Select Committee on Home Affairs First Report


A time of rapid change

47. In the mid-1990s, escapes from prisons, particularly by convicted terrorists, led to an emphasis on improving security. The need to keep prisoners in safe custody was seen as a higher priority than tackling prisoners' behaviour and rehabilitation initiatives. A reduction in constructive work with prisoners coincided with a rise in the prison population. In 1998, following a significant decline in the number of escapes, the Government allocated the Prison Service an additional £155 million over the period 1999-2002 to spend on programmes aimed at reducing re-offending and on factors which research suggested could contribute to re-offending, specifically drugs misuse, and poor literacy and numeracy.[31]

48. As part of its programme of reform to tackle crime and reduce re-offending, the Government has in the last few years conducted a number of wide-ranging reviews of rehabilitation initiatives, work regimes operating within the prison estate, and of the role of custody. These reviews have proposed reforms to sentencing policy, the prison regime and the management of offenders insider and outside prison. The intention is to provide a robust framework for reduced dependence on prison by offering sentencers and the public credible non-custodial sentences, a prison regime better able to address the causes of offending behaviour and enable ex-prisoners to live productive lives, and improved supervision and support of prisoners in the community.

49. In this section of our report, we summarise the findings of these major recent reviews and the Government proposals made in response to them—now in process of being implemented. Our inquiry has been conducted at a time of rapid change, most notably in relation to the introduction of the National Offenders Management Service and the new sentencing framework provided by the Criminal Justice Act 2003. We discuss the Government's reforms and assess their implementation insofar as they relate to rehabilitation.

Social Exclusion Unit report (2002)

50. In 2001, the Government commissioned its Social Exclusion Unit[32] to investigate what steps could be taken to stop repeat offending. This was in response to concern about the high rates of re-offending by ex-prisoners. The Unit's report was published in July 2002.[33] In a foreword, the Prime Minister expressed his commitment to rehabilitation of prisoners in the following terms:

    "People who have been in prison account for one in five of all crimes. Nearly three in five prisoners are re-convicted within two years of leaving prison. Offending by ex-prisoners costs society at least £11 billion a year. This all tells us we are failing to capitalise in the opportunity prison provides to stop people offending for good.

    We need to make sure that a prison sentence punishes the offender, but also provides the maximum opportunity for reducing the likelihood of re-offending. That means we need to redouble efforts to rehabilitate prisoners back into society effectively."

51. The report stated that "prison sentences are not succeeding in turning the majority of offenders away from crime."[34] It identified a number of complex factors behind the increasing reconviction rates in the 1990s, including:

  • an erosion in post-release support for short-term prisoners
  • changes in benefit rules for prisoners
  • a sharp rise in social exclusion, in areas such as child poverty, drug use, school exclusion and inequality.

52. In assessing the cost of re-offending by ex-prisoners, the Social Exclusion Unit reported that a re-offending ex-prisoner was likely to be responsible for costing the criminal justice system an average of £65,000. On top of this was the cost of a prison sentence imposed at crown court, averaging around £30,500 (made up of court fees and other legal costs) and the cost of a prison place, averaging £37,500 per year.[35]

53. The report recognised that "many prisoners have experienced a lifetime of social exclusion" and identified nine key factors that influence re-offending: education; employment; drug and alcohol misuse; mental and physical health; attitudes and self control; institutional and life skills; housing; financial support and debt; and family networks.

54. In investigating what works in tackling the problems of offenders, and reducing re-offending, the report found some limited examples of good practice across the prison estate. It noted that offending behaviour programmes "can reduce reconviction rates by up to 14%", whilst the RAPt Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Project can reduce reconviction rates by 11% amongst the two-thirds of prisoners who complete its programme. However, the Unit was critical of the absence of a unified rehabilitation strategy:

    "No one is ultimately responsible for the rehabilitation process at any level—from national policy, to the level of the individual prisoner. Responsibility and accountability for outcomes can be very unclear. The problems in prisoners' lives are often highly complicated and inter-related. They require a co-ordinated multi-agency response, within prison, across the crucial transitions between community and custody, and sustained long after release. Without this, they are likely to fall into the gaps between services."[36]

55. The Unit found that joint-working mechanisms were not robust, nor were they backed by shared targets or up-to-date management information, with the result that opportunities for innovation in rehabilitation work were far too limited. In addition, the system was not designed to deal with the different factors affecting the re-offending of certain groups, particularly women, young adults, black and minority ethnic groups and remand prisoners. The report concluded that long-term change was needed "to ensure that all those dealing with prisoners and ex-prisoners make the maximum possible impact on re-offending."[37]

56. The main recommendations in the Unit's report are set out in the box on the following page.[38]

Social Exclusion Unit report recommendations (2002)

i.  Prison should only be used where absolutely necessary. In particular, (a) the overall value of short prison sentences should be acknowledged as doubtful in many cases with the negative effect compounded by the lack of post-custody supervision, and (b) improvements should be made to diversion schemes in court to identify severely mentally ill persons before they are placed in prison and to provide them with appropriate mental health care.

ii.  There should be a long-term, wide-ranging National Rehabilitation Strategy involving a cross-government approach to rehabilitation and reducing re-offending.

iii.  Each individual prisoner should have a 'Going Straight Contract', delivering an integrated approach to rehabilitative programmes and support and tailored to his or her circumstances. The Contract should be based on a comprehensive assessment of need, with a full programme of activities and support devised by a case manager to cover the prisoner's entire sentence, in and out of custody.

iv.  Measures should be taken at national level to tackle financial and housing need among newly released prisoners.

v.  Effective reception and resettlement procedures should be developed, to improve access to housing, healthcare, benefits, employment, education and training.

vi.  There should be an increase in the range and number of programmes and support available in the community in areas such as education and training, mental health, drugs and alcohol treatment and family support.

