Examination of witnesses (Questions 20-39)|
MONDAY 20 NOVEMBER 2000
20. There is little evidence of the requirements
of parole being spelt out; is that not a staff problem?
(Mr Narey) It is. As I mentioned in an earlier response,
I think it is very easy for staff, particularly landing staff,
to get lulled into a belief that all that is important is custodial
behaviour. There can be casesand the most sophisticated
prisoners are extremely compliantwhere they can be quite
charming and that can lull a prison officer to misunderstand what
parole is really about.
21. What 3.23 says, basically, is the parole
manager's knowledge of parolethe staff say that their bosses
know their knowledge is basic or poor. Is this lions led by donkeys?
(Mr Narey) I agree with that statement. We have done
a lot to put that right.
22. In six months!
(Mr Narey) Every prison now has a nominated senior
manager responsible for parole. The parole clerk sometimes has
to push this alone and is generally a very junior person, and
there is a senior manager in every prison now who has to report
directly to the Governor and has to take responsibility for making
sure the parole clerk is supported. We give some of this subject
the same urgency that we started to give to security in the mid
1990s. It is only with that sort of managerial concentration you
can turn things around.
(Sir David Omand) This evidence was, of course, gathered
well over a year ago, almost 18 months ago. There has been quite
a long period since, where the management have improved matters.
(Mr Narey) I think that has shown in the performance,
which has leapt on quite significantly.
23. That is from a very poor base level to a
pretty mediocre level of 72 per cent.
(Mr Narey) The percentage of dossiers received by
the Parole Board on time in September just gone was 86 per cent,
which is a further improvement.
24. What steps have you taken to simplify the
number of reports that are required that concern each prisoner?
(Mr Narey) I am sure Mr Casey will want to come in.
We are looking at the whole process now to see whether we can
improve that. I think you know that we are introducing a new joint
offender risk assessment system with the Probation Service and
that will bring forward some very, very important information
to the Parole Board. It will forward the actuarial scope and it
will bring forward a more continuous log of the prisoner's progress.
We might be able to combine at least two reports in the process.
25. This Report gives more than a strong impression,
Mr Narey, first of all far too little is done to sit down the
prisoner at the beginning of the sentence and spell out what is
required of them. If you do not do that with them the simple steps
become more complicated ones, which is the people who practise
to deceive are not likely to be in that column. Secondly, what
comes out of the Report is that as the prisoner serves a sentence
there is not a stage when these reports are just collected and
ready for a Parole Board in a future date, and can be updated,
it is as if it all starts from scratch eight to ten weeks before
a Parole Board requires it. That is a concern. What I am interested
in is whether there are certain reports where you just tick a
book? For instance, you are not causing a problem, you obeyed
orders, the prison officer has no dispute with you. Is that not
a box-ticking one?
(Mr Narey) You could have a report like that but I
think it would be pretty useless. We are trying to design a proforma
with some reports so that report writers have some knowledge of
what the Parole Board is seeking.
26. If somebody is a model prisoner, if somebody
creates no problems for the prison authorities, goes to bed on
time, performs every task, why do you not tick the box and then
deal with his neighbour, who may be at the opposite end of the
(Mr Narey) I do not think the fact that someone has
behaved well in the way that you describe contributes anything
that the Parole Board needs to know. They need to know what his
dangerousness is to the community. I do not think custodial behaviour
is very important.
27. Is there any sort of report on custodial
(Mr Narey) Yes, there is, but it is a very small part.
Clearly, if it is a negative report
28. If someone is good, is it a one page report
(Mr Narey) No, because the report should look at more
than that. It should look at whether his custodial behaviour has
been reasonable, but it should try and discuss his attitude to
having completed an offending behaviour programme, the effort
he has put into completing his education and so on.
29. Forgive me, I would have thought there would
have been a separate report done on the attitude of somebody attending
a re-offending programme. I would have thought that there must
be basics in a prison that show you whether a prisoner is not
causing the prison system problems, as against the likelihood
(Mr Narey) There are indeed. The point I am trying
to make, Mr Griffiths, is that I do not think that information
is of very much use to the Parole Board, because it is not a very
30. The reason I am dwelling on this is because
I would like to know if it is a form in a process that could be
got out of the way much for more easily than now?
(Mr Narey) No. The Parole Board tell us that reports
which are written too early are not much use to them. One of the
reasons this is a little bit tricky to manage is that we cannot
start the process very, very early to make sure we meet all the
targets. In fact, the Parole Board tell us that completed dossiers
that arrive more than five weeks early, they do not find terribly
useful. They want a very up to date, immediate picture of that
31. You tell us you have a programme now which
is going to work to educate the prison managers better on the
requirements that should be spelt out by their staff to prisoners?
(Mr Narey) I have prison managers gripping this, and
they have been for the past year or 18 months.
32. If I have time, can I finally talk about
something different, and that is the length of time it takes for
reports to goif a prisoner is transferredfrom one
prison to another? What is the longest that can take, and why?
(Mr Narey) I am not sure I know what the longest is
that it can take. I imagine that in some circumstances it can
take a very considerable period of time indeed, which is why,
as far as possible, we are trying to slow down and stop unnecessary
transfers, but I am afraid there are some very good reasons why
transfers will continue to need to take place, even for those
prisoners who are under parole consideration.
