Select Committee on Home Affairs First Special Report




The Home Affairs Committee has agreed to the following Special Report:—

We have received the following response from the Home Office to our Fourth Report, Session 1999-2000, on Blantyre House Prison.[9]

Introduction ( Recommendations 1, 2, 15)

1.  We were completely unconvinced that the search was a proportionate response to the intelligence which had been used to justify it (paragraph 37).

2.  We do not believe that the reasons given to us in public justify the exceptional search or the way in which it was carried out. Nor do we find the evidence given in private persuasive (paragraph 37).

15.  We conclude that (a) the absence of a resettlement policy, (b) the ambiguity about the security status of Blantyre House, and (c) the obvious tension between the former Governor and the Area Manager all reveal serious weaknesses in the management of the Prison Service. This is compounded by the inability to investigate properly what went wrong. The situation should never have been allowed to deteriorate to the point at which the Director General thought the only option open to him on 5 May was to remove the Governor and conduct a full search of the prison (paragraph 94).

1.  The Government notes the Committee's criticisms of the search carried out at Blantyre House prison on the night of 5/6 May 2000. It accepts that, unintentionally, the search and the simultaneous move of the then governor of the prison has led the HAC, and others, to doubt the Government's commitment to resettlement and that of senior managers in the Prison Service to the regime at Blantyre House. It does not, however, believe that that doubt is deserved. The Government regrets the damage caused during the search of the prison, and has accepted the need for further work on the security classification of resettlement prisons and an overarching policy framework on resettlement.

2.  The Committee and the Government are agreed on the importance of ensuring that Blantyre House continues to perform well as a resettlement prison. The Government regrets that the Committee did not accept the Director General's explanation of the reasons for the search of the prison, and remains firmly supportive of the Director General in carrying out his responsibilities.

3.  This memorandum is the Government's response to the Committee's recommendations. The Government believes that this response should dispel any doubt over its central commitment to resettlement, and its capacity to respond to learning points related to the conduct of the search. While it welcomes the way in which the Committee has used Blantyre House as a vehicle for discussion of wider issues, including security and resettlement, it is also concerned that potentially wide-ranging decisions on major, and complicated, policy issues should be put in a wider context. This memorandum therefore reports on wider resettlement issues.

Use of intelligence (3)

3.  We recommend that there should be an immediate review at senior Prison Service level of the manner in which the intelligence produced by the Prison Service's own Chaucer group and used to justify the search of Blantyre House was collected and assessed and what steps might be taken to confirm the reliability of such intelligence (paragraph 38).

4.  As recommended by the Committee, the Director General has commissioned from the Director of Security a review of the manner in which the Chaucer group collects and assesses intelligence. This review was conducted by a small team that included a police officer. Emerging findings from that review have identified improvements that could be made to intelligence handling procedures, mainly relating to the technical training of staff and the collation and analysis of intelligence. The review found that those procedural improvements might have strengthened the credibility of intelligence produced by the Chaucer team, but did not find that the intelligence, on which the search of Blantyre House was based, was unreliable. The Director General is meeting with the Chief Constable of Kent at the end of January for further discussions and will report separately to the Committee.

5.  The Prison Service is aware of the importance of dealing consistently and effectively with the minority of staff who are found to have acted corruptly. The Attorney General has recently given approval to charge three prison officers at Elmley prison under the Public Bodies Corrupt Practices Act. The three officers had been suspended from duty pending the outcome of a joint police/Chaucer team investigation into allegations that they received rewards for arranging favourable treatment for a prisoner.

6.  The Director General has made plain his view that he expects staff to act with complete integrity. He has, for instance, made it plain that he will not tolerate violence by staff against prisoners. A wide-ranging review on staff corruption/security issues is in its final stages. This work commenced in June 2000 and final recommendations will be presented to the Prison Service Management Board at the end of January 2001.

7.  The Chaucer model of area-based intelligence collation and analysis was one of several models which was examined as part of the review, and, even if the proposed model of a national capacity for dealing with intelligence relating to staff corruption is accepted, and implemented, it is recommended that there will continue to be a need for a regional coordination capacity. The learning points from Chaucer's experience, which has pioneered much of the Service's thinking on these issues, will be fed into the Chaucer team itself, and into the developing intelligence strategy.

