Examination of witnesses (Questions 80-99)|
MONDAY 20 NOVEMBER 2000
80. Presumably there is a statistical breakdown
that shows the rate of re-offence by category, by prisoner and
Parole Board, and presumably there is quite a variation in the
tendency of certain Boards who interview prisoners to release
people who re-offend much more than other Parole Boards. Is that
the case, and san you provide that information?
(Mr Casey) The Boards do not actually
sit on a regional basis.
81. Am I right to say that there are different
Boards and you can monitor them against each other?
(Mr Casey) No. We hold meetings of the Board every
day, panel members come in from all round the country. So the
individual members may not actually sit together regularly in
the same group of three.
82. If there was someone who was on these Boards
regularly and they were biased, in that either they let off guilty
people easily or they were biased against black people or whatever,
is there a way that you could isolate them statistically or are
they so churned up that you cannot do this?
(Mr Casey) We could not isolate individual members.
Panels share the decisions.
(Sir David Omand) I think that would become apparent
if a panel of three included an individual who consistently went
against the views of their colleagues.
83. You say there are three people and they
are all in different places, it would be different. Is there a
way of organising these things in a way that we can pick up institutionalised
discrimination? Perhaps it is something to think about. Mr Casey
seems to think you cannot easily do it, because they are all churned
up every week. It was just a thought. Perhaps there is not an
answer to that. Can I ask Mr Casey, I understand, as you stated
earlier, that the process must assume rightful conviction. Coming
back to one of Mr Rendel's points, I have a very great worry about
the significant minority of people in our prisons who are innocentthey
come to light in the media from time to timeand it seems
to me that if it is the case that they are not allowed on certain
rehabilitative courses because they will not admit their guilt,
that is a real problem. It is quite a different thing to say,
"We will not give them parole", but you did say that
you would actually stop them going on behaviourial courses to
help them because they say, "Look, I am innocent actually"?
(Mr Casey) There are certain courses which can be
done by people who are in denial. The problem mainly focuses around
sex offender treatment programmes4.
84. Can I just say that the point about sex
offenders has been well made? Can you confine this to non-sex
offenders in your response? I agree with you on sex offenders.
(Mr Casey) All I can do is reiterate that the Board
has to proceed on the basis that the person has been properly
convicted and look at everything that is known about them, and
identify what risk factors are present and how far anything has
been done to address them.
85. I will give you a very brief example. A
man who came to see me in my surgery said that his son had been
involved in some cocaine dealing and was threatened by gangsters
with his life, put a gun in his mouth and all that sort of stuff.
He was put in prison for another offencetrying to get the
money through a bank robberyand was threatened with his
life in prison. Meanwhile the father had to somehow get this money,
so he borrowed the money off some fairly shady characters, tried
to pay it back, then allowed his garage to be used for storage
and it ended up that they were putting all sorts of things in
there, from explosives to chemicals and all the rest of it, and
he got done for this. He said, "Well, you know, circumstantial
evidence, and my sons life, but I have served my sentence",
and when he went to the Parole Board they wanted him to say what
an awful person he waswhich I guess he is in some senseand
he has got no chance of getting out. I wonder whether people are
inside, who are not particularly dangerous to the community, and
are being systematically resisted because they want them to say,
"I am sorry for everything and I have changed, and I am not
a danger." Are there a large number in this category?
(Mr Narey) I think with individuals like that it is
not quite as difficult as with sex offenders.
86. I accept all sex offenders.
(Mr Narey) I do not know if that particular individual
was a drug user, but, for example, he could go on drug treatment
programmes. We have invested an additional £64 million in
those from last year.
If he had problems with employability he could go into education
and make himself more employable by getting qualifications. Very
crucial in that particular circumstance you described would be
his particular release plan. If, for example, he was making a
fresh start, going to live in a different community, had a chance
of a job and somewhere to live and was getting away from the group
that pulled him into that crime, they would all be persuasive
points in his favour when the Parole Board came to assess him.
Mr Davies: He has not had a problem with drugs
or anything of that sort, he is just stuck inside. Thank you.
87. I must say that this is a very interesting
Report. I was very much struck when looking at the frontispiece,
if you remove the glasses and gave Mr Narey a flat cap there would
be an amazing resemblance to the character on the front there.
