Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Martin Narey, Director General of HM Prison Service


  1.  The Government's memorandum of 15 January 2001 replying to the Home Affairs Committee's report on Blantyre House prison (HC 904, published in November 2000) undertook to report back to the Committee in November 2001 on the Prison Service's resettlement activity and what has been achieved. This memorandum seeks to fulfil that undertaking.


  2.  Reducing reoffending by released prisoners is central to reducing volume crime and is part of the Prison Service's core business of protecting the public. For resettlement work to flourish, however, we first need to provide decent and secure prisons and ensure that prisoners have the basic literacy and numeracy skills required for employment. Relevant here are:

    —  the rise in the prison population to an all-time high of 68,127 on 26 October 2001, an increase of 5.9 per cent since the same time last year;

    —  the reduction in the number of escapes from prisons and escorts from 347 in 1992-93 to 77 in 2000-01;

    —  the reduction in the number of self-inflicted deaths in prisons from 91 in 2000 to 81 in 2001;

    —  the maintaining of average purposeful activity hours for prisoners at 23.8 per week in 2000-01, compared to 23.7 in 1992-93, during which period the average prison population increased by 30 per cent from 49,500 to 64,300, meaning a growth in purposeful activity hours of over 18.5 million hours per annum since 1992-93;

    —  the achievement by prisoners of 12,462 literacy and numeracy qualifications at level 2 in 2000-01, making many of them employable for the first time.

  3.  With these building blocks in place the Prison Service has also made major strides in developing regimes which tackle reoffending. This memorandum describes in particular the progress made on drugs and offending behaviour programmes which, together with our continuing drive to raise the level of prisoners' basic skills, are major contributions to making more prisoners employable. We are now able to turn, with the National Probation Service and others, to converting this employability into more jobs on release for prisoners, as a key resettlement outcome.


  4.  A Prison Service Order on resettlement was issued on 29 October 2001 and the Committee has been provided with a copy. The Order provides the Service with instructions on the management and delivery of resettlement and with guidance on good practice. It is geared towards reducing reoffending by prisoners following release from custody, thereby protecting the public from harm. The Order underpins the Prison Service Performance Standard on resettlement issued in November 2000, which requires that:

  All prisoners have the opportunity to maintain and develop appropriate community ties and prepare for their release. Provision by the Prison Service in collaboration with the National Probation Service will be targeted on the basis of an assessment of risks and needs and directed towards reducing the risk of reoffending and risk of harm.

  5.  The Order provides a framework for building on the good practice and programmes outlined in paragraphs 30-36 of the Government's memorandum of 15 January 2001. All parts of the prison estate have a contribution to make to helping prisoners address their offending behaviour and prepare for reintegration back into the community, and there is a range of provision in place which reflects this.

  6.  Research suggests that offenders are twice as likely not to reoffend if they get and keep a job on release and less likely to reoffend if they have stable accommodation to go to. [1]Securing such resettlement outcomes, however, often involves tackling deep-seated problems of social exclusion:

    —  one in two male and more than two in three female prisoners have no qualifications (between three and four times the rate in the general population); [2]

    —  more than two in three prisoners are unemployed at the time of imprisonment[3] (14 times the current national unemployment rate); [4]

    —  only half of prisoners have the reading skills, less than one fifth the writing skills and less than one third the numeracy skills necessary to complete for 96 per cent of jobs; [5]

    —  one in 14 prisoners is homeless at the time of imprisonment[6] (more than 13 times the national homeless household rate); [7]

    —  around two in three prisoners have used illegal drugs in the 12 months before imprisonment (at least two and a half times more likely than people aged 16-29). [8]

  7.  Tackling these problems requires action by a range of departments and agencies as well as the Prison Service, as demonstrated in:

    —  the establishment in April 2001 of the Prisoners' Learning and Skills Unit in the Department for Education and Skills, to lead a new partnership with the Prison Service which aims to achieve a substantial improvement in the level of education and skills training attained by prisoners, geared to effective resettlement;

    —  the investment by the Employment Service of £1 million a year from 2001-02 in strengthening its links with prisons. In particular, this will ensure that every released prisoner who requires it has a pre-arranged Jobseekers interview through which to access Employment Service help in securing a job or training place, joining the New Deal and claiming Jobseekers Allowance;

    —  the availability since April 2001 of early entry to the New Deal for eligible ex-prisoners aged 25 or over as well as 18 to 24 year olds;