8.  Subject to further consideration of the overall costs of accepting the recommendations, proposals are: a 'professional standards' statement; improved recruitment and selection checks; integrity testing; a culture intolerant of corruption; independent/specialist staff advice and support; improved management procedures; a national Intelligence and Investigation Unit; and consistent and strong case resolution.

The conduct of the search (4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)

4.  We endorse the substantial criticism of the search made in the Prison Service's own internal report. We do not accept that there were insuperable difficulties in finding the keys and reject the claim that it was necessary to use force to enter the chapel and health care centre, which are separate from the prisoner accommodation (paragraph 39).

5.  Neither the Prison Service's internal report nor the evidence we have heard in public and private provide convincing explanations for the damage caused in the search (paragraph 40).

6.  On the basis of all the evidence we have heard, we conclude that the search was a failure aggravated by the unnecessary damage caused. It was an exceptional operation in Prison Service terms and it was neither planned nor carried out with an appropriate degree of care (paragraph 41).

7.  Some of the items found were significant—especially mobile phones linked to criminals. But it is odd that the search should be justified after the event by the discovery of items not specifically sought in the course of the search. There was a complete mismatch between the objectives of the search, the methods used, and the items sought (paragraph 42).

8.  This was not a normal search and it should be judged by a different standard. We believe the items found fell well below the level of contraband which would justify an exceptional search of this nature (paragraph 43).

9.  We are dissatisfied at the attempts to mislead the Committee and public over the significance of what was found (paragraph 44).

9.  The Committee endorses the substantial criticism of the search made in the Prison Service's own internal report. That inquiry makes a number of recommendations, including the need for contingency plans, the importance of the attendance of the Board of Visitors at any non-routine event and practical planning issues related to the search. A full review of the security manual is being undertaken during 2001 and the section which gives guidance on searches is being given a high priority. It remains the case that non-routine searches of the kind carried out at Blantyre House are expected to be relatively rare occasions. The Service has, nevertheless, accepted the point that the learning points from the Blantyre House search need to be absorbed into routine guidance.

10.  Separately, all prisons will be required to have in place a standing plan for a full lock down search of both prison and grounds. This is part of normal contingency planning, and many governors will already have such a plan as a matter of good practice. Copies of these plans will in future be lodged at area offices. Area managers who foresee a need for a non-routine search will be advised to seek advice from Security Directorate on a case-by-case basis.

11.  The Committee has said that it is dissatisfied at what it described as "attempts to mislead the Committee and public". The Government does not believe that this is a fair assessment. The results of the search do not stand alone as justification for the search. It took time, both to assess each item and to conduct the inquiry into the management of Blantyre House, which provided the basis for improvements to the way in which security is managed at Blantyre House. The objectives for the search were broad, and included taking a snap-shot of security and control measures at the prison. The Committee's criticism is based on public comments, in the first four weeks after the search, when it was not yet possible to assess the full significance of every item seized in the search.

12.  The Director General accepts that a large number of items seized turned out subsequently to be relatively insignificant. But there were some significant finds. The Director General has provided to the Committee, for completeness, a list of all items seized during the search. The selective quotation used by the HAC to support its conclusion: "In fact the Prison Service's own internal inquiry concluded "there were no significant finds"" is a misrepresentation. The full quotation is: "Other than cannabis, ecstasy tablets, hard-core pornography and various financial papers, there were no significant finds."

13.  The HAC report states that planning for the search of Blantyre House began on 18 April, on the basis of which the Committee has suggested that the Home Secretary's letter of 20 April confirming that Blantyre House would continue as a resettlement prison, might have been "less than complete". As was made plain in the evidence put to the Committee, authorisation for the search was given by the Director General on 28 April. No planning was undertaken before that date. The allegation made against the Home Secretary in paragraph 96 of the HAC report is without foundation.

Move of the governor/ relationship between the area manager and the governor (10, 11)

10.  We have not heard any convincing evidence as to why it was necessary to remove the Governor, without notice, on the day of the search. If it was necessary to move him at all, this could have been done weeks before. Alternatively he could have been suspended from duty during the period of the search (paragraph 49).

11.  We conclude that the relationship between the Area Manager and the Governor had deteriorated to such an extent that the Prison Service should have addressed it much earlier by moving one of them or altering the chain of command or both (paragraph 79).