Source: Social Exclusion Unit, 'Reducing re-offending by ex-prisoners' (July 2002), pp 10-11 and 121


Prison Industries Review (2003)

57. As part of its ongoing audit of the prison regime, the Prison Service in 2003 commissioned an internal review of the strategic oversight and management of public sector prison industries.[39] The Prison Service was concerned to address wastage, maladministration and other weaknesses within the system in order to develop a workable strategy for prison industries. The Prison Industries Review's terms of reference were to review the purpose, structures and operation of prison industries (defined as including prison workshops and contract services activities but not vocational training workshops, laundries, prison kitchens or land based activities). It was charged with identifying a strategy for prison workshop-based activities that would contribute to the Prison Service's objective of providing prisoners with purposeful and cost-effective out of cell activity at the same time as improving their employment prospects post-release.

58. The Prison Industries Review reported in July 2003.[40] The report criticised the failure of the Prison Service to define the role of prison industries. It stated that—

    "it is indefensible that the Service has reached the point that it cannot find enough work or purposeful activity for prisoners (and with the expected continued increases in the prisoner population this will only be further exacerbated) whilst it has to find funds to purchase goods it doesn't have the capacity to make". [41]

59. We summarise and discuss the detailed findings of the Review in our section dealing with prison work at paragraphs 147 to 154 below.

Home Office rehabilitation target (2002) and standard (2004)

60. In 2002, the Home Office identified seven aims to inform and direct its core activities and business. Aim 4 related to rehabilitation. It committed the Government:

At the same time the Home Office adopted ten Public Service Agreement (PSA) targets. PSA target 5 included a commitment to reduce the rate of all offenders punished by imprisonment or by community supervision by 5% by 2004 compared to the predicted rate.[42]

61. In the 2004 Spending Review, announced in July 2004, the Home Office announced five high-level 'objectives' which would replace the previous seven 'aims'. Objective II was that "more offenders are caught, punished and stop offending [our italics], and victims are better supported". Seven new PSA targets were announced at the same time, replacing the previous ten. These seven targets contain no mention of rehabilitation, which is now dealt with in a 'standard', to be "achieved and maintained". The standard is to:

    "Protect the public by ensuring there is no deterioration in the levels of re-offending for young offenders, for adults sentenced to imprisonment and adults sentenced to community sentences, maintaining the current low rate of prisoner escapes including Category A escapes."

62. In defence of its decision to replace a rehabilitation target with a 'standard', the Home Office has argued that the provisions in the standard—

    "will remain key performance indicators for the National Offender Management Service and the Youth Justice Board, and are vital contributions to the new PSAs on crime reduction, drug treatment and fear of crime / CJS confidence."[43]

63. We explored the issues surrounding a target for re-offending in oral evidence from the Permanent Secretary at the Home Office, Mr John Gieve, and the Chief Executive of NOMS, Mr Martin Narey:

    Mr Narey: Well, I have [Key Performance Indicators] for both the Prison and Probation Services which go much further than the PSAs which we are discussing today and cover a much greater range. I have not done a KPI in terms of closeness to home because it would be deceitful to produce one when the Service is under so much strain. …

    Mr Gieve: Can I just say on re-offending, which has been, and is, one of our PSA targets from the last Spending Review that we achieve a 5% reduction, we have got it in our new set of objectives as a standard that we should keep re-offending down, but that is really because it is part of simplifying our crime targets. However, … we are looking to a reduction in re-offending as one principal lever, if you like, to reduce overall crime, so the fact that we have not got a separate PSA does not mean that we are relaxed on re-offending.[44]

64. 'Standards' imply a commitment to maintaining, rather than improving upon, current levels of achievement, and that to this extent it can be argued that they represent a lesser commitment by the Home Office than the targets they replace, and may therefore be less effective as a driver of performance, and less conducive to accountability.

65. The situation as outlined above is further complicated by the fact that although the Home Office, as part of the Government-wide PSA process, has replaced the 5% target for reducing re-offending with a standard committing it not to allow re-offending rates to deteriorate, it has actually retained the 5% target as an internal target. This was not announced in the Spending Review 2004, but in another document, also published in July 2004, the 'Strategic Plan for Criminal Justice 2004-08', which stated that:

    "We will continue to protect the public by setting targets for reducing re-offending by 5%, compared to 2002-03, by 2008, leading towards 10% by the end of the decade."[45]

This internal target was not alluded to in the Home Office's 'autumn performance report' on progress towards meeting its targets, issued in December 2004.[46]

66. We asked the Home Office to explain how it could reconcile its commitment to a 'standard' of no deterioration in re-offending rates with an internal target of reducing them by 5%. In response, the Home Office told us that while the standard was "the minimum achievement to be delivered by the Spending Review settlement", the "more ambitious" internal target was seen as a mechanism for achieving another PSA target, that of reducing crime by 15%. In summary,

    "The key commitment is to reduce crime, with a further commitment that in doing so we have ensured that there is no deterioration in re-offending, and a third that we actually reduce re-offending".[47]

67. We regret the decision by the Home Office to reclassify the PSA Target 5 as a standard. Whilst we recognise that targets can have perverse effects, and we support the overall trend towards fewer and simpler targets, it is difficult to justify the dropping of this particular target. Reduction in offending is a central part of the Government's strategy. By dropping the PSA target we are concerned that the Home Office may well undermine its own overall objective in crime reduction, and may leave NOMS without any publicly explainable measure of success. We recommend the reinstatement of the PSA target as evidence of the Government's commitment to overhaul the current sentencing framework and to reduce the numbers of offenders sentenced to prison and community supervision. This would be in line with the Carter Report and the initiatives it has recently introduced.

