Thursday, 23 March 2017

More On Titan Prisons

"Final decisions on the new prisons will be subject to planning approvals, as well as value for money and affordability."

Liz Truss, Ministerial Statement 22 March 2017

Here we have the view of the Howard League on the plans for Titan jails:-

The Howard League for Penal Reform has today (Wednesday 22 March) responded to the government’s plans to build four new prisons. Andrew Neilson, Director of Campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “The government is pinning a great deal of hope that its capital investment in new prisons will help to solve the current crisis behind bars, with very little evidence to support that contention. Prisons across the country are afflicted with problems of deaths, violence and drugs – modern and old alike.

“The real driver behind these new prisons will be cost. Today’s announcement confirms that the Ministry of Justice is still committed to building larger prisons which can make economies of scale, even though smaller institutions can be safer and more stable.

“Ultimately we will only transform the prison system if we do something about a prison population which has doubled in the last twenty years. Until politicians grasp the nettle that we simply jail too many people and for too long, then governments will continue to preside over prisons that shame the nation.”


Of course the whole subject of building Titan prisons has been looked at before. This from the Prison Reform Trust in 2008:-

Titan Prisons: a Gigantic Mistake

Building US style huge Titan prisons will do little, or nothing, to cut crime and instead destabilise the criminal justice system for years to come by bringing about future overcrowding crises and higher reoffending rates. In a report published today at the end of the public consultation period on Titan prisons, the Prison Reform Trust reveals that the government has no proper evidence or adequate funding for its desperate plan to build giant prisons. It points out that it is not too late to avoid a costly and damaging mistake by investing in more effective measures instead.

The report, ‘Titan prisons: a gigantic mistake’ publishes a new analysis based on data from the Chief Inspector of Prisons, comparing small and large prisons against 154 different factors used to assess safe and effective prisons.
  • In two-thirds of the factors compared (102/154), smaller prisons scored significantly better than large ones;
  • In 38 of the 102 areas, the disparity exceeded ten percentage points;
  • For 19 of the 24 factors concerning safety, small prisons scored significantly better. For example, 38 per cent of prisoners in large prisons said it was easy to obtain illegal drugs, compared to 26 per cent of prisoners in smaller prisons;
  • For resettlement, small prisons were better for 18 out of 28 compared and were worse for only one.
Plans for three Titan prisons, each holding 2,500 prisoners and with the first opening in 2012, were proposed by Lord Carter’s review of prisons and accepted by ministers in December 2007. A Ministry of Justice consultation on how Titan prisons might work was launched in June and closes today.

The report also warns the government is repeating past mistakes by prioritising prison building over tackling the underlying reasons for the rising prison population. A report published last month by the influential cross party House of Commons Justice select committee found the prisons crisis to be a direct result of the Government failing to follow its twin track strategy of reserving prison for serious and violent offenders and using community orders, rather than ineffective short prison sentences, for minor offenders.

The cost of Titan prisons is also highlighted in the report as an area of concern. Initial government statements indicated the cost of the entire prison building programme would be £1.2 billion before ministers clarified the cost would be almost double that at £2.3 billion. This excludes all associated and running costs.

The report reveals that the estimate for the construction costs of Titan prisons has already increased by 30 per cent from £350m to £450m each.

The report is heavily critical of the approach taken by Lord Carter and expresses concern that his review’s call for Titan prisons runs counter to expert advice and may have been predetermined at the outset. The report reveals that only 17 of the 51 organisations, agencies and individuals Lord Carter met during his review inquiry were consulted on Titans. Of these 9 were private companies – construction firms and private prison operators with a clear vested interest in a prison building programme. Six were government departments.

Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, accused the government of acting recklessly in an economic downturn and said:

“The government is on the verge of making a massive, costly and hugely damaging mistake that will destabilise the criminal justice system for years to come. Giant US-style prisons may be easier to build but all the evidence here and abroad says the price we would pay in running them, and in higher reoffending rates, is far too high.

“If ministers want prisons to be focused on rehabilitation, rather than warehousing offenders until they are released, then it is not too late to make these plans disappear as fast as they appeared. Ministers should look at the evidence and listen to the people who run and regulate our prisons.

“The way out of this hole is not to carrying on digging by building super-sized titan prisons in a futile attempt to catch up with rising prison numbers. Instead the billions earmarked for Titans and the massive prison building programme should be used far more effectively to resource sentencing options which would see addicts getting treatment, the mentally ill gaining access to healthcare and petty offenders doing enforced community work to pay back for the harm they have caused.”

The report sets out a range of policy measures ministers should implement immediately to relieve the pressure on places. These include:
  • a national network of police and court schemes diverting many people with mental health needs or learning disabilities away from the criminal justice system into health and social care;
  • the full and immediate implementation of the Corston review to end the unnecessary imprisonment of women for minor offences;
  • adequate funding for community orders so that the courts have confidence in their availability and effectiveness;
  • better treatment for offenders with drink or drug addictions;
  • the establishment of a Sentencing Commission based on the existing Sentencing Guidelines Council to end ‘sentence inflation’ and help call a halt to the politicisation of sentencing.

And from a House of Commons briefing paper Feb 2016:

"A consultation paper, Titan Prisons, was published in June 2008. The summary of responses was published by the MoJ in April 2009. With it came the announcement that there would be no Titan prisons. The stated reasons overlapped with the potential difficulties identified by Lord Carter, the Prison Reform Trust and others:

We have (...) come to the conclusion that the additional risk, novelty and complexity involved in building 2,500 place prisons is likely to increase the cost. In addition we believe they are unlikely to provide the correct environment in which to rehabilitate offenders.

It has, though, been suggested by some commentators that the MoJ’s volte face was in fact attributable to the recession and concerns about the difficulties in obtaining planning consents in the face of what was likely to be strong local opposition. In announcing (with some apparent reluctance) the demise of Titan prisons, Jack Straw said that the Government intended instead to build five prisons of up to 1,500 places"

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

The Future Is Titan After All

This by Alan Travis in the Guardian:- 

Four 'supersized' prisons to be built in England and Wales

Justice secretary announces plan to create 5,000 prison places in east Yorkshire, Wigan, Rochester and Port Talbot

The justice secretary is to announce plans to build four new “supersized” jails in England and Wales, creating a total of 5,000 modern prison places. Sites at Full Sutton in east Yorkshire, Hindley in Wigan, Rochester in Kent and Port Talbot in south Wales have been earmarked for development as part of the government’s £1.3bn programme to transform the prison estate.

