Wednesday 30 November 2016

News Roundup 8

This article in the Guardian reveals the magistrates are not happy:-

Magistrates quitting in 'considerable' numbers over court closures

Magistrates are resigning in “considerable” numbers, the head of their national body has said, after scores of court closures and swingeing government cuts. Forty-seven magistrates courts have shut this year, one-tenth of courts in England and Wales, with significant numbers of judges resigning early from the unpaid position.

Malcolm Richardson, the chairman of the Magistrates Association, said: “Magistrates deal with more than 90% of the criminal cases that come to court and they cost 1% of the HM Courts and Tribunal Service budget. But we’re getting a bit tired of being treated like the 1% and not the 90%.”

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) would not disclose the number of magistrates who had resigned this year, but the association said the figure was considerable. It comes after at least 75 magistrates resigned last year over the controversial criminal courts charge, which caused outrage among law groups before it was scrapped by Michael Gove.

The mass resignations and court closures have left the magistracy stretched, Richardson said, adding that “nobody [in government] seems to have a plan” for the future of the volunteer judges.

“There is no evidence of a strategy for the use of magistrates. What are we for in the 21st century? What are we for in the brave new world, which is starting to be revealed under the courts reform programme?” he said. “Magistrates feel they are not, and have not been, engaged with in the determination of what that future looks like … The consequences of that for some magistrates, particularly those who are getting towards retirement, is to say ‘why am I carrying on?’ It’s a difficult question to answer.”

Three magistrates who have resigned or retired since September told the Guardian morale was at rock bottom among the judges, who are only paid expenses. They said magistrates felt ignored and unappreciated as a result of cost cutting, ranging from court closures to buildings falling into disrepair. More trivial money-saving measures, such as cutting back on coffee and newspapers in the judges’ quarters, and using cheaper, thinner paper, had also irritated the magistracy, they said.

Janet Alcock, a Conservative councillor in Clitheroe, Lancashire, said she “resigned in despair” in September after 20 years as a magistrate. The role has been reduced to a “soul-destroying production line” of speeding fines and licence fee evasions, Alcock said, adding that she gave up encouraging people to become magistrates a long time ago.

Alcock said she had become “extremely frustrated” at having to issue fines to defendants who would never be able to pay, and the victim surcharge, which “just seems to be another way of dressing up that they’re taking more money off them”.

“You know, realistically, from the point of view of collecting the fines, you’re not going to get it, which makes it extremely frustrating,” she said. “Everybody’s always calling me ‘the hanging judge’ because I’m saying things like instead of fining people who can’t afford it, send them out working … Political correctness wouldn’t allow you to do anything like that.

“But that would be far more satisfying to the public, I think, than for people to appear six months later owing even more than they did at the beginning. It’s just frustrating for everybody.”

Myra Robinson, who retired last month as a bench chairman of Newcastle magistrates, said fining those who could not afford to pay was morally wrong, but there was little that magistrates could do about it. “It’s just ticking boxes and following down – if someone did this then that’s the punishment. There’s no flexibility,” she said.

“I’d worked all my career with young offenders and kids with problems. I felt I knew a lot of the families with problems in Newcastle, and I could see behind what they’d just done and think what would be an appropriate way of dealing with it. My hands have been tied for many years now. People can’t afford fines.”

A third recently resigned magistrate, who did not want to be named, said the court closures meant “losing local justice for local people”. In some cases, proposed closures meant it would be impossible for defendants or witnesses travelling by public transport to get to a court for 10am.

“I was constantly getting emails or texts or phone calls to say that we urgently need magistrates to sit in places like Scarborough. That would imply there is a shortage,” said the magistrate, who was based nearly 90 miles (145km) away in Halifax, West Yorkshire.

Forty-seven magistrates courts closed their doors between March and September under government proposals to reduce the £500m annual cost of the courts estate. A further 45 are due to shut by September 2017, meaning one-fifth of all courts in England and Wales will have disappeared in 19 months.

An MoJ spokeswoman said: “The magistracy remains at the heart of our justice system. We are investing £1bn to reform and digitise our courts to deliver swifter justice, and we are working closely with the judiciary to encourage the recruitment of underrepresented groups.

“Closing underused and dilapidated court buildings will allow us to reinvest in the justice system and make the best use of technology, improving the experience for all court users, in particular vulnerable victims and witnesses.”


The reports on prisons are getting worse. This from the Guardian:-

Regime at HMP Hindley one of worst ever seen, say prison inspectors

The regime at the category C Hindley jail near Wigan is “one of the worst and possibly one of the very worst that inspectors had ever seen in this type of prison”, an official watchdog report has said. The chief inspector of prisons, Peter Clarke, said the Hindley regime includes regular shutdowns when inmates, including young adults, are locked in their cells for more than 24 hours at a time.

His report published on Tuesday also highlights poor food, including mouldy bread, filthy cells, and a high level of violence with 126 assaults in just six months, including 35 fights. Half the prisoners told inspectors it was easy to get hold of illegal drugs, which were more accessible than clean clothes, sheets or books from the library.

Peter Dawson, the director of the Prison Reform Trust, said although they were used to dreadful inspection reports about dilapidated, overcrowded Victorian prisons, HMP Hindley “is none of these things, and this damning verdict is all the more troubling as a result”.

The latest critical inspection report comes after peers in the House of Lords cited the record level of prison suicides so far this year. Justice ministers responded by acknowledging the seriousness of the crisis and highlighting their plans to recruit 2,500 more prison officers, including 400 immediately for the 10 most challenged prisons.

Hindley in Greater Manchester opened in 1961 as a borstal and in 2015 was converted from a youth jail into a category C prison for young offenders and adult males serving sentences of up to four years. The inspection was carried out in July, when the jail held 515 inmates and was within its operational capacity.

But the inspectors found a “totally inadequate regime” in which more than two-thirds of prisoners said they received less than six hours a day out of their cells and many experienced less than that on a daily basis.

“The inadequate regime was made worse by significant slippage and regular shutdowns, which meant that most prisoners regularly experienced being locked in their cells for more than 24 hours. As a result, prisoners were often not unlocked to attend work or education, and were denied daily access to showers and telephones,” the report said. Residential wings and landings were dirty, with inspectors finding mould and fungus, while single cells were small and poorly ventilated, and many were filthy.

“The regime at Hindley was one of the worst, and possibly the very worst, that inspectors had ever seen in this type of prison,” said Clarke. “The length of time for which young adults and adults alike were locked up was, in our considered view, unnecessary, unjustifiable and counterproductive. Almost every aspect of prison life was adversely affected by the regime.”

He cited the problem of the staff association opposing a move to put microwaves on the wings as “symptomatic of what seemed to have gone wrong at Hindley”. He said many prisoners locked up all day only received a hot meal at 4pm and were given an inadequate breakfast pack to see them through to lunchtime the next day. A move to install microwaves would have been an improvement but “good intentions were not being translated into action on the wings”.

He added: “To make progress, there needs to be a very clear recognition of what is good at Hindley, and also where there needs to be fundamental change. Many examples of good practice could be found in the chaplaincy, education and healthcare. The same could not be said for residential areas. There needs to be an honest appraisal of the culture that predominates among some staff in these areas.”

Michael Spurr, the chief executive of the National Offender Management Service, said since the inspection a detailed improvement plan had been developed to address the weaknesses identified by inspectors.

“Progress has been made to improve safety and purposeful activity with more prisoners engaged in high-quality work and training opportunities,” said Spurr. “Additional staff have been transferred into the prison to support the improvements required and the governor is working closely with Greater Manchester police to tackle gang behaviour and violence in the prison.”


Finally, this from the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies reminds us how politicians of all hues have done much to create the mess we now find ourselves in:-

Tough talk costs lives

The endless calls for tough community sentences do more harm than good, argues Richard Garside

Michael Gove is the latest politician to accept that we lock up too many people in prison. 'It is an inconvenient truth – which I swerved to an extent while in office – that we send too many people to prison', he told an audience in London last week. 'Prison is expensive, anti-social, inefficient and often de-humanising', he added.