68. We do not regard the adoption by the Home Office of an 'internal target' of reducing re-offending by 5% as an acceptable substitute for the dropped PSA target. An internal target is inevitably seen as representing less of a public commitment than a PSA target agreed with the Treasury. We note that this internal target was announced unobtrusively, and was not mentioned in the Home Office's latest report on progress in meeting its targets. We also regard it as inherently confusing that the Home Office is simultaneously committed to 'no deterioration in re-offending rates' and to a quantified reduction in those rates.

'Measuring the Quality of Prison Life' Audit

69. The Prison Service's Standards Audit Unit introduced "Measuring the Quality of Prison Life" (MQPL) in 2002 as a method by which to measure prisoners' perceptions of prison life and obtain a 'temperature gauge' of a prison's social climate.[48] The Unit conducts a survey of prisoners (through a written questionnaire sent out to randomly selected groups of prisoners) in each prison establishment every two years. Questionnaire statements are grouped into 16 dimensions addressing aspects of prison life including order and security, safety, respect, development and resettlement. Responses to rehabilitation interventions are most closely linked to the four 'development' dimensions. An MQPL visit to a prison usually takes four days and involves the participation of about 100 prisoners. The first MQPL was conducted in December 2002. To date, MQPLs have been conducted in 81prison establishments.

70. The Standards Audit Unit has supplied us with an analysis of the key findings of the MQPL programme. Statistically significant differences are discernible across the five categories of prison types (training prisons, women's closed prisons, young offenders institutions, open prisons and local prisons). 50% of the statistical differences were found in those dimensions most obviously related to rehabilitation, implying a vast disparity in prison rehabilitation regimes across the different prison types. Local prisons produced the most negative results overall in relation to rehabilitation. The statistics most relevant to our inquiry are set out below.

  • Whilst 52.7% of prisoners considered that their time in prison "seems like a chance to change", a significant 72% of prisoners did not agree that "every effort is made by this prison to help prisoners stop committing offences on release from custody".
  • Over 60% of prisoners did not agree with the statement that "this prison allows me to make good use of my time".
  • of prisoners did not feel that the prison in which they were held encouraged them to think and plan for their release.
  • of prisoners did not agree that they were being helped to lead a law-abiding life on release in the community.[49]

The new sentencing framework

71. The Government, Prison Service and senior judiciary have for some time been aware of the negative impacts of the rising prison population and unacceptable levels of prison overcrowding, and the consequences for the prison system's capacity to rehabilitate offenders. The Halliday report in 2001 recommended the creation of a new sentencing framework in order to tackle these problems.[50] The Government accepted the Halliday report's conclusions, and made provision by means of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 for setting up the new framework. The Act defines for the first time the purposes of sentencing, which include "punishment, crime reduction, reform and rehabilitation, public protection and reparation."[51] It replaces the various kinds of community order previously available with a single community order with a range of possible requirements, including unpaid work, prohibited activity, curfew, mental health treatment, drug or alcohol treatment and supervision.[52] These can be attached to a number of different options, considered below. The Act also creates a Sentencing Guidelines Council with responsibility for issuing a comprehensive code of sentencing guidelines over the next four or five years. The aim is to eliminate inconsistency, and to make sentencing more systematic and coherent. The overall result is likely to be similar to the penal codes adopted in many other jurisdictions.

New Community Sentences

72. The Act introduces a range of sentencing choices designed to reduce the size of the prison population, including:

    a)  Community sentences: these will be made up of one or more requirements (as listed in the previous paragraph) seeking to address the causes of offending, and involving a challenging amount of work and thought on the part of offenders, combined with supervision.

    b)  Custody Plus: sentences of less than 12 months that will include a short period in custody, followed by a substantial period (at least 26 weeks) of supervision and rehabilitation requirements served in the community.

    c)  Custody Minus: a community sentence with a short suspended prison sentence which is imposed if the offender breaks the conditions of the community sentence.

    d)  Intermittent Custody: prison sentences to be served at weekends, and to be combined with restrictions or obligations during the period spent in the community.

    e)  Deferred Sentences: these will be subject to the fulfilment of similar community obligations.

Longer sentences of more than 12 months will result in automatic release at the half-way point, but accompanied by similar community requirements and supervision for the whole of the rest of the sentence. Violent and sex offenders who are considered dangerous will be subject to extended or indeterminate sentences, with parole board review.