Although the individual capacities of the new jails will not be decided until they go through the planning process it is expected each will have a capacity of more than 1,000 inmates, consolidating a new generation of “supersized” prisons.

The justice secretary, Liz Truss, said: “We cannot hope to reduce reoffending until we build prisons that are places of reform where hard work and self-improvement flourish. “Outdated prisons, with dark corridors and cramped conditions, will not help offenders turn their back on crime – nor do they provide our professional and dedicated prison officers with the right tools or environment to do their job effectively.”

But the plans dismayed penal reformers who said the new building programme was not being matched by a plan to reduce the use of prison in the first place. The prison population has stabilised at about 85,000 over the last five years in a system with an “operational capacity” of just a thousand more.

Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said the “massive investment in new prisons is not matched by a credible plan to reduce our reckless overuse of prison in the first place”. He added: “The prison estate certainly needs an overhaul, but reducing demand would mean closing prisons, not opening them. The government has admitted that it has no idea when overcrowding will cease, and this announcement takes us no closer to an answer to that crucial question.”

The four new prisons are part of a wider building programme to create up to 10,000 modern prison places by 2020. A total of nine new prisons are to be built, five by the next general election. Sites in Yorkshire, Wigan, Kent and South Wales have been earmarked as part of a commitment to build up to 10,000 prison places by 2020

HMP Berwyn near Wrexham, which opened last month, is expected to become one of the largest prisons in Europe, holding more than 2,100 inmates when it is full to capacity. Most of the prisons built over the last 30 years had an original capacity of about 600, so Wednesday’s announcement marks a change of scale in British penal architecture.

Announcements are also expected later this year on the closure of old Victorian inner-city jails as part of the government’s “new for old” policies. HMP Holloway women’s prison, which shut last summer, is the latest to close under the “new for old” policy.

The expansion in the size of prisons has happened on a piecemeal basis, with Wandsworth prison in south London, for example, now holding 1,560 inmates in a jail supposed to hold fewer than 1,000. Nearly 30 prisons now hold more than 1,000 inmates each.

Ministry of Justice officials say the final decisions on the new prisons will be subject to planning approvals as well as considerations of value for money and affordability. It will be open to the public prison service to bid to run the new prisons alongside private prison operators. They also stressed that the new jails would create 2,000 jobs in the construction and manufacturing industries and provide a boost to regional economies across the country.

Truss said: “This significant building programme will not only help create a modern prison estate where wholescale reform can truly take root, but will also provide a thriving, economic lifeline for the local community – creating hundreds of jobs for local people and maximising opportunities for businesses.”

Council of Europe figures showed last week that England and Wales has the highest incarceration rate in western Europe. Although the prison population is within “operational capacity” it is far above its “certified normal accommodation” – the official measure of “good, decent” accommodation. Nearly 21,000 prisoners – a quarter of the prison population – are held “doubled up” in cells designed for one.

The shadow justice secretary, Richard Burgon, said: “We need modern prisons fit for the modern age. But simply replacing one prison with another prison doesn’t deal with the overcrowding crisis. No amount of press releases can distract from that.”

Lord Woolf in his landmark 1990 report following the Strangeways prison riots recommended that prisons should not normally hold more than 400 prisoners. He said: “The evidence suggests that if these figures are exceeded, there can be a marked fall-off in all aspects of the performance of a prison.” The last Labour government proposed a series of 2,500-place Titan prisons but dropped the scheme in the face of cross-party opposition.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Select Committee Special

"The Transforming Rehabilitation reforms were a significant first step towards a more effective probation system." Sam Gyimah

Revisionist Liar. (comment yesterday)


What an extraordinary session of the Justice Select Committee! I urge people to spend a bit of time watching and listening to the video, until such time as the transcript is available. 

Although using mealy-mouthed words at various stages, witness after witness had no alternative but to confirm what an utter bloody disaster the whole TR omnishambles has turned into - but how long is it going to take Bob Neill and his lack-lustre committee to have the courage to state the blindingly-obvious?  


"As the Public Accounts Committee noted in its report on Transforming Rehabilitation, a key factor in the performance of the probation system has been the volume reductions which have had an impact on CRC revenue and their ability to transform their businesses. We are discussing with providers the steps we can take to provide them with greater certainty over their future income and to enable long-term planning and transformation of services. This element of the review includes examination of potential changes to the CRC contracts’ payment mechanism. We are currently discussing proposals with CRCs but are confident that we can bring greater financial stability to providers and provide a stronger foundation for improving system performance."

Should read:

"TR has been the shambolic f*ckup anticipated by the PAC but as you know we carried on regardless. Now the CRCs are underperforming - for all of the reasons predicted so widely by so many - it highlights what an utter clusterfuck we find ourselves in, so once again we're going to try to buy our way out by handing out even more public money to the private sector."

I shall be writing to the PAC myself today to this effect:

"Dear PAC - these thieving, lying bastards have already stolen £Millions of public funds, they've ruined hundreds of professionals' careers & blighted communities with their ideological vandalism by dismantling the pre-existing professional probation service. Please don't listen to anymore of their pathetic lies and make them accountable for the damage they have caused. Thank you."

"providers will be robustly held to account."

No they won't. This hasn't happened yet, nor will it happen. The providers have MoJ tightly by the balls and simply squeeze whenever they want something. The NOMS contract police are invisible nobody's who have not once intervened; they have stood silently to attention, impotent whilst CRCs have decimated staff & services. The nigh-on £100M contribution from the Modernisation Fund - not a peep from the contract managers when that money wasn't used as intended, then suddenly it became free money for the CRCs to pocket. "Robust contract management" or craven capitulation?

Mr Bob Neill MP
Justice Select Committee


Please accept my apologies in advance for an uninvited approach.