Mr Gove's 'swerve' while Justice Secretary unfortunately took in the distracting irrelevance of 'reform prisons'. He would have done better to take on the far more important task of reforming prisons. Key to this task, as Mr Gove now appears to recognise, is a reduction in the number of prisoners needlessly locked up.

Appearing before the House of Commons Justice Committee earlier this week, Lord Thomas, the Lord Chief Justice, said that with the prison population being 'very, very high at the moment', there was a strong case for 'really tough, and I do mean tough, community penalties'. Such is the state of the debate about alternatives to imprisonment that the most senior judge in the land is reduced to emphasising just how tough he wants to be.

The problem here is that no community sentence is ever likely to be as 'tough' as six months in Pentonville prison. David Cameron appeared to understand this when, in a speech in February this year, he called for 'a new approach' to prisons policy, one that did not 'trap us into often false choices between so-called tough or soft approaches'. In the same speech, and with no sense of irony, Mr Cameron promised to 'dramatically toughen up community sentences'.

Last year, Michael Gove, told the Justice Committee

'I do believe that there is the possibility through electronic monitoring, tagging, to find ways of making sure there are some offenders in the future who can have genuinely tough and effective community sentences'. 
In March 2013 the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government promised 'tough and effective' community sentences for women. The previous October, Mr Gove's predecessor as Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, wrote in a Foreword to a consultation response that 'tougher community sentences may give more options to sentencers who currently feel that prison is the only robust choice'. Ken Clarke, another former Justice Secretary, announced in March 2012 that the government was 'overhauling community sentences to ensure they are tough, credible and robust'.

Jack Straw, Justice Secretary during the last Labour government, said in February 2008:

Prison is the right place for the most serious and violent offenders but there are currently people in prison who would be better rehabilitated and therefore less likely to reoffend elsewhere... so we must ensure that courts have tough community sentences at their disposal to deal with less serious, non-violent offenders.
The government was 'bringing in tough new community sentences', the former Labour government's strategic plan for criminal justicestated in July 2004. The Halliday review of sentencing, published in July 2001, found evidence of a 'toughening up of sentencing', including 'increased numbers of the more intensive of community sentences'.

Where has all this tough talk got us? In 2001, when Halliday was being published, the prison population stood at around 65,000. When Lord Thomas was speaking of 'really tough' community sentences earlier this week, it stood at over 85,000.

Far from acting as 'alternatives' to prison, community sentences tend towards widening the net of punishment and coercion, as research by the Centre some years ago, as well as more recently, has shown. Tough talk on community sentences merely feeds this particular beast. This year's 'tough' community penalty becomes next year's 'soft' one. And so it goes on.

The collateral damage of all this rhetoric can be found in the high levels of suicide and self-harm among prisoners; of stressful working conditions for prison staff and living conditions for prisoners; and of deteriorating buildings and infrastructure. Tough talk really does cost lives. It is time for it to stop.

Richard Garside

Tuesday 29 November 2016

The Reality of Open Government

16th November 2016

Bob Neill MP
Chair, Justice Select Committee
House of Commons 

Dear Mr Neill,

Supplementary responses to the Justice Select Committee 

Thank you for your letter of 27 October asking for further information following the evidence session on the Ministry of Justice's Annual Report and Accounts 2015-16. In answer to the eight issues your letter raised: 

1. Progress on the Protocol with HM Inspectorate of Prisons 

A draft protocol has now been agreed with the lnspectorate and we are currently seeking clearance from HM Treasury. Once HM Treasury is content, we will consult with the Justice Select Committee and those organisations who have formal relationships with the Inspectorate before formalising the protocol. 

2. List of "Gold" contracts 

In the evidence session, Mike Driver referred to 99 "gold" contracts (potential costs of greater than £10m) that had been reviewed during the previous financial year. At the time of this letter the number of "gold" contracts is 94 due to contract expiry. A list of these contracts has been prepared in Appendix A. Due to the commercial sensitivity of the information this has been prepared for the Committee in strict confidence.  

3. Details of 102 Petty France lease arrangement 

The freehold landlord of 102 Petty France is Land Securities plc and the lease expires in December 2028.  

4. Number of full time equivalent members of staff, and the number of agency staff, employed by the Ministry of Justice 

At the 30th September 2016 the full time equivalent members of staff employed by the Ministry of Justice was 64,751.The number of agency staff as at 30th September was 2,768. 

5. Whether the Ministry of Justice has set a maximum on the time it is acceptable for citizens to take to travel to court by public transport  

The Ministry does not apply a specific maximum travel timewhen considering changes to its estate. Access io justice is not just about pr.oximity to a court. We believe that we can improve access to justice by reducing the number of underused, poor quality, permanent buildings and investing in digital access and, where appropriate, using other local public buildings for access or hearings. The National Estates Principles published with our consultation in 2015 stated that we would: 

"Ensure continued access to justice when assessing the impact of possible closures on both professional and lay court and tribunal users, taking into account journey times for users, the challenges of rural access and any mitigating action, including having facilities at local civic centres and other buildings to ensure local access, modern ICT and more flexible listing, when journeys will be significantly increased."  

When proposing changes to the court and tribunal estate, the Ministry takes into account the potential impact of the proposals on its users. This includes the impact on travel time and whether this would remain reasonable should the change take place. What is reasonable can vary depending on location and on the type of work undertaken in a particular building. ln some cases, the Ministry will make alternative provision for certain types of users or in certain locations, such as part-time use of a local authority or other public building. 

6. Transforming Rehabilitation data 

The data requested has been attached in Appendix B to this letter and is shared with the Committee in strict confidence. 

7. Detailed breakdown of the Ministry's future spending plans 

We anticipate that this will be made available to you in April 2017. 

8. Notification of completion of negotiations with the Community Rehabilitation Companies 

The negotiations with the Community Rehabilitation Company owners continue. 

I will update the Committee once they are concluded. I trust these responses will be helpful to the Committee and would welcome any additional questions you may have. 

Richard Heaton

Latest From Napo 126

On the eve of an important NEC meeting (lets hope it's quorate), here we have edited highlights from the latest General Secretary's blog:-

Operational chaos means a greater focus on health, safety and wellbeing

Over the last week Napo has been seeking urgent action with different employers over a range of issues where the impact of excessive workloads on the health of our members has featured highly.

Firstly, the intention by NOMS to implement the appalling CSEP attendance management policy. This is another of those Cabinet Office driven policies that are written by people with absolutely no idea about the realities of life at the front face and how the continual pressure of unrealistic and downright unsafe caseloads lead to stress, anxiety and, by the way, a general breakdown in the individuals immune system which inexorably leads to the likelihood of absence from the workplace.

Whilst never forgetting that many manager members are under similar pressure themselves that does not excuse the small minority who compound matters by the overzealous use of such policies to berate and discipline some of our members as illustrated by the types of cases that are referred to our team of National Representatives.

In the NPS, despite the incremental introduction of 600 newly qualified Probation Officers, we are still seeing large numbers of vacancies and breathtaking allocations in some areas. We will shortly be signalling our opposition to the introduction of this policy so whilst it is correct to say it has been discussed with the unions, that’s a world away from it being agreed, which it most definitely is not, and will not be in its present form.

Wellbeing is an issue across CRC’s as well, as they struggle to deliver contractual requirements against a backdrop of some extremely dodgy data that was provided to them at the time of the share sale and, in some cases abject chaos as a result of the weighted annualised volumes and the extremely dodgy operating models that they have and are trying to implement.

Members will know that the probation unions are currently engaged through ACAS in a dispute with Aurelius /Working Links over staffing and operations in their three CRC’s, and whilst I will respect the fact that we cannot publish the exchanges that have been going on, it’s fair to say that during the most recent talks we have been pressing the issue of workload management and the health and wellbeing of our members against the demands being made of them.

Before anyone in the senior Aurelius/Working Links team throw their toys out, it’s hardly a surprise that Napo will want to raise these issues as it’s our obligation to do so and the least that our members would expect. For the problem goes well beyond the parameters of the above dispute and is something that local JNCC reps should be raising at CRC and NPS Divisional levels as part of the directive from our AGM to step up the workloads campaign.