73. The Act provides that the particular requirements that will form part of the community sentence must be the most suitable ones for the offender, and that restrictions on the liberty of the offender, such as a curfew requirement, must be in line with the seriousness of the offence.[53] Pre-sentence drug testing is available to assist the court when it is considering imposing a community sentence or a suspended sentence.[54] If an offence is not serious enough for a community sentence, then a fine, conditional discharge or absolute discharge will be imposed.[55]

74. As with community sentences, a court cannot impose a custodial sentence except where the offence, taken in combination with any past offences, merits it.[56] The Act extends the length of sentence which can be imposed by a magistrate, from 6 months to 12 months.[57]

75. We endorse the extension of community penalties and the range of 'hybrid' prison and community sentences introduced by the Criminal Justice Act 2003. Both sentencers and the public have an overwhelming interest in sentencing which rehabilitates offenders and reduces the rate of re-offending. We support the development of more extensive and intensive supervision of offenders as both an alternative to, and an extension of, custodial regimes.

76. To ensure confidence in the new sentencing regime, there must be public education about the new sentencing measures, and publicity about actual sentences imposed, to demonstrate that they are robust and legitimate alternatives to prison in terms of punishment, public protection and rehabilitation.

77. Enforcement of the new orders will be critical to their success and it is imperative that the Government puts in place strong enforcement machinery which is used effectively to ensure compliance with conditions or requirements imposed on Orders and their satisfactory completion.

78. The Committee supports the emphasis in the sentencing framework on formulating a community sentence which imposes the most suitable requirements for the individual offender.

Home Detention Curfew Scheme

79. The home detention curfew scheme was introduced with effect from 28 January 1999. Prisoners with sentences of between 3 months and under 4 years can be released up to 2 months early, subject to home detention curfew monitored by an electronic tag. In May 2002, the scheme was extended. Those with sentences of 3 to 12 months not convicted of a sexual, violent or drug-related offence[58] were presumed suitable for release unless there were exceptional and compelling reasons why release should not be granted. In 16 December 2002, the maximum home detention curfew period was increased from 2 to 3 months.[59] It was increased again from 3 to 4.5 months in 14 July 2003. In addition juvenile offenders became eligible for consideration for the scheme.

80. Home Office research on the reconviction rates for those on home detention curfew (which covered a sample of those released in 1999) indicated that those granted curfew had lower reconviction rates after the end of the curfew than those refused home detention curfew.[60] However, this partly reflects the fact that the chance of being released on curfew falls as the predicted risk of re-offending increases. 8.3% of those released on home detention curfew in May or June 1999 were reconvicted within 4 months compared to 31.4% of those not released on home detention curfew. Within 6 months, 9.3% of those granted home detention curfew had been reconvicted compared to 40.5% of those not granted home detention curfew.[61]

81. We recognise that home detention curfew has a role to play in the Criminal Justice System. We recommend that the Government continue to monitor carefully the re-offending rates for those on home detention curfew.

The Sentencing Guidelines Council

82. The Criminal Justice Act 2003 created a Sentencing Guidelines Council to formulate guidelines relating to the sentencing of offenders (sentencing guidelines) and the allocation of cases (allocation guidelines), to enable all courts dealing with criminal cases to approach the sentencing of offenders from a common starting point. The Act also provides for the continuation of the existing Sentencing Advisory Panel.[62]

83. The Home Secretary can ask the Sentencing Guidelines Council to frame or revise guidelines relating to sentencing or allocation. The Council can itself decide to frame such guidelines, with or without a proposal from the Home Secretary or the Sentencing Advisory Panel. The Council is obliged to keep its guidelines under review (where they have been formally issued) and review them if appropriate. The Council is required to inform the Sentencing Advisory Panel when it decides to frame new guidelines or to revise existing guidelines. This enables the Panel to prepare advice to assist the Council. The Panel itself also has the power to advise the Council that guidelines are framed or revised.[63]

84. It has been agreed that the Home Affairs Committee will be included in the process of consultation on draft guidelines produced by the Sentencing Guidelines Council. The first two draft guidelines were published in September 2004, and we reported on them in November 2004.[64] Our report discusses the two drafts and reviews our likely future role in scrutiny of guidelines.

85. We welcome our role in the new sentencing framework which for the first time gives Parliament a voice in influencing the guidance given to sentencers. We look forward to continuing to exercise these new responsibilities. We hope that we can assist in making the sentencing system more rational, fair and effective.

The Carter Report (2003)

86. As part of a widespread review of the criminal justice system, in March 2003 the Government commissioned the businessman Patrick Carter (now Lord Carter of Coles) to review correctional services in England and Wales, with the objective of establishing a "credible and effective system, which is focused on reducing crime and maintaining public confidence, whilst remaining affordable."[65]

87. The Carter Report was published in December 2003.[66] It concluded that the huge increase in the use of prison and probation over the last 6 years reflects the increased severity of sentencing for specific offences rather than either an increase in the number of offenders caught and convicted or an increase in the overall seriousness of the crimes brought to justice—both of which have remained broadly constant. [67]

88. The bar chart below shows all offenders sentenced for indictable offences by sentence type in England and Wales in 1992, 1996 and 2002 respectively. The chart illustrates the changing approach to sentencing over the period, with a steep increase in community sentencing and immediate custody in preference to fines, discharges or suspended sentences.All offenders sentenced for indictable offences, by sentence type, England and Wales, 1992, 1996 and 2002

Source: Table 4.2, Criminal Statistics, England and Wales, 2002 (Cm 6054)

