Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40-59)



  40. Coming from what countries?
  (Beverley Hughes) 51 per cent Jamaica, and between 3-5 per cent from South Africa, the Netherlands and Spain. Those are the main countries. Predominantly over half from Jamaica.

  41. Might there be some advantage in sending them back to where they came from rather quicker, rather than having to maintain them at public expense for many years and then sending them back anyway?
  (Beverley Hughes) That is an issue that is examined on a case by case basis. It is a complicated issue as I think you will know, because we do have arrangements and understanding with other countries about the way our prisoners are treated there and so on. I take your point. We have had a policy, generally, of not releasing somebody until they have actually come up to their respective release date here and we are looking at that.

  42. Briefly as regards detainees under the anti-terrorism, crime and security bill where, happily, you are also the relevant minister—what provisions are you making for the detention of people under this legislation?
  (Beverley Hughes) If there were people detained under that legislation they would be detained in a high security facility on the Prison Estate. I think, for reasons that will be obvious, if they are suspected of international terrorism, if there were to be any attempt by compatriots to get these people out of prison we need to keep them in the most secure conditions. We do have facilities on the high security Estate that obviously have been used for other people, and there are facilities we would use in those circumstances.

  43. Have you got sufficient vacancies for anticipated numbers?
  (Beverley Hughes) Yes. We have been reviewing our capacity without making any assumptions, and making sure that the Prison Service can respond if those measures were implicated.

  44. Are they likely to be concentrated in one or two or half a dozen high security prisoners?
  (Beverley Hughes) Yes.

  45. Proximate to their families as far as possible, or not?
  (Beverley Hughes) It is very difficult for me to answer that because I do not know who might be detained and where there families are. Clearly, we have a number of facilities around the country, and it is possible that we could accommodate people as close as we could; but, clearly, because the variables inherent in the question are unpredictable to me at the moment I cannot give any guarantees about that.

  46. Mr Narey, how many have you been told to expect?
  (Mr Narey) We have not been given any figure at all, but what we have been doing is preparing the reconstruction of units which, happily, we have been able to have in mothballs for some years now.

  47. Which units?
  (Mr Narey) These are units in our high security prisons which we have used for special and high risk prisoners, which we have been able to mothball since we have had a significant fall in the number of prisoners of that category, largely because those people convicted of terrorism in Northern Ireland have returned to the country. We have had some spare capacity in this respect and can cope with an influx. Obviously, if the influx was very large we would have to think about how we could expand that.

  48. Are you expecting women to be among the detainees?
  (Beverley Hughes) Again, it is very difficult to predict. We do not hear about a great many women suspected of being involved in international terrorism. It is possible there might be a very small number, but I imagine that most would be men.

Angela Watkinson

  49. Mr Sutton, assuming that reducing re-offending is the main purpose for resettlement, why has it taken so long to produce this current order? What is the main difference between this current one and previous resettlement orders?
  (Mr Sutton) I think the premise of the question is right—we are looking to the range of present programmes to impact on re-offending. We have been developing in the last three, four, five years a series of programmes around basic skills, around offending behaviour and drug treatment which are designed to have that effect. It is true to say that the initial effort went into developing those programmes. Having done so, having made progress in this area, I think we felt that the time was right to look more across the piece of resettlement, and to bring a broader context to the programme—and we can talk about that in more detail. We wanted then and were able then to reflect that in the PSO on resettlement. The main changes that it really effects is that it is expressing our ambitions for resettlement as covering the whole of the Estate, not just the resettlement prisons. The PSO talks about resettlement from the period of induction through the sentence, and it is the opportunities to achieve resettlement through the whole sentence, the whole period in custody, that we are looking to develop. That is the main change that the PSO reflects, and it has come on top of the initial work and the initial effort which was to improve what we were doing with basic skills, offending behaviour programmes and drug treatment, which were the initial cornerstones of that approach.

  50. How much has the rise in prison numbers affected your ability to provide a certain number of hours of activity for offenders?
  (Mr Sutton) Clearly, as the Minister and Director General have reflected, there are constraints on our ability to develop regimes of resettlement as the population expands. It is the hallmark of the approach that is taken today that is different from previous years, that where we are expanding capacity we are building in additional regime and resettlement provision within that so that we are in that way looking to maintain the regime of resettlement provision as the population expands; but, clearly, where it expands abruptly, and we have to cope with the logistics of that, that puts a pressure on the measures we are putting in place; but the figures for purposeful activity are holding up very well. As the population has expanded we have produced a tremendous increase in the amount of purposeful activity hours and that has kept step with the rise in population. Although we have narrowly missed our target figures for activity hours there has not been a deterioration in that level of purposeful activity as the population has expanded.

  51. Would you care to comment on the contribution the voluntary sector can make in the resettlement programme?
  (Mr Sutton) I think that is a very important factor, and one which is increasingly recognised in the work we are doing. Indeed, in the PSO it is specifically recognised. The contribution is immense, and if we look around the areas of resettlement, we are looking now to develop around employment, around housing and around drug treatment. We know that we cannot make the kind of progress we want to achieve without connecting with the voluntary sector; and we are doing that on a significantly increased scale as compared with previous times. We are also trying to do it in a more coherent and business-like way. In the past, where there has been a tremendous tradition of work in the voluntary sector, it has not been governed by a kind of strategy which we think we now need if we are to make the best use of the sector. We have been working this year on a strategy for our work with the voluntary sector and working in consultation with leading representatives of the sector. It is a hugely significant part of it, particularly as we switch our emphasis now within the resettlement to a focus on jobs for prisoners subsequent to custody, and on tackling the kind of problems around housing and other social issues that we know we have to tackle if we are going to make that positive impact on resettlement.