As always, we cannot do everything from the centre; and while our members have quite understandably not yet shown their indignation in the same way as POA members recently have by walking off the job, I would caution senior management anywhere of complacency. Just so that I am clear, the law says that Napo must deprecate all forms of unofficial action, so I deprecate it in advance of it spontaneously happening somewhere, someday.

Meanwhile we will be factoring in the workload and wellbeing issue as part of our review of Napo’s draft strategic plan on which I am hoping that tomorrow’s meeting of your National Executive Committee will have some useful input to offer.

AP staffing shambles

E3 has been a tough ask for our NPS members in any number of work streams and despite the no redundancy agreement and 3 year pay protection, there has been and still is, considerable angst among many members about the impact of NOMS ‘more for less’ agenda.

Approved Premises is a clear example of how the race to outsource night waking cover possibly to the likes of trusty contenders such as SERCO and G4S has caused a huge problem in terms of more people than necessary being shoved into scope for TUPE, while Band 2 residential worker opportunities are posted on the Civil Service recruitment page.

While many staff prepare grievances we are trying very hard to engage with NOMS to stop this nonsense. As usual it will be hard to stave off the threat of privatisation without some industrial action, but as always we will respond to any demands for a legal ballot. Meanwhile perhaps a more constructive approach might be an additional annex to the E3 implementation agreement to deal with the unique situation of AP’s that the E3 blueprint failed to address despite the unions warning of problems ahead.


Last week Napo HQ drew members attention to this on the website:-

Contact your local MP with your concerns about the NPS or CRC

Napo East Midlands Branch members are running a campaign to contact their local MPs and raise the key issues for staff in both the NPS and the CRC. Other branches are urged to pick up the campaign in their local area and a model letter has been drafted to assist.

The letter can be used by all members and amended where appropriate. Please add your own personal testimony as this will ensure that you get your MP's attention. Make sure you use your home address, not your office and do not use headed paper. It will only take a few minutes but with enough members sending the letter you can make a real impact.

Dear ……..

I am currently employed by XXX Community Rehabilitation Company / National Probation Service (delete as appropriate) and I am based in the xxx office. I am writing to you to raise my concerns about the current state of probation services in your constituency and the negative impact this is having on me as a member of staff, the service users we work with and the community as a whole. I have outlined below a few of the key issues we are currently facing.

Workloads with the xxx (CRC or NPS) have now become unmanageable. My own caseload stands at xxxx (insert figure and/or hours of work). This is having a direct impact on the service I am able to provide and staff are being forced to cut corners and spend less time with service users as a result. I do not feel we as an organisation can provide the level of service required to actively reduce re-offending rates in our local area or protect the public from potential risk of harm. On a personal level (insert how it is impacting on you in terms of stress).

The ICT systems we have to work with are not fit for purpose and further hamper our attempts to deliver quality services and to work effectively. This is adding the high stress levels and low morale amongst staff and further impact on our workloads as we are forced to duplicate work that has been lost or are unable to work while the systems are inoperable.

Since the part privatisation of probation staff, myself included, have done our utmost to try to make the service work but we now feel that the systematic failures are such that we are reaching a crisis point. Whilst we have raised these issues with our employers, no solutions have yet been found, nearly two years later. A culture of blame is now endemic in the service and staff are expected to deliver a Gold Standard service without the infrastructure and support in place to do so.

I would be most grateful if you could raise this issue as a matter of urgency both in the House of Commons and with the Justice Select Committee who are currently investigating the Transforming Rehabilitation programme.

Yours Sincerely,

Monday 28 November 2016

TR - The Next Phase

Senior Civil Servants never seem to stick around for long as they climb the greasy pole; they're never around when everything starts to fall apart. Here's another rising star to watch:-

Darren Tierney appointed Probation System Review SRO

Darren Tierney has joined the NOMS Agency Board as the Probation System Review Senior Responsible Owner (SRO).

CRC contracts became operational in February 2015 and the Probation System Review has been set up to assess progress against the objectives set out in the Transforming Rehabilitation Programme. The initial phase of the review has been undertaken by a small team led by Andrea Torode working to David Hood.

This has found that while overall CRC performance has been steadily improving against the measures in the contract, actual case volumes are different to those which had been anticipated; there is variation in quality of delivery; and progress in some areas (such as Through the Gate support) is less than expected.

The next phase of the review involves detailed engagement with CRC Providers to improve current arrangements.

Michael Spurr said: “Ministers have made this a key priority for the Department and to take the work forward we are strengthening arrangements by appointing a dedicated SRO at Director level. I’m really pleased that Darren Tierney has agreed to take the role. He brings excellent programme management and policy experience to the Agency which will significantly enhance Board capability.

Andrea and her team will work to Darren who will take overall responsibility for the review receiving dedicated support from Commercial and Finance colleagues across the Department. David Hood will concentrate on managing day to day service delivery across both the CRCs and other NOMS Contracts.”

Darren Tierney said: “I am delighted to be joining NOMS as SRO for the Probation System Review. The services provided by CRCs are vitally important and Ministers and the NOMS Board are rightly focussed on ensuring those services are being delivered effectively. It is great to be joining the team here, and I look forward to building on the great work done to date by Andrea Torode and David Hood and their teams.”


Linkedin Summary:-

I have 15 years policy, strategic and corporate experience in the UK Civil Service across several departments. I have worked or led 4 high profile pieces of legislation, managed transformation programmes, and acted as principal adviser to 3 Cabinet Ministers.

Director General (interim) Ministry of Justice UK
May 2016 – Present (7 months) London, United Kingdom
Interim DG for prison reform.

Director - Civil Service Strategy and Efficiency Cabinet Office
August 2015 – Present (1 year 4 months)

Policy Director UK Ministry of Justice
May 2013 – August 2015 (2 years 4 months) London, United Kingdom
Policy Director in the Criminal Justice Group responsible for youth justice, including the Transforming Youth Custody programme, and Foreign National Offender policy.

Director of Transforming Justice Strategy UK Ministry of Justice
May 2012 – May 2013 (1 year 1 month) London, United Kingdom

Senior Civil Servant UK Civil Service
May 2011 – July 2012 (1 year 3 months) London, United Kingdom
Deputy Director - in charge of policy and handling for the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill.

Principal Private Secretary to the Lord Chancellor UK Ministry of Justice
May 2010 – May 2011 (1 year 1 month) London, United Kingdom
I was the PPS to the Justice Secretary/Lord Chancellor from the General Election until the folowing May.


Ever wonder what happened to Antonia Romeo? This from Linkedin:-

Ahead of the Curve: UK Motorsport Driving Innovation for Over 50 Years

Formula One™ is a truly global sport, with races across five continents. Like many others, I’ve been thrilled by the close race at the top of this year’s championship and am delighted to be in Austin, Texas, to experience some of the race weekend. As a Brit and as Director-General Economic and Commercial Affairs USA, it's especially exciting to see Button, Hamilton, and Palmer in action — as well as great British innovation in action across the board.

Austin, itself a renowned hub of technical innovation, is the perfect location to showcase British technology. To do this, the GREAT Britain Campaign has partnered with McLaren, the British-based global technology brand which designs everything from Formula One™ race cars that will line up for this weekend’s race, to high-performance road cars, medical technology and business performance products.

McLaren-Honda, the Formula One™ team, is one of the oldest active teams (second only to Ferrari). It’s also one of the most successful teams in the championship's history. They nabbed their first victory in 1968, then went on to win 182 races, 12 drivers' championships and eight constructors' championships.

Great British innovators like McLaren have helped the UK become a world leader in global motorsport – dominant in Formula One™ and the leading international supplier to racing series from China to the USA. We have a rich history in motorsport, with our success in the modern era dating back to hosting the first Formula One™ World Championship Race in 1950, when the Silverstone course was marked out by straw bales and oil drums!

Today, the UK’s Motorsport Valley® is to innovation what Hollywood is to moviemaking. The area is home to headquarters and major bases of 9 of the 11 current F1™ teams. It generates over £10 billion ($13 billion) in worldwide sales from more than 4,300 businesses which account for 45,000 jobs in the UK, including 25,000 highly skilled engineers. Motorsport Valley® is the world’s biggest cluster of competition-oriented engineering organizations, with their close proximity allowing ideas, components, and people to move quicker than anywhere else – essential for a sport where the most precious commodity is time. Teams in every leading motorsport series in the world rely on UK suppliers for success, and for over 50 years the UK has been responsible for more motorsport innovations than any other country. If you enjoy the Olympics or America’s Cup series then you are also witnessing Motorsport Valley®’s performance-boosting technology in action – from powerboats, yachts and superyachts to motorcycles, bicycles, air races and even bobsleighs.

