruit flies on a banana.

Perhaps the only way is to get it over with and let them fail

It's sad for the hard working frontline staff in the CRSs who were dragged from their previous probation areas and who still want and try to deliver the excellent service pre-TR but are hindered by non-probation employers who are implementing policies and procedures based on what they think we as staff need rather than listen to us who have the experience and knowledge. It's soul destroying to be told in a recent HMIP inspection that we're functioning below the expected standards when the outcome of our last pre-TR inspection was excellent.

Haven't read the article but we all predicted that it wouldn't work. There is already evidence of failure despite the hard work and commitment of hardworking colleagues. TR has, in my opinion, had a detrimental impact on the wellbeing of many members of staff both in NPS and CRC.

And if CRCs do fail - what happens to the staff? We've all already had 3 years of hell whichever side we got put on.

I am retired PO from the proper service day!! I have a child who is current working as what was an unqualified PO and is also a third generation to work in the service, who is now in the new service and works ony part time but has a case load of 80!!!! how the hell is that a good service, with no resources, lack of informed senior management, poor senior PO's who have sold over to the private sector and are focused on targets and profits and what I echo is the concern about Mental Health as I watch my child slowly melt and descend into dispair and levels of stress and anxiety which no person should have to work under, without the support or tools to do the job, its gone to hell in a bucket and I am so sad about the whole affair and recently was offered TUPE over to an organisation (Charity based so they say!) who also provides NOMs around the country, needless to say I said no thanks I would not work for anyone who had brought about such chaos and mayhem into the work place for staff and 'service users' sad sad times.

What happens to the staff? Yes. That's a concern but what happens to the clients is the question I would ask - and leading onto that future victims of the clients ......
I agree entirely. Though not sure anyone with any power has thought about what's best for clients for a long long time.

His argument is ... let the CRCs fail, take the work back into public sector, and make things as much as they were before the failed experiment. Which has its attractions, but I worry that what would actually happen is that one CRC would be seen as better than the others and achieve a monopoly (with the govt patting itself on the back for encouraging competition). And then the whole private sector rehabilitation shambles would be run by a company that couldn't fix the flush on the loo in my last but one office.
Yes but's this for Tory thinking. Bring all probation work back into the NPS. So all clients transfer into public sector .... blaming staff in CRCs for failure thereby making all crc staff redundant as they are in fact employees of the private companies and no longer the governments responsibility. That would save them a huge amount of money - and I wouldn't put it past them to try !!!

There are two options for me. This fails and goes into public ownership or I'm out.

This article has links to reports most of which have appeared on this page, but it makes a handy point for cutting and pasting all or some and EMAILING YOUR MP. If and when the CRCs fall over, the case for taking them back into public ownership is going to be a political decision. Educate your MP.

Friday 28 October 2016

Latest From Napo 122

Here we have some edited highlights from the General Secretary's latest blog post:-

Keeping the politicians focused

We have secured more oral questions through the Labour Front Bench Team for next week’s justice question session in the Commons which relates to prison safety, access to justice and probation.

This is just one example of the parliamentary activities we are involved in as we approach a week where I will be making a contribution to an informal hearing being organised by the Justice Select Committee, and where Napo will be taking up an offer to meet with Probation and Prisons Minister Sam Gyimah in lieu of him not being able to personally attend our recent AGM.

As more noises are being made in Westminster about the efficacy of the Transforming Rehabilitation programme (see last week’s Blog feature and the questions asked of Ricard Heaton by Robert Neill Chair of the Justice Select Committee) we are doing everything possible to try and get politicians from all benches to turn up the volume.

This week saw another story which featured a remarkable, and of course very welcome, contribution from the Royal Society for the Arts and Manufacturing (RSA), where the society appositely demanded that the Government construct a Rehabilitation strategy for the next five years.

This follows the not surprising revelation in the Financial Times earlier this month, where the Financial Times reported that ‘almost every contract to provide probation services... is lossmaking and that talks to resolve the problems faced by the CRCs had stalled.’

This is why we are keeping a keen eye on the outcomes from the Probation Systems Review which is scheduled to report to Ministers next week and where it would seem from feedback from some sources within CRCs, that the going has been somewhat tough.