I wanted to write to you in your capacity as Chair of the Justice Select Committee to briefly express my dismay & concern at the ongoing & costly shambles that is the so-called Transforming Rehabilitation programme. I am aware you are considering evidence tomorrow (Tues 21 Mar) and I have recently had sight of Mr Gyimah's letter (dated 7 Mar 2017) expressing a wish to, in effect, amend the contracts with & increase funding for the CRCs.

After some 25 years of being employed by the Probation Service I was, as an experienced & qualified Probation Officer, unceremoniously (& without choice) transferred to a CRC in 2014 with wild promises of opportunity & riches. In July 2015 I was served notice of redundancy and by September 2015 I was unemployed - as were many others of long & valued service. The CRCs chose not to implement the widely advertised redundancy package agreed between the unions & NOMS in 2014 despite the CRCs having been gifted a share (allegedly some £80M) of public money from the Cabinet's 'Modernisation Fund' to pay off staff. The CRCs were later told they could keep the £80M and use it howsoever they chose.

You will be aware that the PAC made numerous unsuccessful attempts to get the MoJ & NOMS to provide concrete details of the TR programme; the majority of excuses used being linked to the notion of "commercial sensitivity". They have spent unaccountable £Millions trying to implement this lamentable privatisation.

Mr Gyimah writes:

"The Transforming Rehabilitation reforms were a significant first step towards a more effective probation system."

The spiralling costs of this experiment have been vast both in financial and human terms. In 2017 I would estimate there have been some 600+ professionals lost to the probation service - either through CRC reductions in staffing or people simply leaving. After two years the impact upon service provision HAS been significant but NOT effective in any positive sense; and certainly those reforms do not represent any improvement upon the gold standard organisation that was the Probation Service, and which it is clearly the MoJ's unfathomable yet unshakeable ambition to replace at any cost.

I find it astonishing, grotesque & deeply offensive that there could be any consideration of throwing further £Millions of public funds at the bank accounts of global enterprise - to achieve what? How is that going to realise "a more effective probation system."?

Mr Neill, thank you for taking the time to read my email.

Yours Sincerely

An ex-Probation Officer who must remain anonymous for contractual reasons imposed in lieu of redundancy.


Stop Press

This from Alan Travis in the Guardian:-

Private companies could pull out of probation contracts over costs

Interserve Justice and MTCnovo tell MPs they may consider quitting if Ministry of Justice review does not deliver changes

Two of the private companies that provide 50% of probation services in England and Wales have confirmed to MPs they will have to consider quitting if a Ministry of Justice review fails to deliver improvements.

Interserve Justice and MTCnovo, which have contracts worth more than £150m a year to run “community rehabilitation companies”, have told the Commons justice select committee that their finances are unsustainable. “Our work is going up, our payment is going down,” said Yvonne Thomas, director of justice at Interserve.

The warning that pulling out of their probation contracts “will be an option on the table that will have to be considered” was delivered after the chief inspector of probation told MPs that probation privatisation had proved “enormously difficult” since it was introduced in 2014.

The transforming rehabilitation programme was introduced by Chris Grayling when he was justice secretary. It involves 21 community rehabilitation companies (CRCs) taking over the supervision of 140,000 “medium- to low-risk” offenders each year while the publicly run National Probation Service (NPS) continues to supervise high-risk offenders.

The chief inspector, Dame Glenys Stacey, said the probation system was in a very “unsettling position”. The number of offenders under probation supervision was 30% fewer than anticipated and payment was largely linked to the number of offenders “through the door”, which had led to substantial financial challenges, she said.

“They are running with ever fewer professional staff and are taking other steps to reduce expenditure wherever possible. They are pared back and focused on what is measured and rewarded and seeking to avoid stinging penalties for non-delivery against their targets,” said Stacy.

“The financial model, the financial underpinnings for these organisations, is not sufficiently stable and it is substantially inhibiting these CRCs as they seek to develop and implement new operating models,” she said, adding that promised innovations had yet to become apparent.

She said the programme had proved “a very significant cultural challenge” for probation: “This wholesale move to fragment the service and give it a commercial edge has been enormously difficult … No one in my position would feel comfortable at the moment with the way the service is performing.”

The chief inspector said CRC staff were overwhelmed by workloads while attempts to implement “half-baked” new operating models had stalled. This contrasted with the “acceptable” performance of the NPS with high-risk offenders “safe in the arms of the state”.

Nicky Park, head of prison services at the St Giles Trust, which has pioneered “through the gate” resettlement programmes for released prisoners, said it had been reduced to a “barebones service”, which had become an “admin heavy” tick-box exercise and no longer delivered quality interventions.

The MoJ is due to complete a review of the £889m-a-year probation service, which supervises 200,000 offenders a year.

The two private justice companies giving evidence to the select committee made clear they were pinning their hopes on ministers “fixing” the payment mechanism for the programme so the financial situation was put on a stable footing.

Both said they hoped something sensible would come out of the MoJ review, but agreed with the suggestion from MPs that they would have to discuss withdrawal from the contracts if it failed to deliver. However, Thomas added: “Nobody is talking about walking at this stage.”

Monday, 20 March 2017

Failing CRCs To Get More Cash - Shock!

As we all know, TR has been an utter disaster, just as predicted by everyone with any knowledge of the probation scene. So, here we have the Minister preparing the ground for further 'reform', but one that shovels more money in the direction of the privateers:-  

Bob Neil MP Chairman, 
Justice Select Committee 
House of Commons 
London SW1A 0AA

7 March 2017

Dear Bob, 

Transforming Rehabilitation review 

Thank you for your letter dated 6 February about your potential inquiry on the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms. 

As you know we are conducting a comprehensive review of the probation system. This review is looking at all aspects of the system, including our contractual arrangements with Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs), the services delivered by both CRCs and the National Probation Service (NPS) and the performance and accountability mechanisms for probation. Although work is ongoing and discussions with providers are continuing, I am happy to provide an update to the Committee on the work of our review of the probation system. Once the review is concluded in April we will set out more detailed plans for community supervision and probation reform. 