But it’s not just about sport. Other industries including aerospace, defence, marine and healthcare are taking advantage of UK motorsport’s unique ability to find rapid solutions to complex challenges. It is a great example of a successful public-private partnership, with central and local government working hard with industry associations to continue the successful formula. This includes billions in funding for technology projects, new factories, and R&D facilities; launch-pad competitions to accelerate the development of innovative technologies and their application into other industries; streamlined processes for inward investors; and strong support for British exporters.

McLaren is a great example of a company that has taken its Formula One™ insights and applied it beyond the racetrack.

McLaren Applied Technologies is working with hospitals on a variety of projects, ranging from the remote monitoring of patients to the application of pit-stop techniques to reduce times and increase operating theatre efficiency. In collaboration with GlaxoSmithKline, they reduced changeover times on production lines, resulting in an increase in production of 6.7 million tubes of toothpaste every year. Through a strategic alliance with KPMG, they are now taking their capabilities to create high performance in the world of business to help solve real-world challenges.

We are rightly proud of British innovators like McLaren, innovators who are using their technology to transform our lives. The UK is a hub for innovation across all industries and British technology and know-how can help your business grow, too.

Antonia Romeo

Sunday 27 November 2016

Pick of the Week 21

Why hasn't the breach of contract by Working Links gone to the lawyers, that's what we pay for. Ian Lawrence is over his head and ability and wants to save the union funds for his redundancy, as will surely come with members leaving in droves due to his ineffective position. NAPO needs and deserves an individual worthy of the vast £70,000 salary who takes control, not is controlled by the CRCs. He stifles local reps and blocks the progress they fight to achieve. 

Lets face it, Mr Lawrence has no life time career invested here and will move on, hopefully sooner than later. He cannot understand the devastating impact being robbed of our EVR, pensions and erosion of terms and conditions as he has had none of it inflicted on his own terms. Good riddance to bad rubbish, bring on the election and find someone decent and capable.

What breach of contract? If I recall correctly, Sodexo ran roughshod through the framework agreement and paid reduced EVR. They were condemned on moral, not legal grounds. It's easy to bash Napo, but instead of just throwing out the assumption that there has been a breach of contract, you should explain why you believe there has been a breach.

All we are after from Ian Lawrence is a categorical statement that he has run the contracts past Thompson's and they have confirmed there is no case to answer over our insistence on EVR, (or otherwise). Then we will know where we are. Currently, OUR reading (SSW branch) is that there IS a case to answer. And I, for one, want my (considerable) monthly subs to be used to pay for this legal advice. I have to admit I am completely flummoxed as to why this hasn't happened up til now. The fact the MoJ Contract Managers appear to have avoided the ACAS talks to date suggests there is something to hide and their position is not water tight. Because, if it were wouldn't you rush to prove the Union is wrong with the legal position? Simples!

Oh what a shower of shite. I was at London branch meeting Friday. Dean Rogers attended, nice enough chap but not a trade unionist. Spoke of the positives of CRC and made a pitiful comment about some members deserve being fired. I'm cancelling my membership come Monday.

I have heard on many occasions the General Secretary blaming members in Sodexo controlled CRC's for their redundancies. I can assure you he takes no responsibility for their demise and Dean the same mould. These two shower of shites want to throw members to the wolves and lay claims on the legal advice to support their inaction. NAPO is dead unless it gets rid of these 2 jerks but the chairs are never going to deal with that. Don't forget the members got what they voted for, turkeys for Christmas.

When union members are hamstrung & left in limbo by what seems a union leadership intent on inactivity, then sadly you are right to observe that people become frustrated, angry & ineffective. During the Sodexo clearances I have often wondered if the Napo leadership intentionally dragged their feet such that the VS option offered by the CRCs became the only guaranteed paid exit as compared to the insecurity & uncertainty of  "will we win?"... thus Napo (as well as the CRCs) got rid of those troublesome old guard. The current SW scenario seems to be drifting in a similar direction.

About the latest OASys knee jerk in the London CRC: we were told earlier this year we had to do OASys initial sentence plan within 10 days of first contact. Any OASys outstanding from before April we need not worry about. Because of the inspection we have now been told we must do all pre April OASys after all. For most of us these amount to quite a few. They must all be completed within a month. Here are the catches, unresolved and unlikely to be addressed: If we do the backlog OASys, well we are even less likely to be able to keep up with the current on going work than we are already. Hence the backlog OASys are likely to be done really, really badly and not worth the paper they are not written on. What would be the point of that? Still, NOMS and MOJ will be happy to see boxes ticked. Further, if we do all the Backlog OASys as initial sentence plan, we will have thousands of "misses" since all of them will be from before April. I can't wait.

Cannot imagine any well trained Probation staff wilfully not doing OASys as it a key tool (arguably overly cumbersome and difficult to navigate). My experience was one of too few staff, high sickness rates, temps coming and going, not enough hours in day etc. I did manage to just do all mine but I recognise team I was in was lower caseload than most others and we managed some stability re staffing. Quality, now that's a different question as was implementing the sentence plan. We/I were working like stink and doing our best. I am sure same is true for vast majority.

Oh purleese, the sentence plan is already sketched out in broad terms in either the Community Order detail or encapsulated within the licence conditions, as any competent practitioner will tell you. Anyone worth their salt knows exactly the direction of travel in any given sentence and what input is required. OASys sentence plans were only ever a way of trying to quantify this by a Service beginning to lose confidence in its professional abilities and standing and feeling required to justify its self, rather than being allowed to just get on with the job. OASys always has been a repetition of info held elsewhere and a waste of time. Now sentence plans are just meaningless cut and paste exercises completed by overworked court staff in order to hit completion targets.

About the London branch union meeting last Friday: It does worry me when it seems that those who represent us appear to accept uncritically certain things they are being told by managers in the CRC, such as: "there's no money". I would say: unless you show us your accounts to prove this statement I am not prepared to believe it, What I am prepared to believe is that your company is unprepared to invest money, even though all businesses accept that investment is needed in order for profit to be made.

Caseloads in West Yorkshire are 70 to 80 for PSO, sickness levels according to the hierarchy are 1 in 5 staff members. No support from managers or recognition that this is having a negative impact on staff morale or staffs mental health or well being.

6 core modules is the reinventing of the wheel that insults the offender and treats them like a child. The induction paper and sentence plan takes exactly the same amount of time for a 1st time offender or career offender. Once the offender has been released from prison he or she may have had 4 or 5 offender managers. The PSS is causing a bottleneck of offenders that the turnaround time for sorting out accommodation etc is wilfully inadequate and addresses nothing.

The staff who remain are so disillusioned with the job that they have just given up the ghost. There is no scope left to specialise or move into new territory as we now deliver programmes, hold DRR orders, community orders, licence cases, PSS licence, IOM and PPO cases. Can the last person out turn off the lights.

The Conference resolution was very principled but practically useless and toothless. Yes we all love collective bargaining, but the employers don't want to play ball - especially the NPS. The last couple of NNC meetings were poorly attended by employers (read the briefing paper produced at AGM by those who actually attend these meetings) who voted with their feet and those who did attend said nowt because of commercial secrecy. The NPS walked away then came back again to a stony silence and a half filled room. Most of the big players including the NPS are expected to follow MTCnovo and serve notice in the new year and Napo will be sitting in an empty room twiddling their thumbs with Comrade Chas and his sidekick stood outside selling their newspapers and dreaming of the winter of discontent. At least Raho has the balls to see the reality of the new landscape and not kid himself that probation staff will take to the streets and strike - they won't.

Are you not clear that this is a democratic union? This situation splits the union puts London at odds with the national membership and discredits his poor NPS chair colleagues in this political disaster and no doubt Rogers the bodges put him up to it as that is what they wanted at AGM. All the Officials were manipulating. Members are just the bankers we get no say.