  52. Do you see any obstacles to consistency of implementation over the foreseeable future?
  (Mr Sutton) I think we are better placed, than we have been, to achieve a more consistent approach. We are clearly in the area of basic skills. It is one of the major elements of the programme. We have national targets which are developing a greater consistency around the Estate in terms of what we are achieving. I mentioned the national strategy now in the voluntary sector, which I think will mean we are achieving greater consistency in our work with the voluntary sector. We are working out the details now of the new targets for employment of prisoners, what we call "custody to work" which, when we develop that and operationalise that, I think will lead to greater consistency in the work that is done with resettlement around the Prison Estate.

  53. You mentioned targets, which leads me neatly in my last question. How long do you think it will be before the results of the new programme will show in the report of the Chief Inspector?
  (Mr Sutton) We are doing work now with the Chief Inspector, indeed with both the Prisons Inspectorate and the Probations Inspectorate, around their recent report. I think we have already got evidence in the work that has been done on basic skills that we are making progress. I think we have got evidence from offending behaviour results that that is having an impact on reoffending, so I think the process has already started. I think the point I was seeking to make in relation to employment is that we are now setting our sights on a harder target, a still more tangible target in relation to outcomes in the community, and I think that we would expect to make an impact with that over the next couple of years and as the investment which we obtain from the last spending review starts to come on stream so we would be looking to be making a bigger impact in that, specifically by 2004, which is the period that that target is expressed to run at.
  (Mr Narey) Can I offer a useful statistic in terms of what we are doing in education because in the memorandum which we provided we recorded that last year there were 12,000 qualifications in basic skills at level 2, this is the level at which people break into the job market, approximately approaching the numeracy age of a 14-year-old. That will probably be 18,000 this year. We are talking about a population in our young offender establishments, a huge proportion of whom have been permanently excluded from school, and about giving them not as much as I would like but in many cases the first ever qualification and raising with them the prospect for the first time in their lives the possibility of getting a job.


  54. Here there is a conflict between our desire to keep the prison population down and the fact that you need to have these young people in your custody for a certain period of time in order to engage their attention.
  (Mr Narey) That is a real dilemma and the argument needs to be a more sophisticated one than it has previously been. It is my view that we can do little which is of any use for a short-term prisoner but actually if we have somebody long enough—and when I say this to magistrates I quickly follow it up by saying I am not asking for more prisoners—we can change people's lives, we can get them off drugs, get them some qualifications, and what Ken has described is our to intention to move from making people employable to actually getting them into employment.

  55. So are you asking for less prisoners for longer periods, quality not quantity?
  (Mr Narey) I would be careful not to ask for longer sentences but we can change people's lives if we have them long enough. I was at Low Newton prison on Thursday afternoon and I talked to a number of young women, all of whom had been taking drugs, all of whom were off drugs, all of whom had got their first ever qualifications and most of them had not been to school since the age of 13, and we had changed their lives. When, as happened on Thursday, a young woman talks to me with such conviction about going home to Sunderland and getting a job in the new call centre at MFI which has opened there, you realise something very important has happened.

  56. Do we follow people out of prison back into the outside world?
  (Mr Narey) We are doing so now to check two things, first of all, the commitment which the Home Secretary has asked me to make to double the number of prisoners getting into jobs and, secondly, to try to demonstrate the things we are doing on education, drug treatment, offending behaviour programmes work. We are tracking them to try to demonstrate that we have reduced the re-conviction rate which it is measured at two years after release.

  57. Does every prison now have a resettlement team?
  (Mr Narey) Every prison has been asked to form a specific resettlement committee. Ken will tell you what the proper name is.
  (Mr Sutton) Resettlement Policy Committee, which is part of the PSO Ms Watkinson was mentioning, so there is a new committee structure and it is now for the first time a required element at each prison that there will be such a team established.

  58. Is there someone full time in charge of resettlement in each prison or has the committee got other tasks?
  (Mr Narey) It depends on the prison. At open prisons—and 4,000 of our prisoners are in open prisons—there is generally somebody full time dealing with that. For example, at Leyhill, which I also visited last week, 100 prisoners every day are working outside in paid jobs and there are two or three people working full time on that. I am not pretending that there is a very much active resettlement work going on in Brixton and Manchester where predominantly they are concentrating on receiving people from the courts and getting people into basic skills assessment to start the process of getting them ready for downstream release.

  59. Where many of them are remand prisoners anyway?
  (Mr Narey) Yes.
  (Mr Sutton) The increasing focus on resettlement is reflected in the PSO which we have mentioned and a member of the senior management team at each prison has to take charge of that new structure, so we are recognising the importance of that at all prisons, not just the few who have specific units.
  (Beverley Hughes) Could I make one point just in terms of your questions about do we want people in longer so we can deal with some of the many issues that they come to us with. I make one point in relation to that. Firstly, I think that rehabilitation and resettlement of offenders generally, and prisoners in particular, has really got to be the most important focus of the Prison and Probation Services and that in order to try and address some of the many issues that offenders bring to those services, we cannot and should not expect the Prison Service to be able to deal with all of those because they simply cannot. Members of the Committee have already demonstrated their knowledge about the multiplicity and range and deep-seatedness of many of those problems, and that is not to excuse people's offending behaviour, it is to say that if we are serious about protection of the public and reducing crime then prison services and other agencies really have to work together to address those issues. We need a much better interface between prison and probation, but also we need to call on the other agencies, health service, education and employment, at a central and local level because really, arguably, it is those services that could and should have been addressing some of the issues that offenders bring to the Prison Service and Probation Service long before they ever get to court and we really do need that multi-faceted focus. The prison service could never and should never try to deal with all those issues on its own; it simply cannot do it.

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