Government issues heaps of probation related material

Meanwhile, and in advance of the Parliamentary activities scheduled for next week, we have been even busier than normal trying to digest a swathe of information that suddenly appeared on the GOV.UK website yesterday. This includes statistics, revised guidance notes and reports. In amongst all this is an invitation to respond to some interesting proposals from the Sentencing Council:

The Council says: “The definitive guideline for the Imposition of Community and Custodial Sentences, which will be effective from 1st February 2017, replaces the existing guidelines produced by the Sentencing Council’s predecessor body the Sentencing Guidelines Council ‘New Sentences Criminal Justice Act 2003’.

The simultaneous publication of the consultation on a draft guideline for breach offences and the publication of the definitive guideline for imposing community and custodial sentences is to ensure the right order is imposed at the original point of sentence, to ensure any breach which may occur can be dealt with appropriately.”

It would be helpful if members who have a view on this particular consultative paper could let us know (via their Napo branch) by contacting Tania Bassett who will co-ordinate our central response.

A death in the community

Dreadful news reached me this week of the murder of an Approved Premises resident, which the Napo Branch have been able to confirm took place some way from the premises itself. Nevertheless, it will obviously have been a traumatic situation for the AP workers and it reminded me of a discussion I had some years ago with a member who had suffered terribly following a totally preventable physical assault, as to how risky the profession can be in a world where acts of violence are never that far away.

Perhaps it’s why I spent a few more minutes than normal examining yet another of this week’s MoJ data releases which makes for some interesting reading. Even allowing for the old adage that there are lies, damn lies and statistics, I noted the apparent increase in self-inflicted deaths of clients under post-release supervision which may well be down to the fact that (post-TR) there are more individuals in that category these days. We will be seeking some answers about this and the other data from NOMS and the MOJ, meanwhile what do you think?

Official Statistics: Deaths of offenders in the community annual statistics bulletin 2015 to 2016

CRC Dispute - Latest 9

Here we have the latest jont statement from Napo, Unsison and GMB:-

For distribution to all trade union members across the three Working Links owned Community Rehabilitation Companies

No to Job Cuts...yes to fair play for staff… probation trade unions standing up for !

27th October 2016

DISPUTE LATEST - Unions first to engage with ACAS

In last week’s joint unions report we had indicated that following the interim determination by the National Negotiating Council Joint Secretaries, we were pleased to take up the invitation to participate in urgent mediation through the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) to explore whether a resolution of the dispute was possible.

A union team met with ACAS In London last Friday and we had hoped that further communications about the dispute with the Working Links/Aurelius owned CRC's would have awaited some outcomes from the ACAS brokered talks. Unfortunately we feel obliged to clarify our position in light of some misleading information issued by the employers this week.

Our view on the Voluntary Severance scheme

Our request to the employers to pause the processing of the applications that some staff have made to leave under this inferior scheme to the EVR arrangements that have been awarded to other staff, is not about trying to cause uncertainty but is about us taking up a principled position to defend jobs and seeking to secure a fair level of compensation for people who have decided to leave their employment.

That's the role of a trade union, and so is exposing the fact that the Voluntary Severance Scheme on offer from Working Links/Aurelius is a blatant attempt to denude some of their workforce from their just entitlements. The suggestion that this is some kind of favour to staff to avoid compulsory redundancies is a bit rich, since the unions have been consistently urging the employers to invoke the existing NNC agreed redundancy policies (which include a number of steps to avoid redundancies) as far back as last year. The only response from the employers to this request has been to serve notice of their intention to review the best of the three CRC policies. If this is a signal of an intention to water this down then the unions will obviously resist such a move.

Operational model is 'safe' - or is it?

Again we were disappointed to see from recent communications that the inference could be drawn that it is the unions fault that discussion on the efficacy and development of the Operational model have been curtailed because we are not attending at local JNCC Meetings or the previously regular Joint Union Meetings.