It reflects a real live issue that will soon be facing every branch. You can ignore the train coming towards you but if you stay still it will roll over you. You cannot change the fact that the NNC is disintegrating and has been for some time. It is not fit for purpose. The motion was passed in accordance with all the relevant rules.

National collective bargaining is now a farce. Napo members were duped at the AGM into voting for a motion that meant zilch/nudda. If the private companies decide to walk away, no one can make them stay. Do you seriously think the MoJ will force anyone to parley with the unions? Of course London is only interested in London although we can stretch to Thames valley at a pinch. No one has mentioned Manchester going alone.

I would like to suggest that the London NAPO branches apparent willingness to accept the loss of facility time without a murmur (please someone, correct me if I am wrong), would certainly have given confidence to MCT Novo to propose walking away from NNC. The local vote last week has unfortunately only endorsed this position. I have read elsewhere recently of trade unionists not wholly in favour of relying on the law in discussions with management. In my experience however, no amount of hand wringing or special pleading cuts it with the kind of employers we are currently having to deal with. Nicey, nicey won't stop them riding roughshod over our roles or our basic (hard won) terms and conditions. If we are seen not to accept our own internal democratic processes (the motion passed at Conference supporting NNC) then why should management? London has done the rest of us no favours and Dean Rogers role in this is shameful. He should resign immediately because he clearly doesn't accept the AGM outcome.

We will continue to run around in ever decreasing circles until the politicians stop the rhetoric about being 'tough'. Try 'effective'. Try 'credible'. Try 'productive'. Try 'constructive'. But 'tough' is getting us nowhere.

Fully agree, ever increasing applications of stick rather then carrot solves nothing. Indeed, prison is no longer being used as a last resort, but more of a naughty step. But I think the system is so broken now its beyond repair, and so offers great opportunities for a real change. Not just change in the numbers we send to prison or how we build them. But change in what we want prisons to achieve, and being realistic about what they can achieve. 

It's my opinion that any success in penal reform must come hand in hand with social reform. Drug laws need to be changed. Mental health issues require a whole different focus, individual wellbeing rather then criminalisation. Questions need to be asked about sending people to prison for 4 weeks or 6 weeks, what does that really achieve? What's the cost? Not just monetary terms, but the cost to the individual going to prison and the potential cost to society when that individual is released.

Rehabilitation is an overused word I feel, because many in our prisons haven't been habilitated in the first place. A whole new way of thinking is needed if we want an effective CJS. One that sees not only the punishment of people, but one that achieves something for everyone too. Unfortunately, to achieve radical changes in the CJS, people in power have to grasp some nettles, and Liz Truss, Gove or Grayling are not the people to do it.

I have noticed a huge increase in the complex needs of offenders over the past 10 years. Most of those I work with now have complex needs such as mental health issues, personality disorders, alcohol and drugs, autistic spectrum, OCD, PTSD, ADHD, DV as victim, childhood abuse, etc. We deserve far more recognition and support for what we do and have become a dumping ground for the disadvantaged, abused and mentally ill.

I have had a tough NPS day so sorry for not being upbeat, actually F*CK being upbeat. Also F*CK being professional and measured in responding and commenting. The IT doesn't work, the systems don't work, the prisons are hideous, the staff everywhere are in despair, about their jobs, their vision, their profession. Of course, this is the same in health, education ... (add your public service here). Our justice system is on a tipping point. I can't decide whether to grieve for the destruction of our public institutions, or for a man who has not got the release he has worked for and deserves, because F*CKING housing is non-existent. Rant over.

I am spending increasing amount of time assisting depressed, suicidal and desperate individuals. Writing letters of support to ESA tribunals, working with bereaved, private company have no interest in this. I could do the minimum, meet the targets, take the money and run but I don't and neither do I see my colleagues doing that. They are on the phone regularly to support people who are quite frankly in a desperate situation regularly. There may be staff out there with that attitude but whoever you are I can tell you I have never known one in 15 years of service.

The thing about "risk assessment": these are now very sketchy when done in courts, the basic layers, the minimum amount of info. Fair enough, that is all the staff have time for. But NPS were supposed to be the risk experts in TR landscape. They work with the risky clients. They alone can determine who is risky enough to be worked with by the NPS. Yet heavy risk assessment work now resides in the CRC, we the non experts must do full layer assessments on cases coming to us, after decision has been taken on sentencing based on very skimpy assessment. Not the court staffs fault. Systemic.

Further problems arise over risk-escalation and ping-ponging between CRC and NPS. Have seen CRC staff, especially PSO's new to post, supervising complicated cases. Recipe for disaster if not receiving adequate peer support and line management. Teams being fragmented in WL CRC's - less staff support? More risky decision making?

It will be even worse when we have no OASys. Too many people now involved in individual cases. The amount of breaches that are withdrawn due admin errors in the NPS. It's more luck than judgement that there are not more SFO's. We've been saying for the last 2 years surely it can't get any worse, but it does.

Court closures have meant more cases going to already busy courts and no extra staff to undertake the expectation of all reports to be done on the day or written up by court staff. Of course they are going to be sketchy the majority of the time. Not the fault of the staff but those that think E3 is the way to go and bugger those who are trying the best they can in an ever increasing target-driven service. Staff should be able to work at a level they are comfortable with and let the targets take a back seat. Then maybe, just maybe the powers that be will see it as it is and decide public protection and staff welfare should be their priorities and employ more staff to squeeze into an already too small a working environment. One looks for 20 female staff and been told to use the public loos in the court foyer.

Oral reports and short format reports are not based on risk assessment, but the formulaic outcome of a couple of risk screening tools.

Another loss from TR: many of those writing reports and making proposals have never supervised anyone on an order or licence. Or they may have had pre-TR supervisory experience, but be totally unfamiliar with CRC post TR. This shows. We have DV perpetrators on 60 RARs but with no BBR although they could easily have done BBR and had never done it before. 

We have people with chronic orthopaedic problems being given 200 hrs Unpaid Work. Time was when end-to-end offender management was the ideal. We took responsibility of the whole experience from start to finish. This way relationship and trust were built, progress noticed, hurdles appreciated, investment in the process by service user as well as worker. Now we fail by fragmentation, by misunderstanding, by confusion and misdiagnosis.

Rehabilitation has been well and truly 'Transformed' from an award winning service to a pile of excrement designed by people so far away from the real world who test out concepts on paper before decided what will work...E3 is the deskilling arm of this model designed purely to get probation work done on the cheap and the beauty of this are the SPO quislings who are pushing the model as if is the prelude to the second coming when in reality they're like the turkeys who voted for Christmas...

Ah, the silent but deadpan Copsey, a behind-the-curtain career civil servant fixed in aspic rather than steeped in probation. I remember the sharp dressed bully from Lincolnshire many, many moons ago. He never liked social work training, was very pro-control & punishment; he will have fitted into the Noms' organism like a missing jigsaw piece. What, pray tell, does Head of Operational Assurance do (other than pocket a £120k salary)?

Dame Glenys Stacey (HMCIP) ....... made a point of identifying impending areas for the Inspectorates attention, the Rehabilitation Activity Requirement (RAR's) being one area of supervisory concern - which followed on from my question on the current lack of accountability & transparency from CRC providers in offering information to sentencers on this 'innovative' option which if unaddressed threatened to undermine judicial confidence.

Certainly in the Magistrates' Court confidence in this disposal is very much undermined already. Sentencers have no idea 1) what is actually involved 2) how much real activity takes place 3) how the amounts proposed by Probation in court reports (eg 15 days, 20 days) are arrived at and 4) no means of relating amount of RAR to level of sentence.

Since privatisation of probation any contact between sentencers and probation has pretty much vanished; reporting of breach levels appear almost non-existent and indeed there is a strong perception that the number of breaches brought to court have substantially reduced.

Greater flexibility in reporting frequency means fewer breaches. I avoid breaching like the plague. I would rather put half an hour into getting someone to attend probation than spend two hours on a breach which then gets rejected. Another thing that puts me off breaching: I don't get that two hours undisturbed, ever. And if I do take that time it will be at the expense of another vital task, which in this plate spinning CRC world in which I now work will result in further delays and frustrations, plates crashing to the floor. When I bend to retrieve one plate, others immediately come off their spinning poles and crash. What a circus.