    —  the development by the Department of Work and Pensions and the Employment Service, with the Prison Service and others, of progress2work. This is a £40 million employment initiative over the next two and a half years to help drug misusers into work, targeted in areas with significant drug problems. The first projects will begin in 31 districts next year and will expand to other districts by summer 2002. Progress2work will develop better ways to identify and help people with problems, including specialist provision for those who need more intensive support, including released prisoners;

    —  a further £35 million employment initiative for the hardest to help, which will include those with criminal records and will begin next year. It will identify hardest to help jobseekers early in the New Deal process; provide specialist advice and help; and where appropriate, use transitional employment schemes more flexibly to provide support to integrate these people into the labour market;

    —  clause 13 of the Homelessness Bill, which would prevent the blanket exclusion by local authorities of certain groups, including ex-prisoners, from social housing. Cases would have to be considered on an individual basis. The Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions is also consulting on a draft Statutory Instrument under the Housing Act 1996 which would extend the homelessness priority needs groups to include those vulnerable as a result of a period within an institution, including prison;

    —  the amendment of housing benefit regulations relating to the Single Room Rent from 2 July 2001. The change allows for housing benefit to tenants under 25 to take account of the cost of shared accommodation (including, for the first time, the shared use of a living room). This change will assist prisoners under 25 who are released back into the community;

    —  the publication by the Rough Sleepers Unit and the Department for Work and Pensions of new, more accessible benefits guidance for prisoners and their families.

  8.  Further impetus is being given to the development of integrated, inter-departmental policies on resettlement by the Social Exclusion Unit's current study on reducing reoffending by ex-prisoners. The Unit has drawn on evidence from discussions with a range of departmental and non-Government stakeholders, existing and new research and a large number of visits to prison establishments. It hopes to publish its analysis later in the year, and then work through the upcoming Spending Review with officials across Government to develop an action plan to address the problems identified.


  9.  The report of the joint thematic inspection on resettlement by HM Inspectorates of Prisons and Probation was published on 31 October 2001. A National Audit Office report on reducing prisoner reoffending is expected to be published in early 2002. They describe many of the regime elements underpinning Prison Service work on resettlement, including basic skills, drugs and offending behaviour programmes. The NAO report focuses on developing effective prison programmes, matching prisoners to programmes, and preparing prisoners for release. Prison Service programmes in these key areas are being developed within the context of the Prison Service strategy on What Works in reducing reoffending, in which the National Probation Service is closely involved and which is overseen by the What Works in Prison Strategy Board.


  10.  In 2000-01, 12,462 literacy and numeracy qualifications at level 2 were achieved by prisoners, making many of them employable for the first time. An extra £18 million is now being invested in prison education provision over 2001-04. This will be geared to delivering 23,400 nationally recognised qualifications, including literacy and numeracy, in 2001-02, rising to 36,200 in 2003-04.

  11.  `Improving Prisoners' Learning and Skills', published in February 2001, sets out the Government's plans to improve education and training in prison.

  The new manifesto commitment dramatically to improve the quantity and quality of prison education will underpin our efforts to build capacity better to prepare individuals for work and learning once they leave prison.


  12.  The Prison Service drug strategy, which was introduced in 1998, aims to reduce the rates of drug misuse during and after custody and reduce the likelihood of drug-related reoffending. It underpins the work on resettlement and looks to bridge the gap between prison and resettlement in the community through its specific work with CARATs (Counselling, Advice, Referral, Assessment and Throughcare services) and post-release hostels. It continues to attract significant investment of funding: £88 million for the period 2001-04 from Spending Review 2000, in addition to the approximately £25 million per year extra since 1999-2000 under the Comprehensive Spending Review.

  13.  The percentage of positive mandatory drug test results has halved since such testing was introduced from 24.4 per cent in 1996-97 to 12.4 per cent in 2000-01 (with provisional figures of 11.9 per cent between April and August 2001. Access to voluntary testing for all prisoners ready to prove they are drug-free remains an integral feature of the drug strategy. On 30th September, 23,141 prisoners were signed up to a compact.

  14.  All prisons new provide CARATs, a package of support and advice services for drug misusers. CARATs can refer prisoners to more intensive treatment programmes if applicable, and provides continuity between treatment in prison and that available on release. The Prison Service is committed to completing 25,000 full assessments per year by March 2004. Current performance is well ahead of this target (37,000 assessments in 2000-01).