The fact is that the introduction of this unproven model, which threatens the livelihoods of hundreds of our member’s has been clouded in controversy and confusion with mixed messages being issued within each of the CRC's about it being the subject of agreement with the unions. We have made it clear any number of times that in the wake of a number of Serious Further Offences across the CRC's owned by Working Links/ Aurelius that have recently attracted the attention of national media outlets, we are not prepared to nod the model through without it being subject to rigorous scrutiny ideally through an independent arbiter.

To put it more plainly, we believe that the Operational Model is costing our members jobs, diminishing the future capacity of the three CRC's to provide even a basic service to clients and, until we see cast iron evidence to the contrary, represents a risk to public safety.

We will be taking our views on the above issues and many more that have been articulated in our previous communications into next week’s talks with ACAS, and we will issue more news as soon as we are able to. The above statement has been issued by the probation trade unions to confirm our position in response to the misleading announcements that have again been issued by senior Working Links management. This is especially unfortunate while both parties have agreed to explore whether we can resolve the dispute through ACAS.

Join a trade union now!

We have no problem in restating that the dispute between the Working Links/Aurelius CRC's and the probation unions is about protecting jobs and public safety and ensuring that if some jobs have to be lost then individuals are entitled to the same compensation as already paid to other staff. This is among the many reasons which illustrate why it is more important than ever that staff across the three CRC's belong to a trade union.

Thursday 27 October 2016

The Inspector's Thoughts

Sentences, sentencing and probation in the new world 

Good afternoon and thank you so much for inviting me to address what I believe to be the first meeting of the Probation-Sentencer Liaison Network. It is a privilege to do so in this beautiful building, built in 1939 in the grand, neo-georgian style. 

Sentencers and probation professionals have worked together and alongside each other since time immemorial – or at least since 1876, when probation services first began. In that year, Hertfordshire printer Frederic Rainer, a volunteer with the Church of England Temperance Society wrote to the society of his concern about the lack of help for those who come before the courts, and he donated five shillings (25p) towards a fund for practical rescue work in the police courts. The Society responded by appointing two "missionaries" to Southwark court with the initial aim of "reclaiming drunkards". This formed the basis of the London Police Courts Mission, whose missionaries worked with magistrates to develop a system of releasing offenders on the condition that they kept in touch with the missionary and accepted guidance. 

Ten years later, The Probation of First Time Offenders Act allowed for courts around the country to follow the London example of appointing missionaries, but very few did so. The 1907 Probation of Offenders Act offered some encouragement, in that it gave the missionaries official status as "officers of the court", later known as probation officers, but government gradually became rather disaffected with these missionaries – seeing them as ‘often not well educated, and their temperence orientation - securing attendance to church and encouraging pledges to avoid alcohol - overshadowed proper probation work’. That said, it was not until 1938 and as this building was built, that the service was established on a proper footing as a professional, public service. So, our association is not so ancient, after all. As with this building, it is easy to assume it is older than it is. 

Enough of the past, as we are here to talk of the present and the way this established relationship works now, in what you have called the new world. Many of you will have much more everyday experience of this than me, and experience of many years, and so I hesitate to give my own views, and will happily stand corrected. What I do have to say is taken from my short experience so far as Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Probation, and from the inspections we have undertaken during and since the implementation of the new delivery arrangements for probation services. 

We first inspected the implementation of Transforming Rehabilitation in 2014 and produced our fifth and final TR implementation report in May this year. In each report we consider the relationship and working practices as between three key players – the NPS, the CRC and the court and its sentencers. Back in Autumn 2014 we found there were significant challenges in getting the court end processes working as they should. More positively, the quality of reports provided by the National Probation Service to courts supported sentencing proposals appropriately, but communications between the three key players were still developing. Arrangements have developed since then of course. Let me speak of court reports first of all, and then go on to communications between the three key players before touching, finally, on sentencing. 

Court reports 

In the last of our Transforming Rehabilitation implementation inspection reports in May this year, we found that courts reports varied in quality, with written reports generally much better than reports presented orally. 

Unsurprisingly, assessments were generally better for cases allocated to the National Probation Service than to the Community Rehabilitation Companies; these are the higher risk and Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangement cases and were more likely to have been adjourned for a written report, allowing the author more time to gather information. 