It is worth us recognising the scale of the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms. The probation system was fundamentally restructured in 2014-15, with 35 probation trusts replaced by 21 newly-created CRCs and the NPS. The caseload of offenders was split between these two sets of providers, and we also introduced through-the-prison-gate support for all released prisoners and post-release supervision for those serving custodial sentences of less than 12 months. This has been a period of significant change in probation, and many of the challenges the system now faces are a reflection that new arrangements are still bedding down. We will not have final reoffending outcomes for the first cohort of offenders to be managed by CRCs and the NPS until October, but we recognise that aspects of probation delivery are falling short of our ambitions. It is to tackle these problems, and to take stock more broadly of the implementation of the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms, that we are conducting a review. 

As the Public Accounts Committee noted in its report on Transforming Rehabilitation, a key factor in the performance of the probation system has been the volume reductions which have had an impact on CRC revenue and their ability to transform their businesses. We are discussing with providers the steps we can take to provide them with greater certainty over their future income and to enable long-term planning and transformation of services. This element of the review includes examination of potential changes to the CRC contracts’ payment mechanism. We are currently discussing proposals with CRCs but are confident that we can bring greater financial stability to providers and provide a stronger foundation for improving system performance. 

In addition we are discussing with providers how we can raise the quality of ‘through-the-prison-gate’ support. We recognise concerns identified by Her Majesty’s Inspectorates of Prison and Probation in their thematic inspection of last year. We are currently exploring with providers how we can achieve more effective provision of resettlement support, in particular in relation to securing accommodation and employment for prisoners on release. This will complement our ambition for prisons to achieve better outcomes for offenders on release from custody. 

Our review has also been considering the service levels which CRCs and the NPS are required to meet and against which performance is judged. We recognise that at present these are overly focused on process and output measures, rather than on quality and outcomes. As with prisons we want to create a simpler, clearer system with specific outcomes measures such as getting offenders off drugs and into apprenticeships and work. We are exploring options to introduce a greater focus on outcomes within our performance framework for probation. 

At present we are conducting commercial discussions with CRCs on potential changes to their contracts, and conversations with the NPS on a new service level agreement. Some of these conversations are necessarily sensitive. I hope that we will be able to conclude these discussions and reach agreements with providers shortly, and once we have done so I will provide an update report to the Public Accounts Committee. I would be very happy also to share this update with the Justice Committee. 

The Transforming Rehabilitation reforms were a significant first step towards a more effective probation system. As well as looking at our contractual arrangements with CRCs, we are also looking more broadly at how we supervise and rehabilitate offenders in the community. As the Secretary of State made clear in her recent speech on criminal justice reform, this work does not begin and end with prisons and probation. 

We need to intervene earlier with offenders and tackle the problems which are driving them to commit crime. To do this we must make sure our courts have the tools they need to reform individuals, but interventions to tackle problems like drug addiction and mental health issues are not working as well as they should. According to a 2009/10 survey 29% of offenders on community orders reported having a mental health condition, yet in 2015 mental health treatment requirements accounted for fewer than 1% of all treatment commenced as part of a community sentence. We are working with the Department of Health to develop a new protocol which will ensure timely access to mental health services where the courts impose a mental health treatment requirement as part of a sentence. Each court will have support from a dedicated senior mental health professional who will oversee delivery of treatment requirements, and we will introduce new maximum waiting times for treatment from the date of sentence, alongside national standard waiting times for mental health and clinical assessment of risk. 

We also need to create a justice system which responds to the particular needs of women, recognising that many have been victims of abuse. This requires better assessment of female offenders, a multiagency approach to tackling their problems and effective community sentences which command the confidence of the courts. Probation services must play their part by providing gender-specific support and safe environments in which to tackle the causes of offending. We will set out our strategy for female offenders later this year and have already announced Sonia Crozier as the new director with responsibility for women in custody and the community. This work builds on our prison safety and reform programme and complements our review of the probation system by considering how we can better identify the causes of an individual’s offending and target interventions more effectively. By tackling offending in the community we can prevent individuals ending up in prison while making our communities safer. To do this we must make sure there is sufficient consistency and quality of provision for offenders in the community. 

We must also develop a clearer framework for reforming offenders in the community. This should set out the outcomes that probation should be seeking to achieve and how providers will be robustly held to account. By doing this we can make sure that both prisons and probation, with the support of the courts and partners such as local authorities and health services, are not only protecting the public but reforming offenders and enabling them to make a positive contribution to society. We intend to set out further plans once our review of the probation system is complete. 

I hope this response is helpful to the Committee’s consideration of the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms. Should the Committee decide to conduct an inquiry it can be assured that the department will cooperate fully.



This evidence-gathering session tomorrow should be interesting:-

The Justice Committee questions stakeholders on the Government's review of its Transforming Rehabilitation programme.


Tuesday 21 March 2017, Thatcher Room, Portcullis House

At 9.45 am
Dame Glenys Stacey, HM Chief Inspector of Probation

At 10.25 am
Malcolm Richardson JP, Chair, Magistrates Association

At 10.40 am
Nathan Dick, Head of Policy & Communications, Clinks
Nicky Park, Head of Prison Services, St Giles Trust

At 11.00 am
Yvonne Thomas, Managing Director, Interserve Justice
Rich Gansheimer, CEO, MTCnovo

Purpose of session

Questioning will focus on:

  • What has caused the difficulties in Transforming Rehabilitation, and who (or what) is responsible?
  • What are the best solutions?
  • Are the Government plans for the programme’s future adequate?
Transforming Rehabilitation

Transforming Rehabilitation includes, among other measures:

the creation of the National Probation Service (NPS) to manage high-risk offenders
supervision of low- and medium-risk offenders by Community Rehabilitation Centres (CRCs), operated by private- and voluntary-sector providers
statutory probation for offenders who have served sentences of 12 months or fewer
'Through the Gate' resettlement services with early involvement from CRCs.

The Justice Committee in the 2010–15 Parliament reported on Transforming Rehabilitation prior to its implementation.

Following its introduction, there have been criticisms—including by the Committee of Public Accounts, the National Audit Office and HM Inspectorates of Prisons and Probation—of its practical effectiveness. The caseload and contractual arrangements for Community Rehabilitation Centres, execution of 'Through the Gate' and coordination between various responsible bodies have raised concerns, as have other issues.