33. Can I start off, Mr Narey, with a very general
question? If a prisoner is turned down for parole as a result
of this process, what extra difficulties does that put the Prison
(Mr Narey) Most prisoners can develop a very, very
optimistic view of their parole chances, and even when they can
be conditioned into expecting a negative result, my experience
in prisons is that most of them are very, very optimistic and
can take a knock back very, very badly. That can do a number of
things. The most important thing it can do is that a prisoner,
a serious offender, who has been co-operating and trying to address
his offending behaviour and taking part in courses, working on
education, sometimes the prisoner will say, "Well, that did
not do me any good" and will throw that all up and start
being a control problem. Indeed, I think for the staff in general
it is a very difficult job to tell a long-term prisoner that they
are not getting parole, but the staff are pretty competent in
doing it and in those circumstances, after an initial period of
difficulty, most prisoners get down to try and make their second
application more successful.
34. You have told us that the situation is a
great deal better and it is very good news, obviously, that these
things are going through a lot quicker than they were before.
What analysis have you done of what the remaining problem is?
Is it a question of particular prisons or particular forms that
often are not there, or what is the main reason?
(Mr Casey) It depends what the problem is which place
you start from. In terms of the Parole Board targets, we are currently
notifying 97 per cent of the decisions. The other 3 per cent are
likely to arise from cases having to be deferred for new information
or because the prisoner has had an adjudication, or deferral so
he can complete a course.
35. Can I stop you and ask something, coming
back to Mr Narey's previous question? If prisoners are asking
for deferral is that because someone in the Prison Service is,
perhaps, saying, "We do not think you are going to get it
this time. It might be better not to get disappointed and go ahead
at a later date"?
(Mr Narey) That might sometimes be the case, yes.
A prisonerparticularly if they are realistic about their
chanceswho knows that they have a place coming up on a
sex offenders treatment programme, which is very significant in
parole terms, may wish to defer their circumstances.
(Mr Casey) In terms of the performance on dossiers,
which is currently running at about 83 per cent, the remaining
cases are probably still down to late reports of one kind or another.
36. Has anybody analysed why those reports are
late? Is it that particular prisons are very bad, or there is
one particular report that everybody seems to be late on?
(Mr Casey) I do not have that information, I am afraid.
(Sir David Omand) Can I add one point to that, which
is that, as with all examples of process engineering, as you get
closer to 100 per cent the random fluctuations in the system begin
to affect you. What we want to look at now, through the Comprehensive
Review that Mr Narey mentioned, is whether we can improve the
processes themselves, rather than just better management in the
existing process, whether we can actually have simpler processes,
in particular, use technology more. I expect to see some improvements
made which will begin to get us towards that.
37. Do you know if there are any prisons that
are providing 100 per cent reports on time?
(Mr Narey) I do not have a list of them, but certainly
some are, because the general performance is now very highin
the high 80s. In addition, in terms of incomplete reports, we
used to be guilty of sending the Parole Board reports on time
but which were incomplete. The rough proportion of incomplete
reports now, I think, in the Report there was an improvement from
around 25 per cent to 5 per cent. We now have that down to 1.4
per cent. The reason why there are still some areas where we are
not doing well, although there are some improvements, are now
down to us, not the Parole Board. We have not yet got sentence
planning working as effectively as it should. We have not yet
got parole properly integrated into sentence planning, and sometimes,
in any case, we cannot offer the courses that a particular prisoner
needs for his first parole review. Sometimes other operational
pressures disrupt parole and we do, although we would like not
to, have to transfer prisoners.
(Sir David Omand) The Prison Service would not want
to start a prisoner on a course which would not terminate until
after the parole eligibility date, but in the real world you cannot
always guarantee that.
(Mr Narey) There is a significant waiting list for
sex offenders treatment programmes, and the courses are very intensive,
it takes about 6 months to complete, and one can only assess the
apparent efficacy of the course at a minimum of three months after
the completion of the course. So it means, for some prisoners,
actually getting through the course can take someone beyond their
parole eligibility date.
38. Are you saying that it is more likely to
be because of the type of offence that some people are not getting
through the system as they should be?
(Mr Narey) I think it is particularly difficult for
sex offenders. SOTP is seen, quite properly, as very significant
by the Parole Board, because it appears to have a certain effect
39. Appendix 2 gives a list of what the papers
are that are supposed to be in the dossier that comes forward.
It is clear from paragraph 2.32 that a large proportion of those
papers, not, obviously, all of them, should be kept on the prisoner's
file. Why have so many of the sort of papers that you expect to
be on the prisoner's filefor example, previous sentences
and so on, which are supposed to be done before the sentence startsnot
in the prisoner's file and, therefore, very readily available
to the Parole Board?
(Mr Narey) Sometimes because we have traditionally
found communication with the Criminal Justice System pretty poor,
particularly electronic communication. Previous convictions are
a simple area which we have done very badly with until recently.
Despite the fact that previous convictions should come with a
warrant from every court, that frequently does not happen and
sometimes when it does happen they get diverted from the prisoner's
file to the security file somewhere else. The way we have got
through that, and why we have started to make some improvement
in the completion of dossiers, is that now, in all local prisons38
of themwe have IT links with the Police National Computer.
So on the day that we receive the prisoner or the day after if
you do not have the previous convictions, which we need for all
sorts of other things like categorisation, we can down-load them
immediately from the database.