The RARs: a mystery indeed. The current London CRC wisdom is that the wording says: "up to x amount of days". That means we can do as many or as few as the need and risk of the service user demands. There is some assumption that the ideal would be to "send" the service user somewhere for their RAR. I have only ever been able to do this in three cases, and the service user accessed services which he had already set up in advance of his order: one was a psychological appointment, one was the AA meeting where attendance can be confirmed through a "chitty" system, and one was the local drug centre who are happy to liaise with us re people's attendance and are not perturbed by such a word as "criminal record". 

If no such options are open those "RARs" become supervision sessions, work for the probation worker. Why that would now be such a terrrible dirty word or undesirable situation I don't know. People who come for their supervision RAR with me get a chance to consider their situation with one other, me. I pay close attention to what they say, I reflect back, I assist with focusing their train of thoughts, I don't judge. Most have not had a chance to do this with anyone since they saw me last. They tell me they are clearer about what they need to do when they leave me. When they return they feed back to me how things have gone. It is personal and bespoke. 

I can no longer see people every week or fortnightly, because I have so many and there is so much bureaucracy to attend to when I do see the service user, I spend a good hour usually. I don't think we should be made to discount such bespoke RAR sessions as useless, they are useful and constructive. It is just that we need other things for the service users as well, like affordable housing, employment and social inclusion.

I've had it confirmed that there is very little time factored into the proposed Working Links model of practice for bespoke 1:2:1 sessions. The assumption is that all clients will be farmed out to other agencies more or less - whilst the practitioners sit in front of their computers furiously logging everything in order to hit cash linked targets. Problem is, the proposed 'suite' of 16 RAR activities (homogeneous across all WL owned companies, is currently nowhere in sight.

I can confirm that the number of breaches (throughout London) have dropped by 60 percent. The large majority of breaches relate to orders where the service user has not been seen for some months. Enforcement is now an agency whose primary function is to re-establish contact! (EO London).

The experience in London has been that the majority of CRC breaches are rejected for the smallest of reasons. Many are simply not resubmitted and no one on either side seems to care.

Staff shortages, overcrowding, and psychoactive drugs are very serious issues in our prison system. Too many people are being sent to prison, and many don't really need to be there. But I think it's worth remembering that Grayling, as well as cutting staff numbers also introduced some other very stupid and unintelligent reforms that I think should be remembered. He stopped many prisoners from wearing their own clothes, which apart from causing resentment amongst prisoners, created a need for extra resources, more prison clothes needed, clothes that need washing, and staff time to supervise kit exchanges. "Its easier to get drugs then clothes" is a common theme in many reports and commentary on the prison crisis. 

Grayling also stopped prisoners families from sending gifts on birthdays and Christmas (commonly known as the book ban), causing more resentment, especially when you consider what things you were allowed to be sent anyway was very little. Grayling also restructured the incentive and earned privilege scheme, making it almost impossible to climb the ladder, removing the feeling of progress achievable for prisoners, making those that did manage to climb the ladder the focus of suspicion (must be a grass or something) because no-one else can manage it, and very importantly, removing the ability of staff to use the threat of loss of privileges through the IEP system as a method of control, and leading to far more adjudications and days lost. Graylings staff cuts, prison closures with a growing population was stupid enough, but he didn't need to shake everything up like a wasps nest as well.

Grayling has a lot to answer for and should be held to account for his evident failings. Prisons and Probation are in a mess as the result of his actions and failure to listen to anyone who actually knew what they were talking about. Evidence now clearly shows 'those on the front line' were right. I don't have much confidence in Truss either, however I would have so much respect if she were to stand up and say "We (Grayling/Tories) got it wrong". 

Will never happen though as this Capitalist Government will 'spin' their next move to make it look like they are improving things rather then state We created this mess and we are going to get out. "We're in this together" b*llocks - if we were in it together and you are reading this Ms Truss, as professionals in an extremely depleted "business" which seems to be the word of the day these days (I joined a Public Service), we would hold more respect for you if you admitted this mess is the fault of the Conservatives in the first place. #Blood on your hands.

This is part of the great deception....they know that there's a retention problem in prisons.... the trouble is lots of officers are tied up with 'bothersome' rehabilitation work therefore to aid retention, shift all of those officers back onto the wings and fill their places with probation officers - genius...except the void will have to be filled with untrained (forgive me one days training per unit) PSO's who will now know the meaning of responsibility...prisons are dangerous places at the moment and we must resist going in at all costs until things have quietened down again.

Saturday 26 November 2016

Prison Reform 2

There continues to be acres of newsprint and academic discussion of the prison crisis and need for reform, but in inverse proportion to that of the on-going crisis in probation, an essential element of any improvements. Sad, but a fact of life brought about by various factors that have been discussed at great length on this blog and remain available for those interested to find more about. 

It's not just the sheer amount of discourse, it's also the breadth of coverage. Here for example is a recent article in the Economist giving yet more weight to the argument for sentencing reform:- 

The parlous state of prisons in England and Wales has echoes of the past

The government has proposed every solution except the obvious: locking fewer people up.

Another day, another disturbance. On the evening of November 20th the prison service riot squad was summoned to deal with what the authorities called “an isolated incident” at HMP Moorland, near Doncaster. Cells were damaged and two inmates were injured in a fracas involving around 40 prisoners. To describe this as isolated is disingenuous. It is just the latest in a litany of troubles afflicting prisons in England and Wales.

The upheaval at Moorland came two weeks after over 200 prisoners had seized two wings at Bedford prison. Over the course of six hours they got out of their cells, broke into medicine stores and started fires. Officers were brought in from across the country to quell the unrest. In the same week two inmates escaped from Pentonville prison; one of them had been on remand for murder. Using diamond-tipped tools, they cut through their cell bars before scaling the perimeter wall. A prisoner was also stabbed to death in Pentonville last month.

Violence against both officers and other inmates is soaring. Even as the proportion of young men, those most prone to violence, has dropped (see chart), prisoners are hurting themselves and others more often and more viciously. Rates of self-harm are up by a quarter year-on-year. Serious assaults on other prisoners have risen by 28%. Attacks on staff have increased by 43%. In the year to September 2016, 107 prisoners killed themselves, almost twice as many as five years ago.

Two long-standing structural problems are largely to blame: understaffing and overcrowding. Between 2010 and 2015 the number of front-line officers was slashed (see chart). Realising the impact of these cuts, the government has been frantically trying to reverse course. Some 1,315 officers were hired in the year to this September. But so many are leaving that the total has in fact fallen by 154. On November 15th more than 10,000 prison officers stopped work, part of a “protest action” (stopped when it was judged an illegal strike). Meanwhile prisons are stuffed: by the government’s own standards, they hold 11% more people than they can decently accommodate.

That is mainly down to longer sentences. At 16.4 months the average is now more than four months longer than it was ten years ago. That partly reflects increasingly tough punishments for those already locked up. Since 2010 over 1m more days of imprisonment—equivalent to 3,000 years—have been imposed on inmates for breaking prison rules, according to the Howard League for Penal Reform.

Britain has seen crises in its prisons before. In 1990 inmates rioted at Strangeways for 25 days. One was killed and scores more injured, along with almost 150 officers. In the subsequent inquiry Lord Woolf, a judge, identified overcrowding, overstretched and oppressive staff and grim conditions such as “slopping out” as contributory factors. Today the problem is that officers are too few and too inexperienced. Most cells now have toilets. But the similarities are still worrying.

More riots may erupt. Jason Warr, a criminologist at Lincoln University, worries that the murder of an officer is more likely. “And if you get one, in rapid succession you’ll get a couple of others,” he fears. His concerns do not seem so farfetched. Last June an officer was killed with a kick to the head while escorting a prisoner to a transport van. Earlier this month an inmate in the Isle of Wight tried to cut the throat of an officer with a razor. The mass riot at Strangeways was a “signal” event, says Mr Warr; it forced the Tory government of the day to acknowledge how badly it had neglected the prisons.

