Select Committee on Public Accounts Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40 - 59)



Mr Osborne

  40. Is not one of the problems that emerges from this Report that you do not really know what works with these various schemes because, picking up on a theme which the Chairman raised, you do not have any kind of central records of how different prison regimes affect reoffending?
  (Mr Narey) We have emerging evidence of how some regimes affect reoffending. For example the regime at Grendon, which is a therapeutic community, we are able to keep prisoners there, despite the population pressures, there for a substantial part of their time in prison, and we do have evidence that that reduces reoffending. Independent evidence shows that reconviction rates are lower. It is very difficult, because of the population pressures and things I just described, more generally to do that. I know that the NAO suggested we should try to measure the performance of individual prisons. It is very difficult for us to do that when we have to move prisoners round so much because of population pressures. I would love to be in a position where we send a prisoner to a single training prison and leave them there, it would be better for them and it would cut crime.

  41. Does that not mean that you do not really know how any of your programmes, accredited or unaccredited, really work, because you cannot separate them out from the overall regime in which they are operating? There may be an innovative governor who has a particularly good regime within which there are programmes that are working, but you do not have any data on that?
  (Mr Narey) There are a number of reasons, first of all because of the reconviction data which is emerging, and secondly because we conduct psychometric tests on prisoners before and after entry to the programme, and those tests are conducted very carefully to ensure they cannot be manipulated by individuals. With our most difficult programmes, those dealing with sex offender treatment, we do other tests to check individual sexual reaction to certain images. There is a lot of evidence, other than reconviction data, that these programmes do work, evidence from abroad as well, not just from England and Wales.

  42. You are not really prepared to take up the National Audit Office's recommendation in paragraph in 2.4 on page 19, which says, "There has been little substantive research and data on the variability of reconviction.
  (Mr Narey) I would love to take that up. I can think of very little else which would do more to improve quality if I was setting prison against prison in demonstrating you could reduce offending. At the moment with the way I have to move prisoners about and the fact that typically a prisoner might move three or four times in a single sentence, because of pressure on population, it is very difficult to do that in a convincing way, other than for a handful of prisons where we do manage to keep men—it is very rarely women—in the same place for a long period of time.

  43. According to this Report nor do you have any central information on the non-accredited programmes in prisons. Paragraph 2.26 says, "The arrangements for non-accredited programmes are not as well developed. The Service does not have any central record of what these programmes involve, their target group, their objectives and their costs and who is providing them."
  (Mr Narey) We are just bringing that together, as I mentioned, in our custody-to-work strategy, so that we can build on accredited programmes and give my area managers guidance on those non-accredited programmes which we think contribute to reducing offending. We will give particular encouragement to the resettlement programmes Mr Steinberg mentioned.

  44. Nor do you have any idea of an overall picture of need. According to paragraph 3.5, "The Prison Service has no routine mechanism for performing an overall picture of need and therefore no method for assessing any potential mismatch between need and programme provision."
  (Mr Narey) We have been plugging that very fast. Every prisoner coming into custody now does the Basic Skills Agency screening test so we have a very good picture of the severity of the literacy and numeracy problem that we have. We are not yet in a position to attack it as roundly as I would like. Every prison now has, at the very least, a counselling assessment and a referral service for those who have been taking drugs. I might mention, 90 per cent of those coming into custody have a drug or substance abuse problem or mental illness, or both. In those two areas we do have an assessment in need. We do not yet have a full assessment of the need for offending behaviour programmes. The work we are doing with the Probation Service, work which will start before a prisoner arrives with us, will plug that gap as well.

  45. Because you may not have an overall picture of need is that one of the contributory factors to one of the most depressing figures in this Report, which is the waiting lists for prisoners who want to go on these programmes. Many prisoners have to wait a year before they can go on a sex offender treatment programme. These are prisoners who have volunteered for the programme, presumably?
  (Mr Narey) Although we have expanded the number of offender behaviour programmes very significantly, as I mentioned, sevenfold in the same number of years, and we have increased the number of sex offender treatment programmes we have struggled to expand them at the rate which we would like. There are a number of reasons for that. It is pretty traumatic work. It has been difficult to support tutors who find the work very difficult. We generally need professional psychologists to supervise the work. It is not difficult to recruit, although it has sometimes been difficult to retain them. For other reasons it has been difficult to expand sex offender treatment programmes as much as we could do. We have still significantly increased the number in recent years by a very significant percentage, by 85 per cent.