I am not sure this is a tribute to the powers of disguise, but
we will just note that, perhaps. Can I pick up this point about
the delays which have already been well covered and ask whether
or not this was indicative of the way in which the Prison Service
viewed its clients, or customers, that effectively they were people
of little consequence who really had no voice to protest either
on their own behalf, individually, or collectively, and that there
was an ethos in the Service that meant that these delays did not
matter particularly. Was that there and has it been entirely removed?
(Mr Narey) I hope there has been a shift
in recent years in the extent to which the Service has concentrated
on doing things with prisoners to prepare them for release. In
the mid-90s when this was being managed weakly, this was in the
wake of some hugely embarrassing disasters, escapes of Irish terrorists
from Whitemoor and escapes of category A prisoners from Parkhurst.
We had so many escapes of category of category C and D prisoners
that to some extent we were not counting any more. There had been
a focus which was described as "security, security, security".
We have that right now. Touch wood, there have been no category
A escapes since 1995-96. We have only had five escapes of prisoners
of any sort this year compared with the same period in 1995-96,
for example, approaching 100.
I think, having sorted our first duty out it has allowed the Prison
Service to start taking seriously doing a better job in preparing
prisoners for release. We have also had, since 1997, for the first
time, some significant investment to allow us to do that.
88. I understand that and the way in which you
pose security as being the main issues, but surely the need for
security should not be an excuse for administrative sloppiness?
I understand why you, perhaps, did not pay attention to the need
to prepare prisoners for release. I see these as being a clash
in objectives or competing objectives, but none of it excuses
administrative sloppiness. I would have thought that the pressure
for additional security, and the emphasis on security, would make
you want to have all your routines, all your systems, all your
structures running like clock work, with quasi military
precision, yet clearly here this just seems to have been shambolic
for a long period of time.
(Mr Narey) I agree, Mr Davidson, but
there is not a choice between security and all the things you
have described. We can do them both together. Indeed, my belief
is that if you get security right you maintain public, ministerial
and Parliamentary confidence and people are happier with you doing
more constructive things. What I am trying to explain is that
there was a real crisis in the Prison Service from 1995 onwards
and almost everything else was forgotten. Certainly we were not
preparing prisoners for release. I would like to think that the
evidence shows that we are now trying to do both. We have a security
record better than ever before, better than could be imagined,
particularly with dangerous prisoners, and we are now, for the
first timenot just through parole, but through other meansstarting
to do things which I think make it less likely that people will
re-offend when they leave us.
89. I am prepared to accept the point about
the change in emphasis, particularly the leadership of the Service.
Is the previous neglect of the needs of prisoners, in particular
the extent to which the administrative details went forward, because
it did not matter particularly, indicative of an attitude of mind
which has not necessarily changed amongst the prison workforce
as a whole?
(Mr Narey) I think that would be somewhat unfair.
It owed more to this not being a priority for the top of the Service,
rather than people on the ground floor. Also, there was an expanding
parole caseload over that period, and we did not keep up with
that workload in terms of putting reasonable resources both into
prisons and into the Prison Service headquarters to service that
demand. It is only in the last two and a half years that we have
taken a real grip of it and that meant we had to put resources
in as well.
(Sir David Omand) There is also a deeper reason to
do with the way the criminal justice system operates. It is only
relatively recently that it has been accepted across the criminal
justice system that the objectives of the system are shared by
all of the participants and, therefore, although it may not have
been the highest priority for the Probation Service to prepare
a particular report, that is essential for the operation of the
whole system. It is that recognition of the interrelationships,
and particularly in passing information, that I think lies behind
much of the improvement.
90. cultural change programme should show increasing
improvements. These are not administration actions, there will
be a change throughout the whole service and, therefore, we can
reasonably expect to see drastic improvements.
(Sir David Omand) What you are seeing here is one
particular corner of the system, which is parole. Equal problems
could be identified in the other aspects of administration of
criminal justice, as the Committee saw when you took evidence
a few months ago.
91. Can I turn to Appendix 2, the point has
been touched on, the contents of the prisoner's parole dossier.
To what extent have you been exploring the concept of preparing
dossiers and making sure that many of these items do not need
to be done separately and do not need to be done repeatedly, and
so on and so forth?