  15.  50 drug rehabilitation programmes are offered across the prison estate to address moderate to severe drug misuse problems and related offending behaviour an increase from 20 in 1999-2000. They are delivered under a multi-disciplinary approach which involves community agencies under contract to the Prison Service. 3,100 prisoners entered these programmes in 2000-01, and the Prison Service has targets in place to ensure 5,700 prisoners a year enter such a programmes by March 2004. Delays in recruiting staff have meant a slower than expected build up to the target numbers. An additional £1.7 million was allocated in February 2001 to provide further place.

  16.  The Prison Service has a target of 27,000 annual entrants to detoxification programmes by 2004. Reported performance over 2000-2001 is 32,000 entrants. Additionally, a new Performance Standard on Clinical Services for Substance Misusers was introduced in December 2000. The Prison Service is working closely with the National Treatment Agency to help set standards and ensure adequate provision of treatment facilities comparable with those in the community. The Head of the Prison Service Drug Strategy Unit sits on the Board of the Agency.

  17.  Now that a framework is in place to tackle prisoners' drug problems the Prison Service is turning its attention to alcohol problems where there is a gap in provision. The Service is committed to developing an alcohol strategy to complement the drug strategy. The Prison Service Management Board is due to consider proposals in the Spring.


  18.  The Prison Service is working towards developing a central drug treatment model for rehabilitation and has agreed with the National Probation Directorate that it may adapt its ASRO (Addressing Substance-Related Offending) programme into a Prison Service model. The development of post-programme community links and links with the National Probation Directorate's plans for community drug programmes will be considerably enhanced by similar probation and prison models.


  19.  An additional £16 million is being invested over 2001-04 in the continued roll-out of independently accredited offending behaviour programmes, with the number of completions targeted to rise from 5,986 in 2000-01 to 8,900 in 2003-04. Research evidence indicates that these programmes will reduce reconvictions by about 10 per cent.

  20.  Two particular developments involving the National Probation Service are in hand to support resettlement:

    —  two programmes for short-term prisoners. One is based on the Enhanced Thinking Skills (ETS) programme and the other is a new motivational initiative called MORE (Making Offenders Rethink Everything). Both are complemented by a resettlement package which focuses on accommodation, employment and financial management and which links prisoners to a community mentor who will support their transition back to the community. With funding from the Invest to Save budget, the two programmes are being piloted in nine establishments—Liverpool, Cardiff, Pentonville and Standford Hill (ETS) and Leeds, Lincoln, Nottingham, Bullingdon and The Weare (MORE); and

    —  Cognitive Skills Booster Programme. This is a refresher programme for those who have undertaken ETS or Reasoning and Rehabilitation. It can be completed whilst the prisoner is in custody preparing for release or in the community after release. A pilot of the programme is due to start in November 2001 at Sudbury prison, with another prison possibly piloting the programme next year. The Manchester probation area will also be piloting the programme.


  21.  The resettlement estate-consisting of the resettlement prisons (Blantyre House, Latchmere House and Kirklevington Grant), resettlement units in or run by closed prisons and resettlement regimes in open prisons—provides more extensive resettlement opportunities to help mainly longer term prisoners including lifers prepare for release. The Prison Service Order on resettlement contains new National Requirements for the Resettlement Estate. These are incorporated in the Performance Standard on resettlement and will be subject to compliance audit.

  22.  The National Requirements cover:

    —  the purposes of resettlement regimes and the organisation of the resettlement estate to reflect the staged process of the resettlement of prisoners;

    —  eligibility and selection criteria and the allocation process;

    —  the operation of resettlement regimes, including arrangements for working out in the community under release on temporary licence; and

    —  monitoring and evaluation, including of effectiveness in reducing reoffending.

  23.  The security requirements for the three resettlement prisons have been revised, with the introduction of the new category of semi-open prisons. As male semi-open prisons they have both Cat C and Cat D prisoners on stage 1 of a resettlement regime and Cat D prisoners on stage 2. Female semi-open prisons hold prisoners categorised as suitable for such conditions and include prisoners on both stages of a resettlement regime. Male and female open prisons will normally be able to provide both stages of a resettlement regime, while designated units in closed prisons can offer a stage 1 regime so long as prisoners selected for it are separated from the rest of the prison's population.