  46. In the Report it says, in one prison there is a waiting list of 180 prisoners for the sex offender treatment programmes.
  (Mr Narey) There will be. We are some way short of being able to meet the need for those who are willing to undertake sex offender treatment.

  47. If I can turn to drugs, which you brought up yourself. You said that 90 per cent of prisoners coming in had a drug problem, some sort of drug misuse when they entered prison. Am I correct in saying there is only one accredited drug user programme?
  (Mr Narey) There are 50 programmes, I think about six of them have been through the accreditation process and the others will be going through the accreditation process in due course.[4] This is an example where we have not been obsessed with accreditation, we have let these programmes grow and I have confidence in their efficacy. We are doing very, very important things with offenders in circumstances which would be impossible in the community. Again, from our earliest programmes, those are run for us by RAPt and also more recently a programme run for us by a firm called Addaction, the reconviction evidence is very, very encouraging indeed in terms of a lesser return to crime after release.

  48. I do not doubt that. It has been a personal bug-bear of mine that for every pound spent on drug rehabilitation you get £10 back in terms of money we save else where. I am not sure you know that that is the case in the Prison Service because in paragraph 2.11 you say, although there is a great deal of money going into these drug schemes you do not really know how the money is being spent in the Service because, perhaps, you are relying on a haphazard arrangement of some credited schemes and some unaccredited schemes. It says here, there are no common accounting practices. It is not clear that allocations have been used strictly for the purposes intended, particularly in the case of the prison staff costs for running drug treatment programmes which may or may not be spent on this work.
  (Mr Narey) We do have a very antiquated accounting system which will not be properly replaced for a couple of years yet. That does not mean that I am not confident that the investment we have received has not gone in this area. If that had not been the case I do not think we could have had some pretty remarkable evidence since the proportion of prisoners taking drugs, as measured by random testing, which we do every month, has fallen by more than half over the last three years. The evidence from drug treatment programmes, and I have spent a lot of time on visits talking to prisoners going through drug treatment programmes, is pretty dramatic in terms of the fact that we are doing things with people which are making a real difference to them. Although the accounting system is adequate, and I am confident I can demonstrate that whether it has been on supply reduction, on drug treatment programmes or on extra dogs which detect drugs being smuggled into prisons the money has been invested in the right area.

  49. When prison staff costs are put down against running drug treatment programmes, that is actual time being spent on that work?
  (Mr Narey) At the moment our accounting system cannot do the sophisticated work to split the work of a prison officer who might spend 40 per cent of his time on a drug treatment programme and 60 per cent of his time on other activities. I am confident that the investment we got to expand drug treatment programmes—I might say much of which we generated ourselves by cash efficiency, which we returned to the Treasury in the same year—and the net growth in investment has been quite small, I am very confident that I can demonstrate that is being spent on reducing drug misuse.

  50. At the moment only one in three closed young offenders institutions have a drug treatment programme. It would have struck me that the best place to put drug treatment programmes is in a young offenders' institution, where you can get people young with their drug addiction problem. Will you be increasing that dramatically?
  (Mr Narey) We have just increased that by three new ones in recent months. I think the figure quotes 72 per cent of establishments having drug treatment programmes. Three new young offender establishments have started rehab programmes and a number of adult establishments as well, starting with your own constituency, which is starting a new programme in April, and in Swansea a programme started this week and also at three young offender institutions, I cannot remember which but I can let the Committee know. It is right, that is clearly a very important group. It is the fact that in young offender institutions there are an awful lot of prisoners serving very short sentences so we have tended to concentrate in the roll-out of these programmes on those where we know we can spend enough time with prisoners to make a real difference.[5]

  51. A crucial part of drug treatment is follow-up, keeping a check on people?
  (Mr Narey) I agree.

  52. Not just keeping a check but encouraging them to maintain their drug-free position. I notice you have this pilot project with the use of hostels, it is a very small pilot project, with 250 residents a year at five hostels with 12 beds. Do you have any early results from that pilot project? What plans do you have to roll it out?
  (Mr Narey) We are just opening those. They are specifically for short sentence prisoners. The Committee are obviously interested in bridging some gap between prison and the community for those whom we cannot help very much while inside. We will not have any results from those for some time.

  53. What about on Table 7, page 16 of the Report? There are various targets governing the delivery of your drug misuse programmes, quite a few of which fall on March 2002. Perhaps you can answer how you are dealing with these targets? Is CCTV available in all of the visit rooms of all closed prisons?
  (Mr Narey) Yes, it is.

