Select Committee on Home Affairs Third Report


Memorandum by the Butler Trust


  1.  The Butler Trust is a registered charity set up in 1985 to administer an Awards Scheme for people working in prisons in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. HRH The Princess Royal is the Royal Patron of the Trust which is named after Lord Butler ("RAB"), the distinguished reforming Home Secretary. Lord Butler's family have been heavily involved with it from the outset. The first Chairman was his eldest son, Sir Richard Butler, and the current Chairman is his youngest son, The Hon James Butler.

  2.  The Butler Trust Annual Award Scheme seeks to reward and publicise work done in prisons or prison service headquarters which is considered exceptional. The aim is to promote quality activity likely to help inmates to re-establish themselves on release without reverting to crime. 200-300 nominations are received each year and 35-40 awards are made. 8-10 Award Winners are given the opportunity to travel, visit other prison establishments, or develop their knowledge in other ways. They then make a presentation on their work and the use of their Award to Trustees and an invited audience.

  3.  Further details of the Trust's work are given in the enclosed Annual Report. The enclosed booklet of citations for 1997 illustrates the wide variety of work and types of people recognised in any one year. Good practice is promulgated by the Annual Awards Ceremony, at which the citations are read out as each winner receives his/her Award, by the Presentation of Reports mentioned above, by the distribution of some of the Award winners' reports to those with an interest in the areas covered and by the local publicity given to Award winners.


  4.  The Butler Trust is not a pressure group and does not seek directly to influence penal policy. Similarly, it is not involved with non-custodial sentences. The Trust is, however, committed to promulgating best practice in custodial treatment and has acquired extensive "soft" information about what is considered by offenders and those working with them to be most effective in changing behaviour and preventing re-offending.

  5.  The main themes which emerge from this information are as relevant to non-custodial as to custodial sentences. They may seem obvious, but the Trustees hope that highlighting them will be of some use to the Committee when considering the introduction of new forms of non-custodial sentence. They are therefore briefly listed below.


 (i)  Quality of relationships

  6.  The effectiveness of any efforts to prevent re-offending depend crucially on the quality of the relationship between the offender and the person with whom he or she interacts. Many of the Butler Trust nominations for Awards come from prisoners who stress that the attitude of officers or other staff who treat them with care and respect but nevertheless make no concession to their offending behaviour has been a significant factor in changing that behaviour.

 (ii)   Increase in self-respect

  7.  Programmes which help offenders to realise, perhaps for the first time, that they have something to offer other people and have the ability to achieve success are likely to change behaviour. Frequent examples are given of offenders working with the elderly or with disabled or handicapped people (particularly children) and not only recognising that there are others worse off than themselves but also creating relationships in which they are able to give instead of taking.

  8.  Similarly, the acquisition of skills can change offenders' perception of themselves to an extent which increases their confidence in and their ability to avoid re-offending. Basic skills such as literacy, numeracy, simple cookery and personal hygiene can be as effective in this respect as skills such as painting and decorating, gardening and horticulture, woodwork and soft toy-making. Although all these skills may improve employment prospects, they are equally significant in helping people to manage their everyday lives more successfully and accepting that they can survive without criminality. Neither the creation of the relationships nor the acquisition of the skills is dependent on a custodial setting.

 (iii)   Behaviour-related programmes

  9.  The Trust receives numerous nominations for officers and other staff involved in behaviour-related programmes. These range from those concerned with the control of drug and alcohol abuse to anger-management and similar behavioural skills. The key features in the success of such programmes seem to be the quality of relationships already mentioned, a clear and disciplined structure with specific objectives and performance measures, direct confrontation of offending behaviour, and support from peers and relatives. None of these is dependent on a custodial setting.

 (iv)   Prevention

  10.  Many of the nominations received suggest that preventive measures are often most effective if undertaken by those who have had relevant personal experience, either as offenders or in tackling similar problems. The opportunity to share such experiences openly seems to have considerable therapeutical value as well as acting as a disincentive to potential offenders.


  11.  Each of the themes above can be illustrated by reference to the work of particular Award winners during the past five years. Some examples are listed in the attached Annex. The Trust would be glad to provide more detailed information if requested but has not, in general, done so at this stage on the assumption that others with more specific interest will be providing such factual data. If, however, the Committee wished to talk to "grass roots" people with direct experience of effectively dealing with offenders, some of the Trust's Award winners could provide them with illuminating perspectives.

January 1998

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries

© Parliamentary copyright 1998
Prepared 25 August 1998