Similar woes do not seem to be having the same effect now. Reforms announced this month by Liz Truss, the justice secretary, fail to get to the root of the problem. They include more autonomy for governors, prison league tables and investment of £1.3bn ($1.6bn) to fix the crumbling prison estate. No-fly zones may be introduced to stop drones dropping off mobile phones and drugs. This week’s Autumn Statement confirmed that 2,500 more front-line officers will be hired by 2018.

No mention has been made of one obvious answer: to lock up fewer people. In the long term, that means shorter sentences for some crimes and greater use of measures such as community penalties, as recently suggested by the Lord Chief Justice. But such proposals will take years to take effect. Other options could bring numbers down more rapidly. Michael Gove, Ms Truss’s predecessor, suggested last month that at least 500 prisoners serving indefinite sentences for public protection could be released.

Executive release is another option, says David Wilson, a former governor who is now a criminologist at Birmingham City University. Those locked up for less than six months could be let out. As home secretary in 1910, Winston Churchill used this power to cut the prison population. Reducing pre-trial detention would help, says Mr Warr. The share of the prison population awaiting trial or sentencing in England and Wales is not high by international standards—11%, compared with 20% in America and 29% in France—but finding alternatives would relieve the overcrowding.

None of these options would be politically easy. The press has recently howled at pictures of inmates apparently living in luxury. But the government has accepted that prisons have big problems. The next step is fixing them.


The Howard League is launching a new campaign:-

The 3 Rs of Prison Reform

Our new campaign sets out some immediate and practical steps to get prison numbers down. 
Our overcrowded prisons are not law-abiding places. Prisons are rivers of crime. We are throwing more and more individuals into these raging rivers of violence, of drugs, of frustration and mental distress, and somehow magically thinking that this will make them better people.

It does not. The river doesn’t steer these people to safe shores but sweeps them away into deeper currents and further and further into crime. Ultimately that means more people will be released from prison and go on to reoffend. More members of the public will become victims of crime.

What we need is immediate action to stem the flow of people into prison and support so that prison staff can then focus on working positively with those who remain behind bars.

Overcrowding and why it matters

The prison population of England and Wales has doubled in twenty years and the system now holds many more prisoners than it was designed to hold. Overcrowding means around 20,000 prisoners are forced to share tiny cells in twos or threes. The prisoners will not know each other or what they have done. You can go to sleep one night with a cellmate in the other bunk and the next morning a complete stranger could be sleeping there.

Overcrowding means that prisoners are not placed in the prison most likely to help but instead where there is simply a bed that is available. Overcrowding means that prisoners do not have sufficient access to purposeful activity such as work or education, or to visit healthcare or receive visits. More and more prisoners spend up to 23 out of 24 hours a day lying on their bunks doing nothing. The sheer boredom itself feeds and breeds the problems of violence and of drug abuse behind bars.

Meanwhile, the manifest needs of most prisoners are not being met. Poor mental health, drug and alcohol addiction, poor literacy and numeracy: these and other issues are more likely to be made worse rather than better by a spell inside.

Dangerous prisons

Despite the best efforts of those working in the system, prisons are sinking under a tide of violence, of rampant drug abuse and increasing evidence of mental distress among prisoners. There were more alleged homicides in 2015 than in any other year on record. Assaults in prison have risen by 34% in the space of one year. Assaults on staff have risen by an even greater 43%.

It is not just violence against other people, however, but violence against the self. The rate of self-injury has more than doubled among male prisoners since 2010. The levels of suicide in prison are the highest since records began.

Across the board, things are not just getting worse but the rate of deterioration is getting worse. If what was happening every day in prisons was happening in schools or hospitals – even just one school or hospital – there would be a public outcry. The state of the prisons is now a national emergency.

What needs to be done: the 3 Rs

The government has announced plans to improve safety but unless it deals with overcrowding by reducing demand on the prisons then those plans will fail.

Bold sentencing reform to better match the use of prison to the resources available is required. There is no reason we cannot bring numbers down by a half and have a prison population of around 40,000 – the same size of prison population we saw in England and Wales when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister.

In the immediate future, however, we need to prevent more violence and more deaths. The Howard League will outline practical actions in three key areas, actions that can start to ease the pressure and set us on a journey to reduce prison numbers. We are campaigning for measures to address the 3 Rs:

Rules in prison
Release from prison
Recall to prison

Over the coming weeks we’ll be presenting more ideas for each of these areas and what you can do to help.

Friday 25 November 2016

Guest Blog 63

Having attended a Westminster Legal Policy Forum half day Conference held in London this week apocalyptically entitled 'The future for probation in England & Wales' I thought that I would share with readers some brief selective impressions from the event (the agenda, presentations and speaker biographies are available on the WLPF website). 

It was gratifying on arrival to be greeted by the inimitable Professor Mike Nellis, who chaired the first part of the morning. His measured reflections on the pressing need to take meaningful stock of the whole TR enterprise, particularly in light of recent critical Probation Inspectorate, NAO, JSC reports (covered admirably by this blog) set the tone (if not always the content) of subsequent speakers. 

The NAO speaker crisply covered familiar terrain, contained in its recent Probation Landscape report, noting how the politically driven TR reform programme remained, using pat phrases that reappeared in other contributions, 'fragile, mixed and troubling' - with isolated pockets of innovative practice. 

In his presentation, the Thames Valley CRC Probation Director somewhat self-consciously decried 'CRC bashers', acknowledging the relentless pace of change, whilst remaining committed to the foundational 'turning lives around' approach which has been the hallmark of over a century of probation.

Dame Glenys Stacey (HMCIP) whose forensic Inspectorial lens appears to have confounded some of those who might have had reservations about her appointment, offered forthright insights on TR - she castigated the variable quality of ICT systems and made a point of identifying impending areas for the Inspectorates attention, the Rehabilitation Activity Requirement (RAR's) being one area of supervisory concern - which followed on from my question on the current lack of accountability & transparency from CRC providers in offering information to sentencers on this 'innovative' option which if unaddressed threatened to undermine judicial confidence. 

She referenced 'cassandra like' the forthcoming Probation Service Review (and the little noticed Probation Contractor report due before Xmas?) Such TR based reviews/reports seem to come out with unnerving regularity - add to this the OM custody review cited by another speaker, Sonia Crozier (NPS Director) worryingly high recall rates (an alarming 10% of women in HMP Bronzefield!) spiced with some upbeat news on recruitment figures - to offset planned redundancies? Drafting PO's into the custodial setting so that those prisoners eligible might be assisted to become 'parole ready'. 

It maybe of some modest reassurance to readers to note that a whole system 'love in' event with leaders from the NPS/CRCs is convening in January 2017 (location unspecified!) planned no doubt to offset some of these 'unforseen' chinese organisational walls which have arisen on many of the vexed TR issues that pepper Jim's blog.

Napo's Ian Lawrence pointedly asked the question 'have we been sold a pup' given the faltering TR contractual mess and he used his talk to focus on safeguarding staff against 'dangerous operating models', calling for urgent remedial action on failing CRC contractors, whilst mooting the need to proactively fight to retain a high quality training framework with a licence to practice, and to his credit responded well to one or two former service user voices in the audience (the inspirational User Voice founder Mark Johnson who was due to speak had to withdraw at the last minute) whose negative experiences of probation were all too evident. 

This point was somewhat tendentiously made in the short video clip that appended Paul Hindson (Blog passim) rather insipid presentation in which another service users negative experiences of probation was the opening clip (without wanting to diminish the client experience it was how it was stagemanaged) to an holistic multi-agency supervision environment that looked remarkably like a reheated IOM!

A batch of helpfully informational talks on amongst other topics 'Cloud-based' ICT/Sobriety Tags/Substance Misuse issues, the latter accentuated by the hurriedly announced Prison's Bill, followed as the second half of the morning pegged around TTG was chaired by the irrepressible Lord Ramsbotham - although the Nemesis of Noms opted not on this occasion to call for its scrapping. 

The perennial theme of 'hit the target - miss the point' surfaced throughout many of the talks (strikingly illustrated in the unbending 90% accommodation target for released short term prisoners - set against Austerity hit Local Authorities diminishing housing stock). The final presentation was from Martin Copsey - Head of Operational Assurance at Noms - although steeped in probation his deadpan denouement on delivering another qualitative framework to the troubled probation landscape was dotted with that 'organogram fetishism' much beloved of Noms - importing into his talk yet another acronym 'KLOES' (at which point I went into automatic mode) - Had I not already posed a question in the first half of the day I would have asked him in the plenary, do you agree with a recent commentator who described Noms as an unloved, unlovely bureaucratic monster, dangerously out of touch with its operational heartland!!