14.  The Director General has explained that he brought forward the move of the then Governor of Blantyre House once a decision was made to search the prison. The then governor had been in post for four years, and a move would have been entirely reasonable. The Director General accepts, with the benefit of hindsight, that the immediate posting of a new governor to start on the same day of such a search was undesirable.

Security status of Blantyre House (13, 14, 20)

13.  We conclude that the confusion in the Prison Service about the status of Blantyre House was dangerous and should have been addressed earlier. It is unacceptable that an organisation so keen on categorisation should have allowed one of its prisons to remain for so long in an ambivalent status (paragraph 92).

14.  Resettlement should be part of the plan from the start for even the most dangerous prisoners, currently described as Category A. We agree with Sir David Ramsbotham that completion of the overhaul of the current categorisation system is urgently needed. We welcome the Prison Service's own review of security standards at the prison (paragraph 93).

20.  We conclude that Blantyre House should be classified as a resettlement prison for long-term prisoners with an intermediate security status (between Categories C and D) which reflects current layout and facilities - pending reorganisation of security categories more generally, including selection criteria for individual prisoners which reflect the actual security status of a prison (paragraph 107).

15.  The Government accepts the Committee's recommendation that resettlement prisons should have a new security status. The Service has recently introduced a "semi-open" security classification for the women's estate which will accommodate prisoners who present a low risk but who cannot be fully trusted in open conditions.

16.  The Service has reassessed the security needs of the three resettlement prisons, and has decided to reclassify Blantyre House, Kirklevington Grange and Latchmere House as "semi-open". This will allow medium/long term prisoners to come into a semi-secure environment and, subject to subsequent risk assessments, to be allocated into work placements within the community. Morton Hall will be the first prison to take women on this basis, and is scheduled to start in May 2001. New guidance on categorisation and allocation to "semi-open" conditions will be prepared and these changes introduced as quickly as possible. Further work on this is necessary, as guidance needs to be provided for all prisons within the adult male estate, as well as the three resettlement prisons. The Government believes that this will provide greater clarity and consistency over the security standards expected of resettlement prisons.

17.  Sir David Ramsbotham referred, in his oral evidence to the Committee, to the Service's review of the current security categorisation system. The original recommendation for review was made by General Learmont, and led to wide-ranging consultation and analysis. The review of categorisation was completed in 2000. Guidance (Prison Service Order 0900) was issued to the Service in July 2000, which helps the Service place prisoners in conditions of security commensurate with the risks they pose. It also introduced an override facility which can be used in cases where there are concerns about control of a particular prisoner. Evaluation of the effect of this order on the prison population will be commissioned during 2001. The Government does not believe that, given this recent review, and the decisions taken regarding the security classification of the women's estate and now of the three resettlement prisons, that a further review of categorisation is necessary.

Conduct of internal investigations and role of HMCIP (17, 18)

17.  We recommend that when something goes seriously wrong in the Prison Service, the investigation should be conducted independently by the Chief Inspector of Prisons.

18.  We recommend that the new inspection arrangements for the work of prisons should apply to the overall management of the Prison Service.

18.  The Home Secretary has powers, under Section 5A of The Prison Act 1952 as inserted by Section 57 of the Criminal Justice Act 1982, to ask the Chief Inspector of Prisons to make special inquiry into any particular matters which gives rise for concern in connection with conditions within prisons and the treatment of prisoners, and he is prepared to use them where it would be right to do so. For example, Sir David Ramsbotham was commissioned to conduct a thematic review of suicide and self harm in prisons, which led to the publication in May 1999 of the report "Suicide is Everyone's Concern." In 1991 the then Inspector, Judge Stephen Tumin, led an inquiry into the circumstances of the escape of two IRA prisoners from Brixton prison. Ministers will use these powers of direction if they believe that circumstances warrant it.

19.  Ministers regard it as part of the Chief Inspector of Prison's statutory remit to examine and report on the impact within prisons of management decisions taken within Prison Service headquarters, and to track his findings back through to Prison Service headquarters and the relevant aspects of headquarters' operations. His findings might concern individual management decisions or an evaluation of the impact of centrally-driven programmes and their administration from headquarters.

Effectiveness of Blantyre House (19, 21)

19.  On the basis of this experience, we are also inclined to believe that resettlement prisons should be managed centrally, as are both high security and women's prisons (paragraph 106).