  24.  The National Probation Service was established in April 2001. It shares a joint target with the Prison Service of reducing the rate of reconviction of those serving custodial or community sentences by 5 per cent by April 2004 compared to the predicted rate. A substantial agenda of joint work is in hand on reducing reoffending and improving resettlement, under the oversight of the Strategy Board for Correctional Services.


  25.  The two Services have worked together to develop a joint Offender Assessment System (OASys), designed to provide a shared approach to the assessment of risks and needs of offenders. The use of a common system, supported by IT, will enable the two Services to build on, rather than duplicate, the work of the other, providing continuity an co-ordination in assessment and planning. The system will support effective targeting of interventions to reduce risk and provide the means to evaluate their impact. It will provide management information to support resource planning and allocation.

  26.  The design stage of OASys is complete. A paper version will be implemented in five probation areas in 2001-02. The development of an IT version of OASys is being managed as a joint programme. The main roll-out of OASys to probation areas is expected to follow the completion of the probation IT version in 2002. Implementation of the Prison Service will follow the procurement of an IT version. Provisional plans involve the phased roll-out of OASys to the Prison Service from 2003-04 following the IT procurement.


  27.  The resettlement pathfinders (which focus on short-term prisoners, with whom there is no statutory post-release supervision, and test out models of work pre and post release) under the Government's Crime Reduction Programme are working with short-term adult prisoners and jointly managed centrally by the Prison and Probation Services. Six pathfinders are in progress and are being independently evaluated. Three will involve partnerships between prisons (Hull, Low Newton and Springhill/Woodhill) and probation areas and three prisons (Lewes, Parc and Wandsworth) and voluntary sector organisations.

  28.  They are testing a variety of approaches, programmes and management and staffing arrangements. Teams case-manage prisoners "through the prison gate" in order to deliver provision seamlessly. A two-stage resettlement programme ("FOR A CHANGE") is being piloted by two of the pathfinders (and a third pilot) involving work begun in prison and completed following release. A Best Practice guide is expected in April 2002 and reports on interim outcomes, reconviction and cost-effectiveness will become available during 2002-04.


  29.  The hostels pathfinders (which reinforce offending behaviour programme work delivered in prison or in the community and help offenders to apply the learning from programmes to problems of community reintegration connected with reoffending) will aim to develop a model regime for the approved hostels estate. Suitable hostels are currently being identified with a view to training staff to deliver the regime from Spring 2002. Approved hostels receive a mix of prisoners released on licence, offenders on community supervision and bailees. In the case of released prisoners the regime will build on programmes delivered in custody and apply programme learning to resettlement problems in the community.


  30.  The Prison Service, working with the National Probation Directorate, is currently leading a pilot resettlement project which will provide accommodation in the community for short-term prisoners with histories of drug misuse and support through the first few months following release. There will be five hostels in the pilot, one for women and four for men, all are planned to be open next summer. Responsibility for the project will pass to the National Probation Directorate early next year when contracts to deliver and run the hostels are awarded.


  31.  The report of the Halliday Review of the Sentencing Framework published in July 2001 places an even greater emphasis on joint working and seamlessness in sentence delivery. The proposals for statutory community supervision for all released prisoners would help to use the whole period of the sentence to tackle offending behaviour and associated problems, including practical resettlement issues. The Government is now considering the responses to the consultation on the Review's proposals, but has already made clear its commitment to reform of the sentencing framework to deliver more effective prevention, protection and punishment.


  32.  The Government announced last Autumn that it wanted to see double the number of prisoners getting jobs on release by April 2004, including education and training places. The Prison Service is therefore introducing a Key Performance Indicator on resettlement from April 2002 which will incorporate this target. An extensive prisoner survey is being undertaken to help establish the 2001-02 baseline. An accommodation target is also under consideration. The National Probation Service is closely involved in this work and is considering whether a complementary employment target—for the period released prisoners who are eligible spend under probation supervision—would provide additional benefit.

  33.  The Prison Service is investing £30 million over 2001-04 in a Custody to Work programme. Within this there is a £5 million a year programme at five local prisons (Birmingham, Holme House, Winchester, Bullingdon and High Down) and five Young Offender Institutions (Feltham, Portland, Brinsford, Glen Parva and Onley) to improve regimes with a focus on preparing prisoners for work. £15 million a year is available from 2003-04 to support developments elsewhere.