89. The Carter Report acknowledged that whilst prison is vital to protect the public, by incapacitating serious, dangerous and highly persistent offenders, the increased use of prison and probation has only a limited impact on crime and there is little evidence to suggest that increased severity of punishment is a significant deterrent to committing crimes.[68] The report was critical of sentencing practice, which it found to be poorly targeted, failing to get to grips with persistent offenders and too focused on offenders with no previous convictions.[69]

90. The report concluded that rehabilitation has an important role to play in the prison regime:

    "well-designed, well-run and well-targeted rehabilitation programmes can reduce reconviction rates by 5-10 per cent. … The maximum effect is achieved when programmes target a spectrum of risk factors—employment and education, along with behavioural or cognitive programmes. Although drug treatment is difficult, evidence suggests that it can be cost-effective in reducing crime and social harms."[70]

91. However, the report found that interventions to help reduce re-offending were ineffectively targeted, highlighting the following systemic failures:[71]

    a)  With the increase in short term offenders and large numbers of transfers during the prison sentence, many offenders are not in the same place long enough to receive effective interventions.

    b)  In probation, interventions available are largely dependent on the court order issued, which often does not address the needs of the offender.

    c)  The quality of interventions varies greatly depending on the prison establishment in which the offender is held.

92. The report was critical of the lack of coherence between the prison and probation services, finding that their separation one from the other encouraged concentration on the day-to-day operation of the services rather than a more strategic approach to the end-to-end management of offenders across their sentence—with the result that "no front line organisation ultimately owns the target for reducing re-offending".[72]

93. The report advocated a new approach for dealing with offenders, based on three core 'action points':

    i.  There should be a range of targeted, credible and effective sentences that are robustly enforced. Fines should replace community sentences for low-risk offenders. Community penalties should be made more demanding, with three levels available (Community Punishment, Community Rehabilitation and Intensive Supervision and Monitoring), [73] depending on the risk assessment of the particular offender. More extensive use should be made of electronic monitoring and satellite tracking.

    ii.  The judiciary should play a new role in managing demand for probation and prisons, to ensure greater consistency of sentencing practice based on sentencing guidelines informed by evidence of what reduces offending and makes cost-effective use of existing capacity.[74]

    iii.  A National Offender Management Service should be established, combining the functions of the present Prison and Probation Services. It should have a clear objective to punish offenders and reduce re-offending. Headed by a single Chief Executive, it should be responsible for the end-to-end management of the offender throughout his sentence, based on evidence of what works to reduce re-offending and regardless of whether the offender is serving a custodial or community service.[75]

94. The Government fully endorsed the Carter Report and drew heavily on its recommendations in its proposals "to improve the effectiveness of the criminal justice system and in particular correctional services" set out in a white paper published in January 2004.[76] The Government is now in process of implementing the Carter Report's three core action points through the implementation of the new sentencing provisions in the Criminal Justice Act 2003, and the creation of a new Sentencing Guidelines Council, which we have discussed in paragraphs 71-85 above; and through the establishment of a National Offenders Management Service, which we discuss in paragraphs 79-108 below.

Reducing Re-offending National Action Plan (2004)

95. In July 2004, the Government published its Reducing Re-offending National Action Plan.[77] This National Action Plan "aims to address the concerns raised in a number of important reports on the issue, such as the Social Exclusion Unit's report."[78] It sets out over 60 action points which have been agreed across Government and are designed to cover "all the key areas, or pathways, to support the rehabilitation of offenders, in a concerted effort to reduce re-offending."[79] For each action point, the National Action Plan suggests complementary activity at regional and local levels. A cross-government board of senior officials, chaired by the Chief Executive of NOMS and including representatives from key government departments, will oversee the delivery of the Plan.[80]

96. A summary of the main provisions of the National Action Plan is set out in the box on the next page.

97. We welcome the Government's publication of its National Action Plan, which has been awaited since 2002. We support the Plan's approach in setting out complementary activity at national, regional and local levels and its emphasis on 'joined-up working' across Government, through information sharing between agencies and the development of partnerships to support regional working.

98. However, we are disappointed at the elementary nature of many of the National Action Plan's action points: for example, establishing processes through which agencies can communicate, developing an accommodation strategy for ex-prisoners in the long term, and developing guidance for healthcare staff. Many of these issues have already been explored in detail and best practice identified, in other recent reports and reviews, and in evidence submitted to our inquiry. We recommend that the National Action Plan should be reissued in an expanded form, incorporating the key recommendations of these reviews and current best practice and setting clear timetables for their implementation. Further, we recommend that the Home Office should report annually to Parliament on the progress made in implementing the Plan. This reporting should take the form either of a detailed Written Statement or a memorandum submitted to this Committee.

The establishment of NOMS

99. On 6 January 2004, in an instant response to the Carter Report published the same day (see paragraphs 86-94 above), the Government announced the establishment of an integrated National Offender Management Service (NOMS) which would have the twin aims of reducing re-offending and providing end-to-end management of offenders.

100. NOMS was formally established on 1 June 2004. Its Chief Executive, Mr Martin Narey, has set out his five-year strategy. [81] He intends that NOMS will, over this period—

    i.  Reduce re-offending and crime and provide genuine end-to-end management of offenders, whether in custody or the community, appropriately balancing the need for punishment and the protection of the public with helping offenders to address the causes of their offending.

    ii.  Work with partners in other agencies, and service providers in the public, private and voluntary sectors, and offer sentencers and offenders a coherent and comprehensive range of support and interventions designed to reduce re-offending.

    iii.  Engage with sentencers locally and nationally, and provide them with professional, appropriate and timely advice both in individual cases, and on the impact and outcomes of their collective sentencing decisions.