21.  Blantyre House will need a clear policy framework, significant resources and a commitment of senior management to rebuild the spirit of trust necessary to return to its role as an effective resettlement prison (prison 108).

20.  The Committee also recommended central management for the three resettlement prisons. The Director General has recently announced changes in the future management structure for the under 18 estate, which will in future be managed on a functional basis above governor level through an area manager for juveniles. Neither that decision, nor the discrete management of high security and women's prisons, is intended to affect the importance of line management, via area managers, as the guiding principle on which the bulk of the prison estate is managed. This approach was endorsed by Lord Laming, in the findings of his report on the Prison Service.

21.  The Government does not believe that that the three, relatively small and geographically distanced, resettlement prisons should also be managed centrally. As the Committee has pointed out, resettlement is part of the Service's core business, and most prisoners rejoin the community from multi-functional prisons, particularly local prisons or direct from Category C and D training prisons. The success of that resettlement rests heavily on the effectiveness of close links with the local community (which Blantyre House has developed so effectively).

22.  The Government believes, that along with the proposed redesignation of a Director of Resettlement (see paragraph 29 below), that the right balance of clarity of line management is retained. In addition, the area manager for Wales has lead responsibility for representing the interests of open prisons across the estate and for promulgating good practice and facilitating discussion on key issues.

23.  The Committee has noted the importance of a clear policy framework, significant resources and a commitment of senior management to enable Blantyre House to work effectively as a resettlement prison. The prison is working to the existing business plan and targets agreed for 2000/2001. From 2001, along with all other prisons, Blantyre House will be working to a Service Delivery Agreement (SDA). The Blantyre House SDA will seek to enhance and develop the rehabilitative work of the prison.

24.  The governor has completed a re-profiling exercise of the prison. The area manager has approved the following significant additional resources for Blantyre House:

  • 40% increase in probation cover;
  • 50% of an AO;
  • 2 OSGs;
  • 1 detached duty Principal Officer (discussing possible permanent post).

25.  In addition the Governor has found resources locally to provide:

  • 1 Officer;
  • 50% of an AO;
  • Upgrade of a typist to Personal Secretary.

26.  The Governor of Kirklevington has been working with the governor of Blantyre House and his management team on a consultancy basis to share best practice. A program of management and staff exchanges with Kirklevington has now started. Meanwhile Blantyre House continues to carry out and plan community events; OAP Christmas party (December), art and craft exhibition at Cranbrook library in conjunction with Kent Art & Libraries (January) and the annual pantomime (March).

27.  The management team has tightened several areas of security which were necessary to restore balance. They, and the area manager, remain totally committed to providing a positive regime for prisoners and meeting their resettlement needs. They are also committed to the Blantyre House ethos that encourages prisoners to be self motivated and take responsibility for themselves.

Resettlement (12, 22, 23)

12.  We therefore have a situation in which almost all the prison population will leave prison at some stage; most of them will have some form of resettlement need; prison Governors see their main role as rehabilitating prisoners; but the Prison Service has no policy or guidance on resettlement (paragraph 89).

22.  We believe the Prison Service must take a longer term view of its duty to protect the public and devise targets which measure rates of reoffending (paragraph 14).

23.  We recommend that the Prison Service publishes urgently a policy on resettlement and reports to the House in one year's time on what has been achieved. We also want it to consider the appropriateness of appointing a Director of Resettlement with specific responsibility for three resettlement prisons and resettlement programmes in all other prisons (paragraph 119).

28.  The Government is in full accord with the Committee's view of the importance of resettlement. It also agrees with the Committee's view that resettlement should be part of the plan from the start for all prisoners. However, the Government does not accept the Committee's view that there is: " policy or guidance on resettlement." It has accepted that there is a lack of a national policy framework, and had reported to the HAC on this work. The Committee's recommendation that the Prison Service should report in one year's time on what has been achieved in the resettlement field is welcome, and a report will be submitted to the Committee and placed in the library of the House of Commons.

