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Prisoner Transfers

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what role the Audit Commission plays in (a) auditing custody suites and (b) monitoring the cost of transfer of prisoners between custody cells and Court. [100387]

Hilary Benn: The task of transferring prisoners between custody cells and the courts is carried out by private contractors on behalf of the Home Office, which pays the costs. The Audit Commission would only become involved in monitoring these costs and in the auditing of custody suites if specific concerns were discovered by the Commission's auditors during the annual risk-based planning process for each individual police authority.


Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what estimate he has made of the total operational capacity of prisons in England and Wales by 2006, based on current trends; [101211]

Hilary Benn: Operation Container was the name given to the arrangements by which Prison Service prisoners were held in police cells in the early 1990s. Operation Container is no longer in force and the Prison Service now operates the holding of Prison Service prisoners in police cells under the name Operation Safeguard. Operation Safeguard was last activated between 12 July and 20 December 2002 and at present no Prison Service prisoners are held in police cells.

The two new prisons at Ashford and Peterborough will together provide 1,290 places by 2004–05. It is planned that the prison at Ashford will accommodate 450 females and the prison at Peterborough is planned to have 840 places in total: of these, 480 will be for males and 360 for females.

Current projections for the Prison Service anticipate a total useable operational capacity of 77,500 by 2006. This is an average figure, which is used for the purpose of planning the Prison Service estate. The Prison Service continues to investigate options for providing further increases in capacity over the coming years, as part of the Government's prison modernisation strategy. This is based on a combination of expanding capacity in existing prisons that we want to keep in the long term, and a programme to build new concept large multi-functional prisons.

The work of the Correctional Services Review is looking at what measures can be taken in the short term to reduce the prison population. We are committed to managing any rise in prison population through the provision of additional capacity and reform to the Criminal Justice system.

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Mr. Streeter: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the performance of Premier Custodial Group Limited in its provision of private prisons. [101433]

Hilary Benn [holding answer 10 March 2003]: The management of Ashfield young offender institution was handed back from the Prison Service to Premier Prison Services Ltd. on 14 October 2002. Since then the performance of the establishment has been unsatisfactory and a rectification notice has been issued requiring Premier to rectify failures to comply with contractual requirements. Premier's programme of rectification is currently being audited.

The performance of Premier at its other three establishments Doncaster prison and young offender institution, Dovegate and Lowdham Grange prisons has been generally satisfactory.

Mr. Streeter: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the (a) quality and (b) standards of performance of (i) private sector and (ii) public sector prisons. [101434]

Hilary Benn [holding answer 10 March 2003]: Private sector prisons are subject to the same assessments of their performance as that of public sector. These assessments include the following: inspections by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons; annual reports by the Independent Monitoring Boards (formerly Board of Visitors) of each prison; and regular audits made by the Prison Service on each prison in terms of compliance with Prison Service performance Targets and Standards.

The Prison Service is looking to further develop its existing performance management framework as part of a performance improvement programme that will build on the success of Performance Testing. Consultations are underway and an announcement will be made shortly.

Probation Services

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the impact of including property portfolios within the annual budget formula for probation services. [101173]

Hilary Benn: Property has, in fact, been removed from the annual resource allocation formula, and new standard charging arrangements introduced to ensure that increased investment creates a better and more equitable standard of probation property across England and Wales.


Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the trend in recidivism over the last decade. [101222]

Hilary Benn: Two-year 'un-adjusted' reconviction rates for prisoners discharged from custody are available for 1987 to 1998. These were 57 per cent. in 1987, 55 per cent. in 1988, 53 per cent. in 1989, 52 per cent. in 1990, 53 per cent. in 1991, 51 per cent. in 1992, 53 per cent. in 1993, 56 per cent. in 1994, 58 per

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cent. in 1995, 57 per cent. in 1996, 58 per cent. in 1997 and 59 per cent. in 1998. These rates are published in 'Prison Statistics—England and Wales 2001'.

The change in rates over the years will mainly be explained by changes in the underlying demographic and criminological characteristics of the offenders sentenced to custody over this period of time. These include gender, age when sentenced, number of previous convictions, type of offence and other factors. Due to this and other reasons custodial and community penalty reconviction rates should not be directly compared.

Reconviction rates for offenders discharged from custody have also been published according to the requirements of the Governments Public Service Agreement (PSA) 10 target. These are adjusted to take out convictions for offences committed prior to discharge, giving a reconviction rate of 55.3 per cent. for the first quarter of 1999. The equivalent figures for the first quarter of 1997 and 1998 are 56.8 per cent. and 55.7 per cent. respectively.

Neither set of rates indicates trends in rates over time, as they make no allowance for changes in the characteristics and criminal histories of offenders given custodial sentences. To do this a predicted rate is used. Comparisons between the actual and predicted reconviction rates for 1999 show that the actual rate was 3.3 percentage points lower than predicted relative to the 1997 baseline.

Reconviction rates for more recent periods are not yet available.


Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department of those arrested for alleged terrorist offences since 11 September 2001, how many (a) have been charged with offences under anti-terrorism legislation, (b) were not charged but were handed over to immigration officials for alleged breach of rules; and how many of those not charged but handed over to immigration officials (i) have been deported and (ii) await deportation (A) in custody and (B) at liberty; how many have been detained without charge under anti-terrorism legislation; and if he will make a statement. [99620]

Mr. Blunkett: 335 people have been arrested in total since 11 September 2001 of whom 53 have been charged and 42 have been released into Immigration Service custody. Fifteen people have been detained under the Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001 of whom two have left the country. Figures on deportation are published quarterly.

Wakefield Prison

Mr. Beith: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many prisoners at Wakefield Prison have had their status reduced from enhanced to standard in the last 12 months; and how many prisoners are in each category. [101379]

Hilary Benn [holding answer 6 March 2003]: There have been 116 prisoners reduced from enhanced to standard level of the Incentives and Earned Privileges

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(IEP) scheme at Wakefield prison in the past 12 months. The number of prisoners on each level is currently: Basic 11; Standard 357; and Enhanced 202.

There have been significantly higher numbers of prisoners downgraded from Enhanced to Standard IEP level across the prison estate this year. This is because of changes to the way in which incentive level reviews are now carried out. Under the revised procedures, prisoners who refuse to comply with their sentence plan and therefore to attend offending behaviour programmes, do not now progress as quickly towards enhanced status. In the case of Wakefield, prisoners not complying with their sentence would not gain as many points, under the local arrangements, towards progression to enhanced status. This has also resulted in larger numbers of this type of prisoner been downgraded from enhanced to standard.

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