101. It was originally intended that NOMS would have a regional structure. Ten Regional Management Boards (coterminous with the nine English regions and Wales) would have responsibility for commissioning, offender management and employing the staff involved in offender management. Each Board would be chaired by a Regional Offender Managers (line managed by the National Offender Manager), and would have responsibility for (i) specifying, procuring and commissioning the delivery of interventions (including custody places, accredited programmes and other interventions) from a range of providers, (ii) undertaking risk assessments, (iii) working with the courts and (iv) managing the offender throughout his or her whole sentence. The Regional Offender Managers would have responsibility to establish firm links with other structures, including local authorities, community and neighbourhood networks.[82]

102. On 7 May 2004, Mr Narey sent a consultation letter to stakeholders focusing on the proposed new structure for NOMS. The responses to this consultation revealed widespread resentment at the speed of the changes and perceived inadequacies of the consultation process, uncertainty as to how the changes will affect the organisation of prison and probation staff, anxiety as to the possibility of redundancies, and concern over the failure hitherto to publish a detailed business case for the creation of NOMS.

103. The National Association of Probation Officers (Napo), the trade union and professional association for family court and probation staff, has argued to us that the case for NOMS as the most appropriate vehicle to achieve the Government's strategic objectives has still not been made out. Napo has criticised the Government for the speed with which the decision to introduce NOMS was taken, without prior consultation. Napo makes three main points:

    i.  Whilst the concept of offender management could improve liaison between the Prison and Probation Services, it does not of itself require the formation of NOMS.

    ii.  The need to 'get a grip' on sentencing policy is not a measure dependent on the introduction of NOMS.

    iii.  NOMS as proposed, based on the current models of 'contestability', could lead to increased competition between the Prison and Probation Services and the voluntary sector at a time when they should be seeking to work in partnership.[83]

104. Ms Christine Knott, formerly Chief Officer of Greater Manchester Probation, has been appointed as National Offender Manager. The first meeting of the National Offender Management Board took place on 24 May 2004 with members from across the Prison and Probation Services, trade unions, other government departments and non-executives. The Regional Offender Managers should all be in position by the end of 2004.

105. The initial plans for the 'regionalisation' of NOMS have suffered a setback. On 20 July 2004, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Correctional Services and Reducing Re-offending, Mr Paul Goggins MP, announced that the Government had decided to postpone its original proposal for the immediate establishment of NOMS' ten regional boards and the separation of Probation staff into 'offender management' and 'intervention'. The present structure based on 42 Probation Boards (coterminous with the 42 police forces) will be maintained for the present, with the disaggregation of 'offender management' work from 'interventions' work at an unspecified time in the future. Regional Offender Managers will for the present "drive" performance and the concept of offender management forward. They will also work with sentencers. Although they will technically hold the budgets for Probation Areas, this will mean relatively little until 2006-07 when it is intended that they will manage budgets for prisons as well as probation.

106. We welcome in principle the introduction of the National Offender Management Service, although we regret the lack of prior consultation and the failure to publish a comprehensive business case. These failures have undoubtedly created unnecessary difficulties in developing NOMS. We welcome recent signs that the Government has recognised these problems. A more collaborative approach with those working in the Prison and Probation Services will produce effective change more swiftly.

107. The Government's National Action Plan requires each region to have a Regional Rehabilitation Strategy (initially led by the Prison and Probation Services) in place by April 2005. Each Regional Rehabilitation Strategy must identify key stakeholders and lead partners for each area of work at the regional level, as well as mapping current provision.

108. We welcome the target set in the Government's National Action Plan requiring each region to develop and implement a Regional Rehabilitation Strategy. We endorse the objective of collaborative inter-agency partnerships at the national, regional and local levels.

Impact of current developments on the future prison population

109. An effective strategy for rehabilitation of prisoners must take account of the likely future size of the prison population. Pressure of numbers, and the consequent increase in transfers between prisons, makes it more difficult to provide prisoners with appropriate assistance with literacy, numeracy, and employment and other life skills. The recent developments outlined in previous pages—in particular the implementation of the Carter Report and sentencing reforms—will have an impact on the future size of the prison population.

110. In December 2002 the Home Office issued estimates for the prison population as it will be in June 2009. These ranged from 91,400 to 109,600.[84] The projections were based on a range of sentencing scenarios and assumptions about the impact of policy changes, including custody rate (the proportion of those found guilty by a court who receive a prison sentence), average sentence lengths and the number of cases passing through the courts.