In some cases the risk of serious harm presented by the offender was not fully assessed, sometimes because checks had not been made to find out whether there were concerns about child safeguarding or domestic abuse, or the results of such checks had not been received. Where information was missing at the point of sentence, this should have been recorded on the allocation documentation, but was often missing or not always read by the responsible officer to whom the case was subsequently assigned. In addition, in some cases there was no written record of the oral report which had been presented to the court. 

Some court staff had not received sufficient training, and lacked confidence in completing the necessary assessments. Some report writers did not know enough about the work offered by the local Community Rehabilitation Company, which made it difficult for them to propose interventions most likely to address the offender’s problems. Sometimes they proposed a rehabilitation activity requirement ‘to address offending behaviour’, rather than a more targeted proposal which would help the responsible officer assigned to the case quickly to plan the appropriate work. 

As you know, the new arrangements put an increased emphasis and dependency on the quality of court reporting, and this has been proving problematic, in part due to the demands of speedy justice. Oral reports are increasingly common, but a good system record and domestic abuse and child safeguarding checks are needed in all cases, so as to inform sentencing and enable Community Rehabilitation Companies to focus promptly and knowledgeably on the work needed to reduce reoffending. In addition, court staff need to be sufficiently aware of what Community Rehabilitation Companies can offer so as to advise the court appropriately in relation to rehabilitation activity requirements, a common feature of course of community sentences. 

Let me expand, and also give you an example of how these arrangements can work sufficiently well. Under the new probation service arrangements there is a fault line between the NPS and CRCs, with NPS staff preparing court reports that both sentencers and CRCs rely on. About a third of these are oral reports (to meet the needs of speedy justice). 

At the moment reports vary in quality, with written reports generally much better than reports presented orally. Sometimes checks are not made to find out whether there are concerns about child safeguarding or domestic abuse, or the results of such checks are not received in time. And sometimes those writing reports do not know enough about the work offered by the local CRC, making it difficult for them to propose interventions likely to address the offenders’ problems. 

Hats off then to the team in Hull, Humberside, where the Court administration staff initiate children's services and domestic abuse checks at the earliest opportunity and indeed when we inspected we found that on the overnight lists of those appearing in court the next day, they had already been marked with tiers, risk status and relevant information needed for court duty. This included information about domestic abuse and breach. 

We also observed discussions between the Court team and a range of people, including ushers, solicitors, and the CPS. The discussions included sharing information about individuals in the cells about whom the NPS had not been informed. Court staff were confident, known throughout the court and were knowledgeable and well regarded. They were approachable and they used their authority well, we thought. 

There was a good level of information provided by children services and the police, and the Court staff were proactive. So we saw telephone contact with DRR workers about the suitability of a DRR proposal for Crown Court. We also saw good use made of previous information known about offenders, and staff were astute in picking up where there were potential issues, including mental health concerns. 

In short, the staff had good processes, and had a really good understanding of them. They were well regarded and respected, they were thinking ahead, making the most of the good relationships they had established, and they were assiduous. They were well led. But of course, we will not find this everywhere. We are now inspecting probation services delivered by the NPS and CRCs in individual PCC areas, and let see what we have found in our two most recent inspections. 

In Derbyshire we found that overall, courts had well-established processes in place to enable the completion of quality reports, supported by full and accurate risk assessments. Court work had been prioritised within the NPS. The NPS team was seen as being well-organised and efficient in delivering work for the court. The magistrates and the Judge to whom we spoke were positive about the service received from probation staff at court. Magistrates considered that on the day reports were helpful, comprehensive and thorough. In the main, they felt confident about following the proposals in reports. They were routinely offered the full range of sentences including unpaid work, curfews and programmes. 

In our last adult probation services inspection in Kent, we found the NPS struggling in many respects but even so, Court reports were of a good standard overall. The reports we saw had proposals that focused on the right issues in four out of five cases. We thought that the overall assessment (at the point of allocation) in relation to reducing reoffending was sufficient in 73% of cases, and it was clear that those that worked in the court were thought to be delivering a high quality service. 