Resettlement Directorate

29.  The Director General has decided to reflect the central importance of resettlement programmes and policies by redesignating the Regimes Directorate as the Resettlement Directorate, to be headed by the present Director of Regimes (a member of the Prison Service Management Board) who will be redesignated as Director of Resettlement. The new arrangements will build on the work of the Regimes Directorate which brought together the newly established Custody to Work Unit, prison education and industries, the What Works In Prison Unit and other services under the Director of Regimes' command to develop programmes which help prisoners resettle into the community. The redesignation of the Director's role underlines the importance of achieving effective resettlement not just through the resettlement prisons, but much more generally across the prison estate.

Resettlement programmes and policies

30.  In addition to the work done at the three resettlement prisons, in open prisons generally and in some units in closed prisons, there is a range of resettlement provision across the prison estate which is directed at addressing offending behaviour and helping prisoners re-integrate back into the community. Such provision reflects Prison Service policies at national level and is delivered locally, taking account of the differing needs of various categories of prisons and prisoners, operational priorities and local circumstances.

31.  This existing provision is being augmented by a wide range of resettlement­related programmes and projects to identify and promote effective practice, particularly in getting prisoners into employment and accommodation on release. Examples include:

  • the resettlement pathfinders under the Government's Crime Reduction Programme at seven establishments, which are exploring effective resettlement work with short-term prisoners, in partnership with the Probation service and voluntary sector organisations;
  • the Welfare to Work pilots at 12 establishments which aim to increase the job skills and employability of younger adult prisoners and help ensure that they get maximum benefit from the New Deal for Young People on release. Over 6,300 young offenders have started the Welfare to Work programme and some 4,700 have successfully completed it;
  • housing advice and mentoring pilots going ahead at six establishments in partnership with the Rough Sleepers Unit;
  • the Headstart programme which has been successfully run at Thorn Cross is being extended to two more prisons. The programme helps prisoners to achieve job aspirations through individually-tailored interventions, including building close links with the individual's home community prior to release.

32.  There are many other employment and accommodation schemes based on locally developed partnerships between prisons and other agencies, especially the voluntary sector. The experience of all these initiatives and programmes is being fed into the development and implementation of a new custody to work strategy for the Prison Service to deliver improved employment and accommodation outcomes for released prisoners, reflecting the research which suggests that a significant impact on reoffending rates can be achieved by helping offenders to find secure housing and stable jobs on release.

33.  Beyond the provision and policies already in place, the Prison Service has also for some time been developing national standards for the resettlement estate covering eligibility, selection, security, control and regime based on existing sentence planning, throughcare and evidence of effectiveness. That work preceded the search of Blantyre House. The Resettlement Standard published in November 2000 will ensure that all prisoners will have the opportunity to maintain and develop appropriate community ties and prepare for their release.

34.  Provision will be made in collaboration with probation services and other agencies (including the voluntary sector), and will be targeted on the basis of an assessment of risks and needs, directed towards reducing the risk of re-offending and risk of harm. Under the Standard, prisons are required to have a resettlement policy committee which is representative of all key functions and service providers, with senior managers being responsible for ensuring the delivery of resettlement services. Implementation of the Standard will be audited and a resettlement KPI is being developed for introduction in April 2002 which will set targets for improving the number of prisoners with a job and accommodation on release. A Prison Service Order on Resettlement, which provides more detail than the Standard, including the common standards for the resettlement estate, is likely to be published in April 2001.

35.  The Custody to Work Unit, reporting to the new Director of Resettlement, will be taking the lead on further developing resettlement policy and practice, drawing together, among other things, the continuing major investment made by the Prison Service in education for employment focused on basic skills (an additional £18 million in SR 2000) and delivering the Home Secretary's target of doubling the number of prisoners getting jobs on release over the next three years (an additional £21 million in SR2000). The Unit will also be responsible for the implementation of the Resettlement Standard (working closely with the What Works In Prison Unit), building on work done by officials across departments on the continuing barriers faced by offenders seeking access to employment and housing, and liaising with the Social Exclusion Unit on the latter's current study into the re-integration of ex-prisoners.

36.  The What Works In Prison Unit has been set up separately to ensure that Prison Service programmes and regimes are based firmly on evidence of effectiveness and "What Works" research. A needs assessment system, OASys, is being developed jointly with the Probation Service and is currently being piloted as one way of helping to ensure that the available programmes which will aid the resettlement of offenders are targeted on the right prisoners.