(Mr Narey) We are beginning to do that but we are
a long way from doing it at the moment. Our IT in the Prison Service
is primitive. We have a reasonably successful information system,
that was launched to 1990, it is now creaking a great deal, we
have just launched a new partnership on IT with EDS called Quantum.
With a very careful eye on things that have gone wrong in the
rest of the Criminal Justice System and within wider Government
in the past, certainly with major IT initiatives, I am quite intentionally
taking that very, very slowly. Next year and the year beyond it
will involve primarily the roll out of kit. From then on we start
to look at linking up with other agencies. I am confident we will
link up with the Probation Service very quickly.
92. If we look at paragraph 3.16, it is about
the Prisoner's Information Book which was due to be published
by the summer this year.
(Mr Narey) It is due to be published in April next
year. I have a copy with me today, I just received a proof of
93. The section I am reading is 3.16, it says
here, "The Prison Reform Trust and the Prison Service jointly
published a Prisoner's Information Book in 1996... They are now
working on producing a joint booklet on parole which is expected
to be available by summer 2000".
(Mr Narey) We have a draft of that booklet, which
I received today, it has not yet been distributed, it is going
to be shortly.
94. It has been agreed by all concerned it would
be produced in summer 2000. Why has that slipped?
(Mr Narey) I think elsewhere it might refer to April
2001. The book is finished and it will be with prisoners and staff
95. Is it reasonable for us to be surprised
about the extent to which prisoners were unaware of the parole
system, which obviously affects their lives massively? It must
be subject to an enormous amount of speculation by the prisoners
themselves yet the managers seem to feel they did not understand
how it was going on. Whose failure is that?
(Mr Narey) I do not think it is a case that prisoners
are completely ignorant about it, some are and some are very sophisticated.
There has always been information available to them, the information
we give prisoners on reception.
96. I am reading where it has been agreed, 3.14,
"Professor Hood and Dr Shute's research found that prisoners
were generally ignorant about the way parole operated". That
seems pretty clear to me, that does imply some did and some did
(Mr Narey) Indeed. We have not ignored that and we
have produced information in the past, through ourselves and through
the Prison Reform Trust. We have given a great deal of co-operation
to a charity called Unlock for ex-prisoners and we have a prisoners'
handbook. It is true that there is still a great deal of ignorance.
I am not optimistic enough to believe that the new PRT publication
will completely bridge that. Prisoners frequently work on the
basis of anecdote and received wisdom rather than looking at the
real facts. Some of that is because of general optimism about
what parole means. Some of it is because for prisoners who have
a long custodial history they experienced parole before and it
has now changed to a risk base, rather than being based primarily,
as it was some years ago -in the 1980son prisoners being
rewarded for custodial behaviour and that was about it.
97. Do you think that prisoners having a greater
knowledge of the parole system would be helpful in terms of the
management of the system and that would be one of the criteria
by which yourself and the Service are judged?
(Mr Narey) I am not sure to what extent it is a criteria
to judge us on. It is to our advantage in all sorts of ways for
those for whom we care to be totally aware of how their sentence
98. Why should it not be something about which
you are judged? I appreciate it is locked on to other things.
It seems to me perfectly reasonable that you should have an obligation
placed above you to make sure that people understand the rules
of the system within which they are operating?
(Mr Narey) I would certainly accept that, making sure
we have information available to prisoners so that they can learn
for themselves, and obviously that would mean making particular
arrangements for non-English speaking prisoners. Making sure that
information is available is something on which I am happy to be
99. We heard earlier on about differences in
racial groupings. Are there differences in terms of social class?
(Mr Narey) I do not know the answer to that question,
I can try and find out for you and let you have a note
4 Note: See Evidence, Appendix 1, pages 14-15 for Home
Office replies to Questions 71 and 80-83. Back
Note by Witness: The additional £64m being spent on drug
treatment programmes and services covers the period 1999-2002. Back
Note by Witness: In the current year, to end October 2000, there
have been 5 escapes from prison establishments, and 6 escapes
from prison escorts. In 1995-96, there were a total of 88 escapes
- 54 from prison establishments and 34 from prison escorts. Back
Note: See Evidence, Appendix 1, page 15 for Home Office replies
to Questions 99-103. Back