We will continue to look at the quality of court reports in every adult probation services inspection we do. We know there will be problems, and shortfalls in some areas and where we find that, we will make recommendations for improvement, but if our recent inspections are indicative then court work and court reports are improving. 

Of course, our recent inspections may not be indicative. We do want to know whether they do represent the position more widely, and before leaving court reporting and moving on to communications, I should say that to reassure ourselves and others, we are conducting a thematic inspection of court work, and court reporting. I am sure you will be interested in what we find, and in any recommendations we make. 


Let me turn now to communications between the three key players. By May this year, and in the last of out series of TR implementation reports, we found that those communications had improved. Certainly the National Probation Service and Community Rehabilitation Companies were working and communicating better together than they were in the months immediately following implementation, although there is always room for improvement and of course there will be local variations.

So for example in our recent inspection of services for women who offend, published last month, we found Magistrates and District Judges were generally positive about their working relationships with the National Probation Service staff. They told us that they were normally able to obtain sufficient information from pre-sentence reports on women, to inform sentencing decisions. 

They commented, however, that reports were not usually female-specific and did not differentiate the needs of women from those of men. This mirrored our findings, in that we found that it was not always possible to tell the individual’s gender from reading the report. And sentencers lacked information about interventions specifically designed for women, in particular rehabilitation activity requirements and local support services. We found that concerning, of course, and I will come back to rehabilitation activity orders shortly.

Sentencers also felt they lacked information about outcomes for women, and the progress they were making following their court orders. They said they would welcome regular updates of aggregate information and trend data. Suggestions included regular newsletters, joint meetings, or informal feedback sessions. 

Despite these expressed concerns, in that inspection we found some excellent examples of good communications practice and in the time I have left today I will mention three in particular, as they relate not just to communications about women before the court. Rather, they are examples of how communications can work well more generally between the three key players (NPS, CRC and sentencers) and more widely. 

Probation Liaison Committee: Camden 

The Camden Probation Liaison Committee is attended by the District Judge and six magistrates, together with NPS senior managers. There are bi-monthly newsletters for magistrates, with updates on probation service matters. Good links exist between the legal team and probation staff. Within the court there is a community advice desk, with a debt clinic, housing advice and signposting to services. Early morning awareness-raising sessions were about to be introduced as we inspected, and this was welcomed by sentencers. 

Probation liaison meetings: Wrexham 

In Wrexham, probation/magistrates liaison meetings are held twice per year, covering a range of topics. Sentencers had a very clear understanding of the profile of women who offended in their area and the types of offences they committed, incidentally, and they also felt that good information was provided about voluntary sector services and also substance misuse services. A mental health worker was present when the court was sitting, and sentencers were able to consult with probation court duty staff if specific information about a case was required. 

Links with mental health services: Brighton and Bristol 

We have found strong links with mental health teams in both Brighton and Bristol. In Brighton, mental health workers together with police community liaison officers meet with service users where necessary, either in police custody or in the magistrates court. In Bristol, sentencers felt they received good and timely information from the mental health team. This gave them the confidence to consider recommendations for community sentences for women with complex mental health needs. 

We provide details of these examples in our Women’s thematic report, and hope that those involved in criminal justice find that they stimulate thought, and action where it is needed to improve communications.


Let me end by touching on sentencing, and one type of order in particular, as I was ask to speak about sentences, sentencing and probation in the new world. In this new world we have a new type of order, the Rehabilitation Activity Requirement order – in effect an umbrella order, with CRCs able to design and interventions to suit individuals sentenced to up to a specified number of RAR days. 

We are aware that sentencers’ confidence in these orders varies, most especially if you are not sure what interventions, what work will be undertaken with the offender, and whether or not that work is likely to be effective in reducing reoffending. We are interested in Rehabilitation Activity Requirement orders, and how they are working in practice, and indeed we have thematic inspection in hand. Field work is well underway, and we expect to publish our findings in the spring. 

And here we are doing something a little different. We will publish our report, yes, but we will also publish our view on what good RAR looks like. We will set out in a separate document what we expect to see, and what we judge is acceptable as CRCs implement RAR orders, so that all CRCs can see and refer to that, as they consider and evaluate their own practice. And over time, we hope that this will make it more likely that good RAR activity is delivered consistently, and consistently well so that sentencers can have more confidence in these orders. 


