5 INITIAL ASSESSMENT
126. The first step in any rehabilitation regime
is assessment of the individual prisoner. The investigation of
the prisoner's background and needs is necessary to devise an
individually tailored sentence plan which identifies at the beginning
of the sentence a number of specific interventions to address
the prisoner's offending behaviour and assist with his or her
return to society.
127. Some years ago the Chief Inspector of Prisons,
Sir David Ramsbotham, drew an analogy between the need to assess
patients when they arrive at a hospital and an equivalent need
to assess prisoners on arrival at prison:
"In the same way that hospitals represent
the acute part of the NHS, where what is done for an individual
is a multidisciplinary operation based on careful needs assessment,
so do prisons represent the acute part of the CJS. Both needs
assessment and operation must be based on all available information
about what has happened to the individual before admission, and
the details of treatment, the response to treatment, and information
about future needs, must be passed on to those responsible for
aftercare in the community."
128. The Prison and Probation Services have jointly
developed a new Offenders Assessment System, known as "OASys".
This is designed to identify offending-related needs, such as
lack of accommodation, poor educational and employment skills,
substance misuse and attitudinal difficulties for offenders over
18 years of age. It also assesses the risk of harm offenders pose
to themselves and others.
The objective is two-fold: (i) to devise individual sentence plans
from these assessments which manage and reduce the risks and needs
identified and target the appropriate types of intervention for
each offender and (ii) to enable probation officers who will have
access to an offender's OASys assessment and sentence plan prior
to his release on licence, to make advance arrangements in relation
to matters such as accommodation or post-release drug treatmentor
public protection in cases where the prisoner presents a significant
risk of harm.
OASys will not, however, cover all prisonersin particular,
prisoners serving terms of less than 12 months, and remand prisoners,
will be excluded from the system.
129. OASys is still in process of being introduced.
The Prison Service and the Probation Service have adopted different
approaches to its introduction. In 2001 the Probation Service
decided to move to early implementation of OASys as a paper-based
system, but the Prison Service decided not to implement it until
an electronic system (OASys IT) was available.
Subsequent delay in the introduction of OASys were attributed
to "project management issues".
The Probation Service is now replacing the paper-based system
with the electronic system. All 42 probation areas were using
OASys IT by June 2004, though usage in several areas was described
as "still low". The Prison Service's version of OASys
IT was piloted at HMP Preston and has now been introduced in all
Prison Service areas with 124 establishments using the system.
Full implementation of OASys IT for both services was scheduled
for late 2004 but has been delayed till autumn 2005.
130. A focus on thorough initial assessment of risks
and needs reflects international good practice. In Sweden, for
instance, one of the most important elements of the reception
of a prisoner into the prison institution is the preparation of
an individual treatment plan. In order to ensure effective implementation
of the treatment plan, a Treatment Board geared towards preparing
and executing the treatment plan is established within each prison
131. The Prison Service Director of Resettlement,
Mr Peter Wrench, acknowledged to us that at present there is inadequate
assessment of prisoners with a view to identifying how best to
assist in the task of rehabilitation:
"what we are not yet good enough at is analysing
the characteristics of our population and deciding what interventions
they need in what order at what time to give them the best possible
He added that "OASys and other [new] approaches
to sentence management
will help us to do that better".
132. Accurate individual assessment of prisoners
on admission to prison is vital as a means of identifying factors
underlying criminal behaviour and individual problems, such as
illiteracy or drug dependence. We note the admission by the Prison
Service's Director of Resettlement that hitherto the Service has
failed to take this essential first step in the rehabilitation
process. We agree with Sir David Ramsbotham that a full assessment
of needs and risk is as essential for a prisoner entering prison
as for a patient entering hospital.
133. This assessment should inform sentence planning
for each stage of the custodial process. It should assist in determining
the selection of proportionate and appropriate targeted interventions
to address criminogenic factors plus the prisoner's personal deficiencies.
Resettlement objectives should be incorporated within needs assessment
and sentence planning at the outset. The Prison Service should
move away from viewing prisoners as passive objects to be managed
and seek actively to engage prisoners, requiring them to take
responsibility for themselves and their behaviour, and to play
an active role in their own rehabilitation, from sentence planning
through to resettlement.
134. Both needs assessment and the resulting rehabilitative
regime must be based on all available relevant information about
what has happened to the individual before admission. The details
of required treatment, response to treatment, and information
regarding future needs, must be passed on to those responsible
for offender management both in prison and in the community.
135. We welcome the development of OASys and recognise
its importance in offender management. The OASys model has the
potential to become a building block in multi-agency information
exchange, linking the various elements of the criminal justice
system, including social support services and voluntary agencies,
in order to achieve closer co-operation in meeting the needs of
prisoners in custody as well as those serving community penalties.
136. We are concerned at the slippage in the OASys
implementation timetable and emphasise the importance of implementing
OASys across both the Prison and Probation Services as a matter
of urgency. In particular, attention must be focused on ensuring
that both Prison and Probation Services are running IT versions
of OASys which are mutually compatible and freely able to exchange
137. We recommend that the OASys assessment tool
should be extended as soon as possible to apply to remand and