The Committee intends to investigate the causes of these problems and identity possible solutions, rather than simply to restate them. The Committee does not wish at this stage to receive any written evidence on Transforming Rehabilitation: it will announce its plans for further work on the subject, including any opportunity for submission of written evidence by interested parties, in the near future.


Don't forget - readers in the south west, tune in to BBC1 Inside Out at 7.30pm tonight and afterwards on i-player:-
"Jemma Woodman asks whether people in the south west are being adequately protected from offenders on probation"

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Prisons and Courts Bill 3

Here we have the briefing from the Howard League:- 

Briefing on the Prisons and Courts Bill House of Commons, Second Reading, 20 March 2017 

Key points 
  • The Bill is not ambitious enough to have a significant impact on the prison system. There is nothing in the Bill that will begin to tackle the high prison population and chronic overcrowding which must be responded to if progress is to be made. The Bill is silent on important issues including high rates of recall, use of additional days, improving the release process and sentence inflation. 
    • On 8 March it was announced that the Ministry of Justice will be required to reduce its budget from £6.9 billion to £6 billion over the remainder of this parliament. Without action to ease the pressure on the prison system conditions will worsen. 
    • Clear statutory purposes of the prison system are welcome, although the impact of new statutory purposes alone should not be overstated. Some crucial elements are missing from the listed purposes, including the importance of decent and purposeful conditions and ensuring prisoners are ready for release after the shortest appropriate period of time. 
    • Strengthening the role of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) is a positive step. The provisions in the Bill could be enhanced by reducing the time periods within which the Secretary of State must respond to HMIP reports and urgent concerns. Safeguards are needed to ensure that HMIP continues to inspect prisons on the basis of human rights standards and not the policy agenda of the government of the day. 

    • The provisions in the Bill relating to mobile phone and psychoactive substance use focus on supply and not on demand. Mobile phone possession would reduce if prisoners had access to private and affordable landlines. Drug use in prison would reduce if prisoners had access to a full and purposeful regime.
    Issues to raise at the second reading 

    MPs may wish to raise the following policy changes, which would have a real impact on prisons by easing overcrowding and reducing pressure on the system: 
    • Ending recall eligibility for people released after short prison sentences of less than 12 months 
    • Reviewing the life licence which applies to people serving Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) sentences and has already led to 1,000 IPP prisoners being recalled to prison mainly for administrative reasons 
    • Reviewing the release test for prisoners serving indeterminate sentences 
    • Increasing opportunities for earned release 
    • Ending the use of additional days being added to sentences for breaking prison rules 
    MPs should consider the following additions to the list of what prisons must aim to do: 
    • Prepare prisoners for life outside prison in the shortest appropriate period of time 
    • Maintain an environment that is safe, secure, decent and fair and engenders a respect for justice 
    MPs should seek assurances that Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons will continue to focus on the treatment and conditions prisoners are subject to and not move towards monitoring prison performance against government targets.

    MPs should question what is being done to reduce demand for mobile phones and drugs in prisons.

    Background to the Bill

    The prison system is in crisis. Our prisons are violent, overcrowded and understaffed. Deaths, assaults and self-injury are all at record highs. In 2016,354 people died in prisons, 119 of whom died by suicide. There were 37,784 recorded incidences of selfharm and 25,049 assaults. 80 prisons (69 per cent) are overcrowded. Reoffending rates amongst those released from prison are high, with 45 per cent being convicted of an offence within a year of release.

    The Ministry of Justice acknowledges the parlous state of prisons in England and Wales and the Prison and Courts Bill is part of its response. The Ministry of Justice also plans to restore to governors’ control over budgets, the provision of work, education and healthcare in prisons. The proposals around governor control and autonomy do not require legislative change.

    This briefing focuses only on clauses 1-22, which concern the prison system. 

    Tackling the prison crisis 

    Many of the changes contained in the Bill are sensible and welcome, but will do little to arrest the decline in prisons. The crisis has been caused by the overuse of imprisonment and consequent overcrowding, cuts to staffing and underfunding. The Bill is silent on all of these issues. 

    In the Spring Budget it was announced that the Ministry of Justice’s budget will be reduced by a further £0.9 billion, bringing the department’s total budget to £6 billion by 2020. Underfunding will therefore not be resolved; indeed prison budgets look set to be squeezed further. It is crucial that steps are taken to reduce demand on the system if improvements are to be made. The only way to achieve safer and more purposeful prisons is by reducing the population. 

    England and Wales imprisons people at a higher rate than any other country in Western Europe. There are many ways that the number of people in prison could be reduced, whilst creating a more effective system that keeps people safe. The Ministry of Justice should look to reduce the very high rate of recall to custody, reduce the number of extra days added to sentences for breaches of prison rules and make the release process for people serving indeterminate sentences more efficient. 

    Clause 1: Purpose of prisons 

    The Howard League supports the principle of clear statutory purposes for the prison system. Clarity of purpose could help, and certainly will not hinder, those in operational and policy roles work to improve conditions in our prisons. However, new statutory purposes are unlikely to have a major impact, particularly in the short to medium term. 

    There are some important omissions in the list of purposes that the prison system must aim to achieve. The first is the absence of any timescale for achieving the stated aims of rehabilitation and preparation for life outside prison. The way in which the prison system and sentencing regime operates in England and Wales means that what happens in prisons has a large impact on when people are released. For example, there are 12,092 people in prison serving either IPPs or life sentences. Whether they will be released at or near to their earliest possible release date depends, in large part, on whether they have been able to access work, education and offender behaviour courses and to move through the prison system into less secure conditions. Many eligible prisoners are not released on Home Detention Curfew as their case is not reviewed or the necessary arrangements have not been put in place in time. 

    There are thousands of prisoners clogging up the system as insufficient attention is placed on preparing people for release at their earliest eligible date. Thousands are held in higher security (and more expensive) prisons than they need to be or are stuck in prisons which do not offer the courses they need to progress. The requirements in clause 1 that prisons rehabilitate prisoners and prepare them for life outside prison would have greater impact if accompanied by a requirement to do so in the shortest appropriate period of time. 