Probation started as a volunteer service with the initial aim of ‘reclaiming drunkards’. The service and our expectations of it have moved on. We now expect probation services to protect the public, ensure the sentence of the court is served, and to reduce reoffending. Probation work can get off to a good start if court reports are comprehensive and well prepared, so that sentencers can sentence confidently and appropriately. Communication between the key players before, during and after sentencing has a critical role to play. 

We will continue to inspect and report on probation services, and play our full part in both reporting good practice, and driving improvement where it is necessary in sentencing and probation in the brave new world. 

Thankyou. Thankyou for listening.

Dame Glenys Stacey 

Probation-Sentencer Liaison Network (PSLN) - The Probation Institute (PI) and Magistrates’ Association (MA) Middlesex University, 18 October 2016 

Wednesday 26 October 2016

Prison News 4

This piece from the Guardian serves to highlight what happens when government ignores the warnings from people on the frontline:- 

We governors warned of the danger of more prison deaths, but no-one listened

The recent stabbing to death of Jamal Mahmoud, a prisoner at HMP Pentonville, shone a light into a dark world.

At our annual prison governors’ conference in Derby earlier this month, we took the unprecedented step of voting unanimously for an independent public inquiry into the extraordinary rise in violence and deaths in prisons since 2012, the year the Ministry of Justice cut budgets by 15.6%. This call was tragically prophetic because six days later, Mahmoud was killed.

Our condolences go to Mahmoud’s family and friends, but our thoughts are also with the staff involved. Most people do not appreciate how dedicated and professional most prison workers are, or what a devastating impact this incident will have on their morale.

For many prison governors involved in these types of incidents, it is the start of a long process of external scrutiny that will put them under intense, personal pressure over many months, if not years.

Should we have seen this coming? In short: yes.

In October 2015, I wrote that plans from the then justice secretary Michael Gove for rehabilitating prisoners through education was not a panacea while prisons continued to be starved of resources. Prisoners are not likely to focus on education if they are more concerned about being mugged on the way to the classroom.

This May, I wrote in response to Gove’s address to prison governors, where he stated just how terrible the figures for deaths in custody and violence are, (for example, there were 100 self-inflicted deaths in custody, up from 79 the year before) and said that only when prisons are places of calm stability would we be able to make the difference we need to. Our association would agree, but every key indicator tells us that prisons are anything but calm places and the future looks very bleak.

In July, Mahmoud was sentenced to six-and-a-half years for his part in hiding a loaded machine gun and ammunition in a garden in north London and was already serving a five-and-a-half year term for robbery.

If, as Gove stated, the principal purpose of prison is rehabilitation, Mahmoud was an example of someone we desperately needed to rehabilitate. But that cannot be achieved when violence and intimidation are a normal part of prison life.

In May, Gove called for prison governors to lead with “moral purpose not manuals and rulebooks”. While recognising the economic climate, we in the Prison Governors Association (PGA) urge the government to do the same. Investing in prisons will mean fewer victims of violence, as well as long-term economic savings.

Liz Truss, the current justice secretary, told the PGA that safety is at the top of her agenda and we believe her. However, this needs to be backed up with more than the £14m she promised earlier this month, which will only pay for 400 extra officers in just 10 prisons.

Eoin McLennan-Murray, a former president of the PGA, said in February 2014 that staff shortages and increasing numbers of incidents were creating a “perfect storm” that would destabilise prisons.

That storm has arrived. It’s about time the government listened to the concerns that prison governors have raised. Ministers cannot declare that governors should be empowered to lead our prisons but then fail to respond when they identify significant flaws. If there is still a reluctance to listen to the plethora of warnings governors are giving, then ministers must take notice of the hard statistics.

John Attard, National officer, Prison Governors Association

Monday 24 October 2016

A Prison Blueprint

A Matter of Conviction: a blueprint for community-based rehabilitative prisons

In January 2016, the RSA and Transition Spaces embarked on the Future Prison project, which set out to explore how prisons in England and Wales could better support rehabilitation. Our final report sets out a blueprint for a community-based rehabilitative prison and a policy framework to support such models.