As always on such occasions social networking buffers some of the healthy scepticism that wells up when listening to yet more methodological heavy anodyne offerings - but meeting a representative from a charity in the coffee break undertaking sterling work with Veterans in the CJS was a most welcome tonic. 

With TR (like Brexit) at this historic moment a stubborn reality for practitioners, even if some of the private providers are tottering close to contractual demise, Mike Nellis captured the moment well - (an invitation to throw darts at a certain CG had he been present brought a subversive chuckle to proceedings!) when opining in his introduction on keeping the enduringly resonant probation ethos which was still very much in the balance and in jeopardy, alive (offering with his refreshingly wide eyed international perspectives the best of probation practice) and his rejoinder that with TR outcome still far from certain, the relational underpinning to probation practice is still something worth fighting for!! 

Mike Guilfoyle

Thursday 24 November 2016

Another Opportunity Knocks

Call for evidence

Thematic inspection of probation work in the courts

HM Inspectorate of Probation is collecting evidence for its thematic inspection of probation work in the courts. We are keen to hear about the delivery of, and any gaps in, all aspects of probation court work, so we can better understand the current landscape.

In particular we are interested in responses to the following questions:

What is your experience of the delivery and quality of various forms of pre-sentence reports? (Oral, Short and Full)
How, if at all, has Transforming Rehabilitation changed probation court work?
What, if any, are the barriers to providing sentencers with the right information?
How, if at all, has Transforming Summary Justice and Better Case Management changed probation court work?

Please provide any examples of good/promising practice in probation court work.

It is not necessary to respond to any or all of these questions. Please feel free to focus upon the issues you think are the most important, or upon which you have the most to say.

As part of your response, please make sure that:

you state clearly who the submission is from, i.e. whether from yourself in a personal capacity or sent on behalf of an organisation
you include a brief description of yourself/your organisation. It would be helpful to know something about your role, if any, with probation work in the courts
you state clearly if you wish your submission to be confidential and/or you do not want to be contacted with follow-up enquiries.

Submissions in Word or PDF formats are very welcome. Other formats, such as videos, blog posts will also be accepted.

Please do circulate this email to any of your contacts who might be able to help us.

Reply to: (E-mail address)

Deadline: Friday 16 December 2016
Thank you in advance

Wednesday 23 November 2016

Prison Reform

I notice Rob Allen, in his latest blog posts, outlines how the prison reform debate is increasingly becoming one that highlights the need for sentencing reform as well. Here's the first:-

From Prison Reform to Sentencing Reform?

Will last week’s events prove a defining moment in the history of prisons in England and Wales? The Sun thinks so, yesterday proclaiming that jails have become little more than a war-zone as the level of rioting, violence and drug-abuse reaches a tipping point. Tuesday’s action by prison staff certainly represented a very a serious breakdown in industrial relations and whether these have been repaired remains to be seen. With the ink barely dry on a Prison White Paper claiming to be the biggest overhaul of our prisons in a generation, it looks as if those who work in prisons are unconvinced that the measures it contains will secure their safety and that of the people in their custody.

Unsurprisingly, more radical measures are now being suggested. Former Governor Ian Acheson who reported on radicalisation in prisons earlier this year called in the Telegraph, for the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) to be scrapped. NOMS - Nightmare on Marsham Street, as it was known when under the Home Office - was intended to break down the silos of prison and probation and ensure a better focus on managing offenders. Acheson argued that it has become “an unloved, unlovely bureaucratic monster, dangerously out of touch with its operational heartland”.

NOMS first Chief Executive, Sir Martin Narey widened the focus still further in the Times by arguing for sentence lengths to be reduced, giving support to Michael Gove‘s argument in his Longford Lecture that “we need to work, over time and pragmatically, to reduce our prison population”. This is something Gove resisted when as Justice Secretary he could have done something about it. Narey is still a non-executive board member at the Ministry of Justice so perhaps could persuade Gove’s successor to do something on prison numbers. But what?

I was out of the country last week speaking for Penal Reform International at two events in Central Asia. Kazakhstan has halved its prison population over the last fifteen years through a comprehensive package of reforms- decriminalising and reclassifying offences, diversion of minor cases, reducing remand time, shortening sentence lengths, earlier release, a new probation system and community sentences. The country developed and implemented a plan - “Ten steps to reduce the number of inmates”. True the prison population is still pro rata higher than the UK’s – 250 per 100,000 population compared to 150 – but the direction of travel adopted in Astana is now sorely needed in Westminster.

Of course, the technical elements of any Ten Steps in England and Wales will be somewhat different to Kazakhstan’s. Next month, Transform Justice will be publishing a report I’ve drafted which will argue that the Sentencing Council which produces guidelines for courts should play a much stronger role in reversing sentence inflation. Earlier Transform Justice reports have argued for a justice reinvestment approach which devolves custodial budgets to regions to incentivise local bodies to prevent crime, rehabilitate offenders and reduce the use of prison. With radical changes like these, prison numbers could start to come down to a more manageable level. Without them, the Government might be tempted to emulate one of Kazakhstan’s less progressive policies; back in 2011 it moved the prison system back from the Ministry of Justice to the Ministry of Interior.

Conventional wisdom is that politicians who adopt a soft approach will be slaughtered in the media and the polls. But the Sun on Sunday said today “Our jails are stuffed with too many non-dangerous criminals…” That's as much of an invitation to sentencing reform you are likely to get.

Rob Allen


The second:-

Alternatives to Prison - a Shot in the Arm or Shot in the Foot?

The movement to cut the prison population picked up steam this morning when the Lord Chief Justice told the Justice Select Committee that “fewer criminals should be jailed and tougher community punishments developed as an alternative to imprisonment”. In contrast to Michael Gove, who last week called for a reduction in prison numbers having steadfastly refused to countenance it when in office, Lord Thomas is in a position to do more than talk.

As head of the judiciary he can exercise a strong influence on the 20,000 judges and magistrates who send people to jail. Unfortunately, he seems to have passed up the opportunity to persuade the Sentencing Council (of which he is President) to take a more ambitious line on alternatives to prison in its recent guideline on the imposition of community and custodial orders. He might, however, look for an opportunity to issue a guideline judgment encouraging the greater use of community sentences.

The Chief Justice might say that his support for such sentences is contingent on their being tougher. If he means that they should impose more and more onerous requirements on offenders, his positive intentions could easily lead to unintended consequences. The numbers spared custody at the front door of sentencing could be exceeded by those experiencing it via the back door of breach - a risk Lord Thomas seemed to recognise in respect of the post release supervision of short term prisoners introduced last year. If the Chief means the sentences should be  to coin a phrase, tougher on the causes of crime, he might be on to something.

Gove last week called for community sentences to be far better policed, with swift and certain sanctions for those who don’t comply. “Swift and Certain” is shorthand for an American approach to probation originating in Hawaii. It appeared in the 2015 Conservative manifesto but has yet to find its way into legislation. I’ve long had doubts about its applicability here, though these would be alleviated if the response to missing appointments or drug tests were not swift and certain periods of detention - as they are in the US HOPE Probation system - but more intensive rehabilitation efforts or lesser sanctions such as community work or curfews reinforced, if necessary, by tagging.

There’s a bigger problem of course which is whether the reformed probation service is able to step up to the plate. It may be that the Ministry of Justice review of the new arrangements finds the new model fatally flawed, but its hard to see it being abandoned. The MoJ may look to reinvigorate it by encouraging more diversion from prison.

We are told that the Community Rehabilitation Companies are struggling because the numbers of cases they supervise - and the fees that go with them- are lower than they’d expected. On business grounds if no other, they’d presumably be keen to get onto their books some of the 90,000 people sentenced to custody each year, as an alternative to custody and not just after release from it.

If that’s something the Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice want too, it shouldn’t be beyond their wit to arrange it.

Rob Allen