    The second notable absence is decent conditions. Providing fair and decent conditions is an important part of achieving safer prisons with fewer deaths, incidents of self-harm and violent assaults. The purposes of prisons would be strengthened if decent and fair conditions were added to the list. 

    The Bill correctly omits punishment as a purpose of the prison system. Whilst punishment is a purpose of sentencing, as set out in the Criminal Justice Act 2003, the prison system should not seek to inflict further punishment and should focus on humane detention and preparation for life after prison. 

    The statement that the Secretary of State has overall responsibility for prisons is welcome. However, further detail is required about what practical impact this will have. 

    Clause 2: Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector and Inspectorate of Prisons 

    The Howard League welcomes the strengthening of the role of HMIP. The requirement for the Secretary of State to respond to each report published by HMIP and the ability of the Chief Inspector to make an urgent notification when he or she has serious concerns about a prison are positive steps forward. However, the length of time that the Secretary of State has to respond to HMIP (90 days in the case of an ordinary report, and 28 days following an urgent notification) could undermine the effectiveness of these new provisions. It should be considered whether these time periods should be shortened. 

    Whilst requiring HMIP to comment on the leadership of prisons and the extent to which prisons are achieving their statutory purposes is not unreasonable, caution should be taken to ensure that this does not undermine HMIP’s role as an independent body inspecting the treatment and conditions under which prisoners are held according to international human rights standards. HMIP should not become involved in the monitoring of prison performance, which is a responsibility of the Ministry of Justice. 

    Assurances should be sought that these additional requirements will not replace any of the human rights based criteria against which HMIP currently inspects prisons. 

    Clauses 4-20: The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman 

    The Howard League supports placing the Prison and Probation Ombudsman on a statutory footing. 

    Clause 21: Interference with Wireless Telegraphy 

    Whilst the Howard League does not disagree with clause 21, which enables the Secretary of State to authorise a public communications provider to interfere with wireless telegraphy, it is concerned that it will have a limited impact on reducing mobile phone use in prisons. 

    Demand reduction is crucial in tackling the number of mobile phones in prisons. Most prisoners have mobile phones because they provide an affordable and convenient way to keep in touch with their families and friends. Prisoners cannot receive incoming calls and the cost of using prison pay phones is high. Short phone calls to landlines can use up large proportions of prisoners wages. Ensuring prisoners can access reasonably private and affordable pay phones would have a significant impact on demand for mobile phones.

    Clause 22: Testing prisoners for psychoactive substances 

    Whilst the Howard League does not oppose expanding the range of substances that prisoners can be tested for, drug testing alone does little to reduce drug use in prisons. Recent HMIP reports have found that overcrowding and a shortage of officers mean that intelligence-led drug tests often do not take place. Whether drug testing can keep up with the pace of change in composition of psychoactive substances is another question. 

    Paying closer attention to reducing demand would have greater impact. Ensuring prisoners have access to a full and purposeful regime would reduce drug use. To achieve such a regime, steps must be taken to ease the pressure on the prison system and reduce overcrowding. 

    For further information please contact Eleanor Butt, Policy and Public Affairs Manager 

    Saturday, 18 March 2017

    Latest From Napo 140

    Here we have highlights from the latest blog post by the Napo General Secretary:-

    E3 Phase 2 now out for consultation

    Many of the difficulties we encountered during Phase 1 of the so called efficiency, effectiveness and excellence programme (E3), were usually down to the usual three M’s. In no particular order these comprised: misinformation, mistrust and mismanagement.

    It’s no easy task to manage an NPS Division but there is nothing like making hard for yourselves and your managers when the requirements around consultation are translated into something entirely different as in gung-ho attempts to get them implemented.

    I have already had to take up an issue with senior NOMS management about proposed changes to sex offender programmes being packaged as immutable fact on the basis that they have been ‘agreed nationally with the unions’ and so ‘we should get on with it’.

    They have not been; and Napo is now starting to gather information that we will feed back into our series of discussions about this phase of E3. Meanwhile a welcome reminder is due to be issued to Divisional Directors that the new proposals should not be implemented until the outcome of national consultation is clear.

    This phase of E3 covers the areas of Mappa, VISOR, sex offender interventions, administration, complaints management, and Job role harmonisation.

    Input from branches to K Lomas and I Lawrence will be very welcome.

    AP issues

    It’s hardly a surprise that the model rotas for Approved Premises under E3 were not going to be a ‘one size fits all’ job. That’s the problem with operational models that don’t have sufficient flexibility to deal with all of the issues that can crop up amongst such a diverse workforce.

    Napo has tried hard to establish some common sense into the situation which has been further complicated by the crass political decision to outsource part of the Double Waking Night Cover operation.

    The work we put in to the E3 implementation agreement (which also included a no redundancy agreement in the NPS) meant that that each Approved Premises should work towards agreement on rotas by consultation between management and trade unions.

    This is made clear in the helpful letter from Deputy Director Jude Gray in response to this and a host of other issues including the terms of pay protection.

    One letter doesn’t solve all of the issues that will come up but at least we can all start from the same place in discussions at whatever level they are being held.

    As the Branch Briefing that we mailed out yesterday says, further issues that arise should be raised with your Link National Officer in the first instance.

    N09/2017 E3 Approved Premises

    N09/2017 Appendix

    NEC to meet next week

    We will be taking our pay claim which is based on the 5 key pay principles which we launched last year, to next week’s meeting of Napo’s National Executive Committee.

    As usual there will be a packed agenda. This will reflect the huge amount of work that we are trying to deal with from the centre on behalf of our members across 24 employers, which itself is indicative of the workload volumes that you are all having to face.

    The creation of a new HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) to replace NOMS may be a major turning point for probation in England, Wales and Northern Ireland - one that places rehabilitation at the heart of the justice sector. Supported by the imminent outcomes (as we have been led to believe) of the Probation System Review next month, this presents an opportunity to repair part of the damage inflicted on staff, clients and the public following the failure of Grayling’s so called TR revolution.

    The pace of the prison and probation reforms means that positive pay reform must happen quickly. It also requires that a new pay system is closely aligned to the development of a professional framework that recognises, protects and promotes the professional status and standing of our members who are trying to protect the public by managing complex situations and clients with inadequate resources and unacceptable rates of pay.