111. The analysis in the Carter Report, published in December 2003, suggested that, current trends continued, by the end of the present decade there would be a prison population of some 93,000, with a further 300,000 people under community supervision.[85] The Government in their response to the Carter Report, published in January 2004, argued that the various proposed reforms would "check the projected increase in the numbers in custody (80,000 by 2009 rather than 93,000 as currently projected) and under supervision in the community (240,000 rather than 300,000)".[86]

112. We asked the Home Office to supply details of the assumptions on which these latest projections were based. In reply, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Prisons and Reducing Re-offending, Mr Paul Goggins MP, stated that the figure of 80,000 was arrived at by taking the previous projection of 93,000 as a starting point.[87] This figure was then modified according to the results of a model developed by the Carter review team "to facilitate the analysis of sentencing practice and to determine the volume and cost implications of changes to that practice". The Carter team had used the model "to work through several different scenarios based on different treatment of offenders depending on the seriousness of the offence and the approximate risk of re-offending". In arriving at its revised project of the future prison population, the Home Office used the "main Carter scenario", which envisaged six changes to present practice:

  • The use of pre-court diversions for minor offenders
  • Fines rebuilt as a credible punishment (reversing the decline in recent years in the use of fines)
  • More focused use of community sentences
  • Reservation of custody for the most serious offenders
  • Changes in custodial sentence lengths
  • Intensive bail packages to reduce remand.

113. This modelling revealed the following projected outcomes by 2009:

Measures which serve to increase the prison population:

  • more prisoners due to tougher fine enforcement
  • more due to additional community breaches

Measures which serve to decrease the prison population:

  • fewer due to fewer custodial sentences
  • fewer due to changes in sentence lengths
  • fewer due to new remand packages.

The overall effect was therefore a reduction of 8,645 places compared to the projected population. Further account was taken of "increased flows by 2009 [and] the impact of changes in sentencing behaviour over the period" to arrive at the projection of a prison population of 80,000 by 2009.

114. We asked the Home Office to supply details of the other scenarios which were produced by the Carter inquiry. In response, they told us that the main alternative scenario was a 'heavy custody' model, based on an assumption of increasing use of custody and less use of fines and probation. The outcome of this projection was an extra 8,000 prison places, 17,000 fewer fines, a reduction of 8,000 in the probation caseload and 3,000 fewer discharges. There was "no evidence of benefits to offset the extra cost of the prison places."[88]

115. The Home Office calculates that by 2009 the prison population will match the prison capacity expected to be available at that time, which is also planned to be about 80,000 (as against a present capacity of about 77,000). However, a revised projection of the future prison population is expected to be published in January 2005. [89]

116. The increase in capacity reflects investment in prison-building over the past ten years. Since 1995, over 15,200 additional prison places have been provided at a cost of more than £2 billion.[90] In 2002-03, the average annual cost per prisoner was £36,268.[91] The table below sets out the operating costs for public and private prisons for the period 2002-05.[92]

£m (planned)
Public prisons general operating costs[93]
Private prisons contracts
HQ and area offices[94]
Non drug treatment regimes (offender behaviour, industries etc)
Drug treatment regimes
Total Net Resource

117. The Prison Service reports that it is investing £1.3 billion in the three years up to 2005-06 on buildings and additional operating capacity, and aims to provide nearly 3,500 additional places in existing prisons by 2006. A further 1,290 places will be provided through the new prisons currently under construction at Ashford and Peterborough.[95]

118. We await the publication of the Home Office's revised projection of the future prison population. There are considerable grounds for scepticism about the accuracy of the present projection—of 80,000 by 2009—not least because it rests on very large assumptions about the net effect of sentencing changes arising from the Criminal Justice Act 2003, and because it produces a result in which, conveniently, population exactly matches capacity. Any prison population above 80,000—and certainly a prison population reaching up from 91,000 to 109,000 as previously projected by the Home Office—would continue to impose intolerable strains upon the prison regime and prospects for rehabilitation. In the absence of a fuller statement of its methodology than the Home Office has been able to supply us with, there must be a suspicion that the actual calculation may have been the other way round to what is claimed: i.e. that the Government started from a basis of the maximum prison population that the Treasury was willing to pay for, and then adopted sentencing assumptions which delivered that required total.

31   Committee of Public Accounts, Fifty-third Report of Session 2001-02, Reducing Prisoner Re-offending (HC 619), para 11 Back

32   Set up in 1997 as part of the Cabinet Office; now transferred to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM). Back

33   Social Exclusion Unit, Reducing re-offending by ex-prisoners (July 2002) Back

34   Of prisoners sentenced in 1997, 58% were reconvicted of another crime within two years, with the system struggling particularly to reform younger offenders: 18-20 year old male prisoners were reconvicted at a rate of 72% over the same period (Social Exclusion Unit, Reducing re-offending by ex-prisoners (July 2002), from the summary). Back

35   HC Deb, 19 July 2001, col 343W  Back

36   Social Exclusion Unit, Reducing re-offending by ex-prisoners (July 2002), p 9 Back

37   Ibid, p 10 Back

38   Ibid, pp 10-11 and 121 Back

39   The review was conducted under the auspices of the Prison Service Headquarters Review Programme. Back

40   Prison Industries: an internal review of the strategic oversight and management of public sector prison Industries in England and Wales, Report by the Prison Industries Review Team (July 2003) Back

41   Prison Industries Internal Review Report, p 63 (para 196) Back

42   Home Office Departmental Report April 2004 Back

43   Home Office, Consultation on Strategic Targets 2005-06 to 2007-08 (March 2004), consultation briefing note at p 8 Back

44   Home Affairs Committee, oral evidence taken on 20 July 2004 on Home Office Departmental Report: Work of the Department in 2003-04, Qq 93, 94 Back

45   Office for Criminal Justice Reform [on behalf of the Home Office, the Department for Constitutional Affairs and the Law Officers' Departments], Cutting Crime, Delivering Justice: A Strategic Plan for Criminal Justice 2004-08 (Cm 6288) (July 2004), p 15 Back