Download the full report — A Matter of Conviction (PDF, 5 MB)

  • The potential impact that prisons could have on reducing reoffending and community safety has been undermined by a lack of consistent political leadership and clear purpose.
  • This has led to reactive policy, episodic change, and an over-centralised system which has disempowered the workforce and undermined public confidence.
  • The government’s commitment to prison reform is welcome and must be underpinned by a long-term vision of reform capable of securing cross-party consensus and mobilising public support.

The Ministry of Justice should publish a 2017–2020 National Rehabilitation Strategy.

This should focus on reducing risk and strengthening rehabilitation, prioritise integration between prisons and probation and have the explicit support of other departments, including the Treasury, the Department of Health, the Home Office, the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Department for Work and Pensions. The strategy should seek to drive long-term system change and prioritise the following 10 key changes:

1. Create a Rehabilitation Requirement — The government’s white paper should include a rehabilitation requirement for prisons and probation. This should be a legal duty and require prisons and probation to track individual and institutional progress in relation to rehabilitation.

2. Return frontline staffing to 2010 levels — As a foundation of reform, additional investment is urgently needed to reduce security and safety risks and to protect prisoners and frontline workers.

3. A 2020 Rehabilitative Workforce Plan — Linked to new recruitment, this should develop a new training offer, skills strategy and career paths for prison officers and focus on developing a rehabilitative workforce with transferable skills across prisons and probation.

4. A Centre of Prisons Excellence — Delivered through an ambitious model for the current training centre, Newbold Revel, this should learn from the College of Policing and consideration should be given to a centre working across prisons and probation.

5. An arms-length, more independent NOMS — NOMS should become a smaller arms-length function with greater independence from the Ministry of Justice. This would focus on resilience issues such as population management, the high-security estate and particular security issues.

6. An enhanced and more Integrated Prison and Probation Inspection Regime — This should include making the prisons inspectorate compliant with the obligations from OPCAT (Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture), which should be put on a statutory footing. The inspectorates should develop consistency on assessing rehabilitative outcomes such as education, employment and family relationships and introduce outcomes on leadership and management. A review of Independent Monitoring Boards (IMBs) should be undertaken to explore the potential of developing their role to track inspection recommendations.

7. Creation of Local Prison Boards — In developing greater autonomy, stability and ensuring safety and risk are managed, the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) should hand over prison funding to local boards and prison governors with some key obligations that ensure that the national resilience work and population flow is mandated. Local prison boards would oversee long-term strategy and should aim to increase governors’ tenure as appropriate. Such a move would retain the national prison service but enable greater local control, including the development of special purpose vehicles to drive innovation and integration, and secure additional funding from private/corporate/charitable partnerships. The local prison board could include representation from a major employer in the area, health providers and commissioners, prisoners’ families, the local authority economic development lead, a housing provider, NGO consortia, Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs), the local FE and university, the National Probation Service (NPS), the area criminal justice board lead and a member of the prison’s rehabilitative council.

8. New devolved powers for governors and PCCs — In giving governors greater freedoms and introducing more local autonomy, the government should adopt a staged process of devolution with a focus on expanding the remit of Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) and ensuring that scrutiny arrangements are in place to take on wider responsibilities and risk. In the interim, Regional Rehabilitation Boards would be responsible for developing Regional Rehabilitation Strategies 2017–2020 in line with the national strategy and vision of the new Rehabilitation Requirement.

9. Integration of Health Services — In addition to involving Public Health England and the NHS in developing more devolved arrangements, the government should ensure that Joint Strategic Needs Assessments (JSNA) provide clear statutory guidance on people on licence in the community, and those in custody, and that Health and Wellbeing Boards be instructed to include prisoner populations explicitly in their priorities.

10 Designing in Rehabilitation — The government’s prison building programme should be informed by first principles and by evidence of what supports rehabilitation, including size, locality, available networks and employment.

A Matter of Conviction argues that this model will ultimately serve to create a self-improving, more cost effective and innovative system.

Download the full report — A Matter of Conviction (PDF, 5 MB)