  34.  Key elements of the Prison Service's approach include:

    —  continuing to improve prisoners' employability through work on basic skills and relevant vocational training. The new Prisoners' Learning and Skills Unit is at the heart of this;

    —  continuing the process of ensuring that prison industries and workshops prepare prisoners more effectively for feasible, available jobs. This needs to be based on an improved knowledge of the labour market, with activity targeted where possible on skills shortages and job vacancies in the areas to which prisoners will be released;

    —  engaging more effectively with the business and voluntary sectors and with other departments and agencies, particularly the Employment Service, Benefits Agency and housing agencies. Areas connections, including through the Government Offices for the Regions and local crime and disorder reduction partnerships, are particularly important;

    —  focusing resettlement policy and delivery on providing a better transition from custody to life in the community, particularly in respect of employment and housing. This involves supporting and monitoring existing pilot projects and programmes to identify effective approaches, and then applying these lessons to development, elsewhere.

  35.  Some good examples of what can be achieved are already available:

    —  from July 1999 to June 2000 the Headstart programme at Thorn Cross released 20 per cent of its prisoners with a job and 21 per cent with an education or training place. The programme, which involves individually-tailored work on basic skills and jobsearch and mentor support from the home community, has been extended to Hindley and Risley;

    —  the High Intensity Training programme for young adult offenders, which has been running at Thorn Cross since 1996, has been shown to have a positive impact in reducing reoffending. The programme, designed around interventions and activities that research has shown to be effective in reducing recidivism, has a particular emphasis on the reintegration of young adult offenders into the community on release, and is being rolled out to Deerbolt and Guys Marsh;

    —  more than 5,000 prisoners completed the Welfare to Work programme at 12 establishment over 1998-2001. The programme aims to increase job skills and employability. An evaluation in 2000 showed that prisoners completing the programme achieved an average of 5.7 certificates out of the seven available and had an entry rate into the New Deal Gateway which, in the pilot year, was double that of the comparison group of prisoners;

    —  between November 1998 and May 2001 the housing advice centre at Buckley Hall rehoused 52 per cent of its clients straight from prison and another 28 per cent within six months of release;

    —  the Benefits Agency, Cleveland Citizens Charter Quality Network, the Citizens Advice Bureau and other agencies have worked with Holme House and Kirklevington Grange to provide prisoners with a "passport" of benefits, housing and employment advice. Evidence from the scheme is promising and suggests that intervention of this kind could help in breaking the cycle of reoffending;

    —  the Rough Sleepers Unit, in partnership with the Prison Service and the voluntary sector, has supported work with prisoners most at risk of rough sleeping. Pilot schemes in five prisons (Wandsworth, Pentonville, Bulwood Hall, Highpoint and Holloway) and two YOIs (Feltham and Brinsford) are linked to areas with high concentrations of rough sleeping. By summer 2001, the schemes had worked with more than 700 offenders and produced almost 600 positive outcomes, including saving tenancies, reducing arrears, referring to hostel accommodation and negotiating with landlords, Housing Benefit sections and Homeless Persons Units.

  36.  Such evidence of effective practice is being used to draw up a central framework within which local resettlement strategies for each Prison Service area will be developed. These will support the implementation of the Key Performance Indicator on resettlement from April 2002.


  37.  The Prison Service strategy for work on the resettlement of prisoners to facilitate their transition from custody to life in the community is comprehensive. It aims to develop and strengthen cross-departmental work and partnerships with other agencies and the voluntary sector to achieve effective resettlement outcomes. Building on the Prison Service Order on resettlement, the new Custody to Work initiative and the Social Exclusion Unit study, this effort will continue.

November 2001

1   eg Braithwaite (1980), Burnett (1992), Simon and Corbett (1995) and May (1999) Back

2   Level of Highest Qualification Held By Young People and Adults (England), DES, 2000 Back

3   Criminality Survye: drugs follow-up, Home Office, 2001 (unpublished) Back

4   Labour Market Statistics (ILO rate), May 2001 Back

5   Comparison between the basic skills levels found in Prison Statistics: England and Wales 2000-01, ONS, and the audit of skills required for jobs in Institute for Employment Studies, Basic Skills and Jobs, Basic Skills Agency, 1993 Back

6   NACRO, Prisoner Resettlement Survey, 2000 (unpublished) Back

7   DTLR website Back

8   Research Findings No 93, 1999, Home Office Back

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