  54. Drug dogs in every prison?
  (Mr Narey) Drug dogs are available for use in every prison.

  55. All rehabilitation programmes and therapeutic communities reach accreditation standards?
  (Mr Narey) No, we have not put all programmes through accreditation standards, although I am still confident they are effective in reducing drugs taken in prison and after release.

  56. In the case study from Swaleside it talks about drug-free areas within prisons. I am realistic, I understand while we would like all prisons to be drug-free areas they are not, how much effort goes into creating special drug free areas and how much effort do you spend on trying to stop drugs going into prisons full stop?
  (Mr Narey) We try to do both. There is a real issue in supply reduction. I have been visiting prisons in the United States and Hong Kong very recently and I could not help but be struck by the fact how very few drugs get into prisons at all. All their visits, for example, are in completely closed conditions, where families meet across a glass screen, and that is not the sort of Prison Service I would want to be part of when we are trying to help people maintain links with families. Having said that, I am confident that the use CCTV and the use of passive drug dogs has significantly reduced the flow of drugs into prisons. We may be hitting the bottom of that, I am not sure how much further we can go. In addition to that once we have stopped supply the next stage is generally detox, then drug treatment. Drug free wings, or voluntary testing units as we call them, are generally composed of people who have been through drug treatment and want the support of a testing regime where they may be tested very frequently to keep them off drugs and also those prisoners who do not have problems of addiction but still want to be protected from a drug environment. We have significantly increased the number of prisoners who live on drug free wings in recent years, it has significantly exceeded our target.

  57. You mentioned the support of families, it is all rather encouraging, one of the easiest things to rectify was paragraph 4.8 on page 38, which shows that although all of the research shows if you involve families in helping prisoners resettle into the community that has a huge impact on re-offending, however the NAO's survey of prisons found that only 22 per cent of 134 prisons involves families in sentence planning. Of course you have problems about housing prisoners and this only contributes to this problem because many were housed so many miles away from where they lived.
  (Mr Narey) I think some of the comments are entirely fair. We have been looking at this with some energy since then and I have seen some significant improvement in our own audit figures, particularly for those which involve families for those aged 17 and under. We have about 3,000, mainly young men, aged 17 and under in my care and the involvement of families is now entirely routine. At most of the institutions—there are 13 holding those boys—it is entirely usual for the mother and the father, usually the mother, to attend the monthly reviews and sit in with the staff to discuss the progress their son is making. That, I think, is making a very real difference and making the parent very much a part of the training of the young man while in custody.

Mr Williams

  58. What happens when you are introducing a new regime, such as this, into a prison in the case of PFI prisons? If a PFI contract has been entered into before you try to introduce a scheme like this do you then have to renegotiate part of the contract in order to alter the regime in the private prison?
  (Mr Narey) It depends on the magnitude of the change. I have found that all private sector prisons have been very cooperative in minor changes. Where it is very substantial we have had to renegotiate the contract. I inherited the first private prison which opened in my tenure as Director General and it was designed and commissioned at a time when the emphasis was on work and very little on education, this was at Lowdham Grange, a prison run by Premier Prison Services. I thought that had the worst education department and the most inadequate education of any prison I have been to. We have had to renegotiate the contract to change the direction of that because the firm invested very significantly in workshop activity.

  59. Is that not unduly costly? What we found in contracts in other areas, construction for example, it does not matter which areas, once you have a main contract and you need to renegotiate it, since you have no bargaining power all the negotiating strength is with the person providing the service, you cannot do anything else. How costly has it been to get the changes?
  (Mr Narey) I would have to write with the figures, but it has not been unduly costly, Mr Williams. The contractual position you state is quite right. The reality is that the four companies who work for us are very, very keen to be part of what we see as a fundamental change in the direction of the Prison Service. They are keen to be part of that and demonstrate their prisons cannot only hold people decently but can reduce re-offending as well.[6]

4   Note by witness: There are 26 drug treatment programmes running in 50 prisons. One drug treatment programme, run by the charity Rehabilitation for Addicted Prisoners Trust (RAPt) has been accredited and is running in seven prisons. The remaining 25 drug treatment programmes running across the Prison Service
have been reviewed by the Drug Strategy Unit in relation to their progress towards accreditation. Some are further advanced towards accreditation than others. 

5   Ev 24, Appendix 1. Back

6   Ev 25, Appendix 1. Back

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