    More news will follow on pay once the NEC have considered the draft claim for submission.

    Friday, 17 March 2017

    Prisons and Courts Bill 2

    Continuing to tread water until the next act in the long-running TR omnishambles saga, lets take another look at the Prisons and Courts Bill. The MoJ also published 17 fact sheets, such as this:- 

    Prisons and Courts Bill 


    1. The issues in our prisons are serious and long-standing. Violence and self-harm are at record levels, and reoffending by prisoners costs society £15bn a year. The Prison Safety and Reform White Paper published in November set out a clear plan to reform our prisons: investing in an additional 2,500 more prison officers across the estate by the end of 2018; taking robust action to address emerging threats to prison security such as drones, drugs and mobile phones; empowering governors to drive forward improvements in their prisons, and holding them to account properly for their performance; and strengthening the inspection and scrutiny regime. 

    2. We are making good progress in delivering that plan. We have made job offers for 389 of the 400 additional prison officer posts we committed to recruit in 10 of our most challenging prisons by March of this year. We are investing more than £100m a year to recruit an extra 2,500 frontline prison officers by the end of 2018. From 1 April, governors will have new freedoms in a wide range of areas including regimes, staffing, budgets and health cocommissioning. 

    3. We are also tackling the criminality and contraband that undermines security in our prisons: 
    • We have introduced testing for psychoactive substances across the estate, the first jurisdiction in the world to do so. 
    • We are working with mobile network operators to tackle illicit use of phones and are already equipping all prisons with portable and fixed detectors. 
    • We are working with the police to catch and convict criminal using drones to smuggle contraband into prisons, and testing physical and technological countermeasures to stop incursions. 
    • We have enhanced our intelligence capability to identify security threats early on by recruiting an extra 50 intelligence staff to form a new national command supported by regional units. 
    4. The Prison and Courts Bill is another step in our path to reform. It will set a new framework and clear system of accountability for prisons which – for the first time – enshrines into law the purpose of prison and sets out that a key aim for prisons is to reform offenders. Under this framework, the Justice Secretary will account to Parliament for progress in reforming offenders, and a strengthened inspectorate and ombudsman will provide sharper external scrutiny of the system. This framework will be supported by new standards and league tables, a new commissioning structure, and new powers for governors. Together, this will create a more focused prison system where governors are clear what they need to deliver and empowered to do so. 

    Statutory purpose for prisons and the role of the Secretary of State 

    What is the current position? 

    5. As it stands, there is no statutory requirement for prisons to do anything other than hold those sentenced by the courts. This means that there is no focus around which everyone working within the prison system can unite. The existing legislation requires the Secretary of State simply to ‘make the contracts and do the other acts necessary for the maintenance of prisons and the maintenance of prisoners’. It is outdated and focuses on the administrative running of the system. What is missing is clarity over what that system as a whole should be delivering. 

    6. The current way in which the duty on the Secretary of State to superintend prisons and maintain prisons and prisoners is framed is outdated. There is no clear distinction between the Secretary of State’s role in managing the prison system as a whole and the operational running of individual prisons that is rightly for governors and their staff. 

    What are the proposed changes? 

    7. The provisions in the Bill reform the framework of the prison system, providing aims for the system as a whole to unite behind, clarifying the role of the Secretary of State and sharpening accountability. 

    8. The provisions introduce a clear statutory purpose for prisons. The provisions recognise that prisons give effect to sentences or orders imposed by courts for imprisonment or detention, and in doing this, prisons must concentrate on four aims: 
    • Protect the public; 
    • Reform and rehabilitate offenders; 
    • Prepare prisoners for life outside prison; and 
    • Maintain an environment that is safe and secure. 
    9. These provisions will be supported by new standards for governors, introduced from April 2017, with league tables measuring prisons on key areas linked to these aims, such as reducing assaults on prison staff and prisoners and the number of incidents of self-harm. 

    10. The legislation modernises the Secretary of State’s overarching responsibility for prisons, to help make clear the distinction between her role in managing the prison system as a whole and the operational running of individual prisons that is rightly for governors and their staff, such as the governor’s responsibility for progress made in substance misuse and health. 

    11. It will also require the Secretary of State to report on the extent to which prisons are meeting their purposes, such as success in reforming and rehabilitating offenders, so enabling the Secretary of State to be held to account against them by Parliament and more broadly. 

    Strengthen the role of the Inspectorate and put the PPO on a statutory footing 

    What is the current position? 

    12. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) inspects and provides independent reports on the conditions and treatment of those in custody. 

    13. The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) investigates complaints and deaths in custody. The PPO does not have a statutory basis. 

    What are the proposed changes? 

    14. Provisions will add to the remit of HMIP so that in addition to their broad focus on the treatment of prisoners, they must take into account the statutory purpose of prisons when producing inspection reports. Inspections must also include consideration of how the leadership of a prison is contributing to the achievement of outcomes. To increase the impact of inspections there is a new requirement for the Secretary of State to respond to findings of an inspection within a certain timescale. The Chief Inspector will be able trigger a response from the Secretary of State in cases where the Chief Inspector has identified prisons of concern where urgent action needs to be taken. The legislation is providing HMIP with statutory powers to enter premises or access documents so it has the right tools to conduct inspections. 

    15. The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman performs the critical functions of investigating deaths and complaints in custody. The legislation puts the Ombudsman on a statutory footing, giving it permanence and the powers to require information to fulfil its investigations.

    Interference with wireless telegraphy to more effectively combat illegal mobile phones in prison 

    What is the current position? 

    16. Under the Prisons (interference with Wireless Telegraphy) Act 2012, the Secretary of State, or Scottish Ministers in Scotland, can authorise the person in charge of a relevant institution to interfere with wireless telegraphy by preventing, detecting or investigating the use of mobile phones. A relevant institution is a prison in England, Wales or Scotland, a youth offender institution in England or Wales, a young offender’s institution in Scotland or a secure training centre in England or Wales. The person in charge is the governor or the director in the case of a contracted-out institution. 

    What are the proposed changes? 

