Select Committee on Home Affairs First Report



The Committee's inquiry

1. We have carried out an inquiry into the rehabilitation of prisoners, looking in particular at the effectiveness of prisons in reducing re-offending through rehabilitation. We recognise the context of prison overcrowding and have focused on what can be achieved in overcrowded conditions. We have looked in depth at the provision of education, vocational training, paid work and offending behaviour/cognitive skills programmes and have sought to address the following issues:

2. During the course of the inquiry we took oral evidence on six occasions and received 73 memoranda. Details of the written and oral evidence received are given at pages 165-166 below.

3. Prison visits were a key part of the inquiry. We visited the following establishments:

    HMYOI Aylesbury, a young offenders' institution
    HMP Brockhill, a women's local prison (housing young offenders and remand prisoners)
    HMP Coldingley, a Category C industrial training prison
    HMP Elmley, a male local prison
    HMP Grendon, a therapeutic community in Category B secure conditions
    HMP Springhill, a Category D open prison
    HMP Standford Hill, Category D open prison
    HMP Swaleside, a Category B training prison.

4. A short summary of the type and nature of each of these prisons is provided at Annex 3. During our visits we inspected workshops, classrooms, medical facilities, gymnasiums and prison cells. We would like to extend our warm thanks to all the Governors, prison staff and prisoners we met. We also visited the Asha Centre in Worcestershire, which was established to assist women experiencing social exclusion. We are grateful to the organisers of the Centre for giving us full access and the opportunity to meet with some of their clients.

5. In May 2004, we visited Sweden and Germany in connection with our inquiries into rehabilitation of prisoners and identity cards. In Sweden, we held discussions with representatives of the Swedish Ministry of Justice, the Swedish Government's Crime Policy Division and NGOs working with ex-offenders, and we visited Österåker Prison near Stockholm. In Germany, we held discussions with the State Secretary of the Berlin State Government, representatives of the Justice Ministry, and academics, and visited Tegel Prison in Berlin.

6. We regarded it as important to investigate prisoners' own experience of rehabilitation regimes. To this end, we asked over 1,000 prisoners to participate in a "Prison Diary Project" in May and June 2004. We wrote to randomly selected individuals in six prison establishments and asked them to complete a 7-day diary of their prison routine. Analysis of the diaries has given us a valuable insight into the number of hours prisoners spend in education, vocational training, rehabilitative programmes, work schemes and leisure activities. A full analysis of the results of the Prison Diary Project is set out at Annex 4. We are grateful to the Prison Service for giving its support to the project and to the Governors of each of the target prisons who gave their permission for us to conduct the project and assisted with its implementation.

7. We would like to extend particular thanks to our two Specialist Advisers in this inquiry. They were Mr Bobby Cummines, Chief Executive of UNLOCK (the National Association of Ex-offenders) and Mr Robert Duncan, formerly Governor of HMP Pentonville. We are also grateful for the assistance with statistical analysis provided by Paul Bolton of the House of Commons Committee Office Scrutiny Unit and Gavin Berman of the House of Commons Library.

8. In this report we consider the meaning and purpose of rehabilitation and the types of interventions most commonly employed in prison rehabilitation regimes before looking at the nature of the prison population and identifying the key challenges facing the prison system today. We consider the major reviews conducted in relation to rehabilitation and reducing re-offending over the last five years and Government action in response to these reviews. We examine the current levels of rehabilitative interventions available across the prison estate. We consider how offenders' needs and offending behaviour of prisoners are assessed and examine the key elements of an effective rehabilitation regime, including resettlement following release from prison.

The purpose of rehabilitation

9. 'Rehabilitation' means literally 're-enabling' or 'making fit again' (from the Latin rehabilitare). In the prison context it means readying prisoners to rejoin society, as useful and law-abiding members of the wider community. It was pointed out to us in evidence that 'rehabilitation' can be a misnomer, because many prisoners have never been 'habilitated' in society in the first place.[1]

10. The 'Prison Rules' published by the Government require the Prison Service to ensure that "the purpose of the training and treatment of convicted prisoners shall be to encourage and assist them to lead a good and useful life"[2] and the Criminal Justice Act 2003 includes the "reform and rehabilitation of prisoners" among the statutory purposes of sentencing. [3]

11. The Government defines one of its main objectives in rehabilitating offenders as reducing re-offending. In 2002, the Home Office set a Public Service Agreement Target of reducing the predicted rate of re-offending by 5% by April 2004 and again by 5% by April 2006. The Prison Service has stated that "reducing re-offending by released prisoners is central to reducing crime and is therefore part of the Prison Service's core business of protecting the public"[4]

12. In our visits to Germany and to Sweden we explored those countries' attitudes to the rehabilitation of prisoners. In both cases rehabilitation strategy has a clear purpose and is based on well-defined principles. The fundamental principles underlying the German penal system are (i) the goal of re-socialization or rehabilitation (Resozialisierungsziel): "during imprisonment, the prisoner shall be enabled to lead, in social responsibility, a life without criminal offences"; (ii) the principle of normalisation (Angleichungsgrundsatz) which requires that life in corrections shall as much as possible resemble general living conditions outside prison; and (iii) the principle of damage reduction (Gegenwirkungsgrundsatz) which requires correctional authorities to address and counteract the damaging consequences of imprisonment.

13. In Sweden, the treatment of prisoners is directed from the outset to promote the prisoner's readjustment and reintegration into society on release and to counteract the negative consequences of imprisonment. Prison is viewed as the last possible resort. When imprisonment is unavoidable, the underlying penal philosophy is for the prisoner to maintain close contact and co-operation with society, through contacts with family, support services and restorative community projects, including work with victims of crime.

Models of intervention

14. Rehabilitation regimes around the world comprise a number of different types of interventions which are employed in varying degrees to provide purposeful activity for prisoners, challenge offending behaviour, provide basic education to tackle illiteracy and innumeracy and equip prisoners with life and work skills. The most common interventions are:

Q140 Back

2   The Prison Rules 1999 (S.I. (1999) No. 728), consolidated September 2002, rule 3 Back

3   Criminal Justice Act 2003, Explanatory Notes  Back

4   Ev 117 (paras 1.1.1-3) Back

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Prepared 7 January 2005