46   Home Office, Home Office Targets Autumn Performance Report 2004 (Cm 6423) (December 2004) Back

47   Ev 309 Back

48   Ev 287 ff Back

49   Ev 292 Back

50   Home Office, Making Punishments Work: Report of a Review of the Sentencing Framework for England and Wales (July 2001). The review was chaired by John Halliday, former Director of Criminal Justice Policy at the Home Office. Back

51   Explanatory Notes, para 6 Back

52   Criminal Justice Act 2003 [henceforward 'CJ Act 2003'], s177 Back

53   CJ Act 2003, s148(2) Back

54   CJ Act 2003, s161(1)  Back

55   CJ Act 2003, s148(1) Back

56   CJ Act 2003, s152(2)  Back

57   CJ Act 2003, s146. Some commentators have seen this as likely to result in an increase in numbers of offenders in custody: "experience shows that the magistrates' courts often tend to use their sentencing power to the maximum"(Liberty's submission to the Committee's inquiry into the Criminal Justice Bill: Home Affairs Committee, Second Report of Session 2002-03 (HC 83), Ev 77). Back

58   Or a conviction for such an offence within 3 years of the date of sentence for the current offence. In August 2002, those with previous convictions for possession of drugs were no longer excluded from the presumptive scheme. Back

59   Subject to at least a quarter of the sentence being served in custody. Back

60   Electronic monitoring of released prisoners: an evaluation of the Home Detention Curfew Scheme, Home Office Research Study 222 (March 2001) Back

61   In order to allow for meaningful comparison between the two groups, these figures relate to offences committed after the 'normal discharge date' (i.e. the date on which the prisoners would have been discharged had they been refused home detention curfew) and exclude offences committed during the curfew period itself. Back

62   CJ Act 2003, ss 170(1), 169. The Lord Chief Justice is Chairman of the Council which comprises seven judicial members and four non-judicial member (s 167). Back

63   CJ Act 2003, ss 171-71 Back

64   Home Affairs Committee, Fifth Report of Session 2003-04, Draft Sentencing Guidelines 1 and 2 (HC 1207), published on 4 November 2004 Back

65   Patrick Carter, Managing Offenders, Reducing Crime: A New Approach (December 2003) [henceforward cited as 'Carter Report'], p 13 Back

66   See previous footnote. Back

67   Carter Report, p 10. In 1991, 15% of those found guilty of an indictable offence received a custodial sentence. By 1996, this had increased to 22% and by 2001, it was 25%. There has been a similar increase in community sentencing, with 22% of convictions for indictable offences resulting in a community sentence in 1991 rising to 32% in 2001. (See Home Office, Criminal Statistics England and Wales 2001, Tables 7.13 and 7.2.) Back

68   Carter Report, p 15. In 2001, 3,387 murderers and 2,754 rapists were held in prison; and of the 100,000 persistent offenders who commit 50% of all crime, around 15,000 are held in prison at any one time. Back

69   Carter Report, pp 17 and 18 Back

70   Carter Report, p 16 Back

71   Carter Report, p 19 Back

72   Carter Report, p 23 Back

73   Community Punishment would involve the local community but be more visible than current community sentences; Community Rehabilitation would tackle offenders' risk-assessed needs including education, drugs, thinking and behaviour; and Intensive Supervision and Monitoring would be for persistent offenders, requiring a minimum number of hours of supervision a week, including attendance at programmes as well as surveillance through tagging.  Back

74   Carter Report, p 31 Back

75   Carter Report, p 33 Back

76   Home Office, Reducing Crime-Changing Lives: The Government's plans for transforming the management of offenders (January 2004) Back

77   Home Office, Reducing Re-offending National Action Plan (July 2004) [henceforward 'National Action Plan'] Back

78   Ibid, Introduction by Paul Goggins MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office Back

79   Ibid. Back

80   Departments represented included those responsible for health, education and training, employment and housing.  Back

81   Martin Narey, "My emerging vision for NOMS", published in Metamorphosis, Issue 5, 10 May 2004 Back

82   A separate administrative Commissioning Advisory Board, with members drawn from main stakeholders, such as Government Office, Court Service, Public Health, Job Centre Plus, Crime Reduction Director, Local Authorities, Police, Private, Voluntary and Community Sectors and victims, will provide a forum for discussion of commissioning issues. Back

83   Ev 277 Back

84   Home Office, Projections of Long Term Trends in the Prison Population to 2009, December 2002  Back

85   Carter Report, p 39 Back

86   Reducing Crime-Changing Lives: The Government's plans for transforming the management of offenders (January 2004), p 15 (para 47) Back

87   Letter from Mr Goggins dated 13 October 2004 (Ev 298) Back

88   Ev 303 Back

89   Ibid. Back

90   HC Deb, 25 June 2003, col 876W Back

91   Solomon, E, A Measure of Success: An analysis of the Prison Service's performance against its Key Performance Indicators (Prison Reform Trust, 2003) Back

92   Home Office response to the Committee's questionnaire on the HO Departmental Report (June 2004) (to be printed); see also Departmental Report, table 2 Back

93   Includes depreciation and cost of capital. Excludes drugs and non-drugs regimes. Back

94   Many Area Offices provide services in support of regimes to prisons in their geographic regions. Back

95   Ev 150 (para 5.1.3) Back

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