Targets which measure reoffending

37.  The Prison Service is committed to reducing the rates of re-offending by prisoners on release. Following the Home Affairs Committee's 1997 Report, the Prison Service reviewed the possibility for setting a target on reducing reoffending. Because data on re-offending rates rely on self-reporting by offenders, it considers that reconviction rates remain a better target measure.

38.  A target has therefore been set jointly for the Prison and Probation Services jointly, through the Home Office Public Service Agreement published on 3 November 2000, to reduce by 2004 the rate of reconvictions of all offenders punished by imprisonment or by community supervision by 5% compared to the predicted rate. Because the reconviction data do not become available until more than two years after the offender's release, the Key Performance Indicators for the Prison Service (the management tool for delivering this target) are based on delivering the annual outputs (educational qualifications, accredited offending behaviour programmes, and drug work) which evidence shows will reduce the level of reconvictions.

39.  Targets for individual prisons are likewise set on the basis of delivering programmes in accordance with the evidence on "what works". Reconviction rate targets have not been set for individual prisons, because most prisoners move between prisons during sentence and it would therefore not be possible to attribute subsequent reconviction rates to the impact of a particular prison and because there would be considerable difficulties in taking into account differences in age, previous record and current offence, all of which influence subsequent reconviction rates.

Conclusion (16, 24)

16.  We note that Mr Narey has chosen to take full responsibility for these events, but we do not believe he is entirely to blame. The factors that led to the crisis on 5 May started before he became Director General in 1999. We accept Sir David Ramsbotham's assessment that this is not the way Martin Narey wants the Prison Service to go. The burden of salvaging Blantyre House and devising a resettlement policy now rests heavily on him (paragraph 97).

24.  It is hard to escape the conclusion that what took place at Blantyre House was a self inflicted injury by the Prison Service. Management drifted into an avoidable situation. The only way out may have seemed to be to remove the Governor and search the prison. That was done in ways that have alienated everyone connected with the prison. Now the Prison Service needs to prove its commitment to resettlement across the whole Prison Service by devising and articulating a clear policy. The status of Blantyre House must be clarified and a real effort made to revive the ethos of trust there. Capable Governors and staff need to be reassured that they work for a competent employer. Then perhaps something positive can grow from the serious error of judgement (paragraph 120).

40.  The Director General is personally monitoring the implementation of the action plan from the investigation into the general management of Blantyre House and is supporting the governor and area manager in ensuring consolidation of change through regular meetings and briefings. He will visit the prison again in January to assess progress, and in the interim has authorised the area manager to exclude Blantyre House from the requirements to make efficiency savings during the financial year 2001/2002. This, together with the additional resources authorised by the area manager, represents a substantial proportionate increase in resources for the prison.

41.  The Government has accepted, or is already carrying out, many of the recommendations made by the Committee on resettlement. It has accepted a range of recommendations arising from the experience of the search of Blantyre House carried out on 5/6 May 2000. The Service has, overall, in the last few years, made real inroads, as a result of additional resources, into key areas that will aid resettlement and reduce reoffending. The Government is focussing on basic skills, on offending behaviour programmes and making progress on the availability of drug treatment for prisoners.

42.  Tangible progress can now be demonstrated:

  • since the introduction of a literacy and numeracy key performance indicator last April, over 5,200 full qualifications at basic skills level 2 and over 26,000 other qualifications, making many of these prisoners employable for the first time, on release.

  • a reduction in the proportion of positive drug test results from 24.4% in 1996-97, to 14.2% last year and to 12.3% (2000/2001, to date).

  • a transformation in the provision of drug treatment. CARAT (Counselling, Assessment, Referral, Advice and Throughcare) services are in place in every prison, benefiting over 37,000 prisoners this year. 51 drug treatment programmes are now up and running, for prisoners requiring them.

  • roll out of independently accredited programmes for offending behaviour—4,600 such programmes last year, as compared with 3,000 twelve months earlier, and rising to nearly 9,000 by 2003-4. Data is now emerging confirming the research evidence that these programmes will reduce reconvictions by about a third.

43.  Utilising the additional investment provided by the Spending Review (£ 157m, including £ 88m for the drug strategy), the Service is building substantially on this progress. New targets for getting prisoners into jobs and housing will be included. The Service welcomes the opportunity to demonstrate to the Committee, in a year's time, what has been achieved in the resettlement field.

Paul Boateng

Home Office

15 January 2001

9  HC(1999-2000)904. Back

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