    17. The proposed change would allow the Secretary of State to authorise public communication providers (PCPs) to interfere with wireless telegraphy in prison in addition to the existing authority that can be given to governors or directors. The rationale is that PCPs are the technical experts and have the knowhow and capability to interfere more effectively with illegal mobile phones. While this can currently be achieved through authorisation given to a governor or director, via the PCP operating as their agent, the change will see a clearer line of accountability set down in legislation to allow MNOs to act more independently if that is necessary and appropriate and ensure adequate safeguards apply where the PCP is effecting interference. 

    Testing for psychoactive substances 

    What is the current position? 

    18. The current legislative framework for drugs testing in prison allows tests to be carried out for controlled drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA) and for “specified drugs”. “Specified drug” means any substance or product specified in prison rules for the purposes of section 16A of the Prison Act 1952. If a new drug is identified that is not a controlled drug for the purposes of the MDA, it can be added to the list in the prison rules by secondary legislation.

    What are the proposed changes? 

    19. The proposed change would allow us to adopt the generic definition of a psychoactive substance contained in the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016. This would mean that in future tests can be carried out for controlled drugs and for any psychoactive substances covered by the definition in the 2016 Act, without the need to add each newly identified psychoactive substance individually using secondary legislation. This change would enable us to more quickly respond to and test for any new drug or substance identified.


    This fact sheet explains a shake-up of the Magistrates:-

    Prisons and Courts Bill 
    Abolition of Local Justice Areas 


    1. Local justice areas govern three areas of magistrates’ court business: (i) initiating and listing cases; (ii) the payment and enforcement of fines and community orders; and (iii) the leadership and management arrangements of magistrates. Local justice areas currently divide England and Wales into 104 separate areas. When appointed, all magistrates are currently assigned to a local justice area, although every justice is capable of acting as such in any local justice area (whether or not assigned to it), but may do so only in accordance with arrangements by the Lord Chief Justice. 

    2. Changes to the management of business in the magistrates’ courts means that local justice areas are now restricting efficient operations because work and magistrates cannot be moved between them easily. 

    3. These provisions will remove restrictions that currently mean cases must be dealt with in a specific geographical location, which can cause delays and inconveniencies for victims and witnesses. Cases will be heard quicker and in more convenient places. 

    What is the current problem? 

    4. Retaining local justice areas in legislation will continue to cause operational problems. The boundaries of local justice areas make it difficult to transfer cases to a court in another area. Court staff are often frustrated by the fact that they cannot cut waiting times for court users by transferring cases to a court in a nearby local justice area where they could be given an earlier listing date. 

    5. In addition, as a result of changes to the organisation of the court estate and improvements in transport infrastructure, the court within a local justice area may no longer be the most convenient for court users to travel to. 

    6. The enforcement of community penalties and fines is currently tied to local justice areas which causes unnecessary bureaucracy and delays. It means that where a defendant who is arrested for an offence in Manchester, for example, also has outstanding warrants in Somerset for non-payment of other fines, the Manchester court cannot deal with these additional financial penalties without a transfer of fine order. 

    What are the proposed changes? 

    7. Through the Bill, the Government will: 
    • Remove local justice areas with the effect that magistrates will be appointed on a national basis across England and Wales, rather than to a specific local justice area: Magistrates will still be assigned to a particular area, but will have the option of working in other areas. This will enable more flexible arrangements like that in London which already has a centralised bench support team and provides for an agreement whereby vacancies for Magistrates to sit will be offered across all nine local justice areas if the vacancies are not filled a week before the sitting. 
    • Amend the provisions for the assignment of work and the deployment of magistrates across magistrates’ courts: Allocation decisions will be made in accordance with local needs taking into consideration various factors such as where the offence took place, convenience, for victims and witnesses, or the relative speed at which a trial can be arranged. 
    To take one example, Thames Magistrates’ Court serves Stoke Newington Police Station in the East London local justice area. Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court is closer to the police station but it is located in another (the North London) local justice area. If Thames Magistrates’ Court is very busy and unable to schedule a first hearing for several weeks, but there is capacity at Highbury Corner to hear cases sooner, these changes will remove the current restrictions which can prevent the Justices’ Clerk from making temporary arrangements at Highbury Corner to minimise delays. 

    Restrictions which can currently cause delays and inconveniences for court users will be removed. Court users in Glossop, for example, will no longer have to travel twice as far to their local justice area court in Chesterfield and can, instead, attend nearby Manchester court. Similarly, residents in the northern fringes of North Yorkshire will be able to attend Middlesbrough court which is significantly more convenient than a journey to their own local justice area courts in Northallerton or Scarborough. 

    Courts will have the freedom and flexibility to manage their caseloads and ensure that cases are dealt with fairly and efficiently in the most appropriate location. This may, for example, be at the court closest to where the victim and witnesses live or at a location further away where they feel safe. They will be have the ability to deal with any case whilst retaining a practical oversight of how their business is managed. They will be able to work collaboratively across regions to reduce trial delays. 
    • Remove restrictions on the transfer of fines, community orders and suspended sentence orders, and the requirements that orders must specify the local justice area in which the offender resides or will reside: These changes mean that it will no longer be necessary to employ the equivalent of 20 full times court employees to process Transfer of Fine Orders. Any magistrates’ court will have the powers to enforce a fine, community order or suspended sentence order irrespective of where it was issued. HMCTS will create a single national view of offenders, allowing back office staff to provide better information about past financial impositions and payment history. Offenders will be able to pay fines more conveniently, or serve community orders supervised by the nearest court. Youth Offending Teams will no longer have to make an application to the court to alter the local justice area specified in a youth rehabilitation order when a young person moves home, which will help strengthen the management of young people serving sentences in the community. 
    • Repeal the provisions regulating the organisation and management of the magistracy: Arrangements for the recruitment, training and management of magistrates will be brought in line with that of the rest of the judiciary and will be more closely aligned to the leadership structure of the Crown Court. In common with similar arrangements for other judges, the formal aspects of these arrangements will be put into practice directions ensuring that the magistracy can be organised more flexibly and the size and makeup of benches can be adapted to meet local needs. The senior judiciary will have clearer oversight of business across the criminal courts.