Select Committee on Home Affairs First Report


1.  The rise in the number of prisoners and the high level of social exclusion amongst offenders both raise serious questions about sentencing policy and the effectiveness of current measures to tackle social exclusion. Our inquiry did not examine these issues in depth. We acknowledge their importance. However, we reject any suggestions that the existence of these broader issues obviate the need to examine critically the treatment of prisoners in custody and the nature and scope of the prison rehabilitation regime. Changes in sentencing patterns and levels of social exclusion will take place only in the long term. Until then, the prison system will continue to have a significant impact on the lives of prisoners and wider society. (Paragraph 23)

2.  From our own investigations over the course of the inquiry and the oral and written evidence presented to us, it is clear that overcrowding is having a hugely damaging impact on the delivery of rehabilitative regimes across the prison estate, both in terms of quality and quantity of appropriate interventions. The challenge of delivering effective prison rehabilitation regimes is bound to be greater in overcrowded prisons. Nonetheless, models of good practice do exist and we discuss these later in this report. Regrettably, overcrowding is likely to remain a feature of our prison system for the foreseeable future. It should not be used to excuse failures to replicate and translate these models of good practice on a wider scale and to address areas of weakness. (Paragraph 27)

3.  The Prison Service has repeatedly failed to meet its target of providing an average of 24 hours' worth of purposeful activity for each prisoner per week. The situation may be even more serious than the official figures suggest. Data from our Prison Diaries Project, based on direct contacts with prisoners, indicates that disturbingly high proportions of prisoners are engaged in little or no purposeful activity. Very few prisons provide for adequate amounts of purposeful activity across all, or even most, or the main categories of such activity. The reasons for this include overcrowding and disruptions to educational, vocational and treatment programmes caused by prisoner transfers, reduced prison staffing levels and generally poor administration. The consequences for prisoners are too many hours 'banged up' up their cells, with an adverse impact on their mental and physical health, and missed opportunities for rehabilitation. (Paragraph 37)

4.  It is regrettable that the purposeful activity Key Performance Indicator has been abandoned. Although the Home Office claims that this reflects a change in focus from "hours of activity" to "measures that reflect positive outcomes", it is difficult to avoid the suspicion that the KPI has been dropped to avoid embarrassment arising from the Prison Service's continuing failure to meet the target. We welcome the introduction of performance measures and targets relating to particular qualifications obtained and programmes attended. However, we believe that a target relating to overall hours spent in purposeful activity is useful as a means of monitoring the level of such activity and a stimulus to providing it. We recommend that the KPI should be reinstated. (Paragraph 38)

5.  We are critical of the management of transfers of prisoners across the prison estate which appears to be more ad hoc and pragmatic than strategic in design. The very high levels of transfers have a direct and significant negative impact on rehabilitation measures, both through disruption caused to intervention programmes and failure to provide prisoners with the particular interventions they need, as identified through assessment and sentence planning. (Paragraph 41)

6.  The Committee was impressed with the manner in which transfers are handled in Germany, which is based on a federal system. On conviction, offenders are transferred back to prison in their home region (Land). This has the four-fold benefit of (i) reducing transfers during sentence, (ii) increasing stability in sentence planning, (iii) allowing prisoners to maintain links with family and local community, and (iv) assisting prisoners' resettlement on release. We recommend that the National Offender Management Service turn its attention to reducing transfer rates as part of its regionalisation policy. (Paragraph 42)

7.  We conclude that reconviction rates should remain the central focus against which re-offending is measured. However, the two-year post-release snapshot is a blunt measuring tool. Currently no differentiation is made between different types of offenders. As such, the current measure is too basic to provide an accurate assessment of the effective prison rehabilitation regime. We suggest the adoption of a more sophisticated measure which includes criteria based on an offender's sentence length and offence type. (Paragraph 46)

8.  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. (Paragraph 67)

9.  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. (Paragraph 68)

10.  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. (Paragraph 75)

11.  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. (Paragraph 76)

12.  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. (Paragraph 77)

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

14.  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. (Paragraph 81)

15.  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. (Paragraph 85)

16.  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. (Paragraph 97)

17.  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. (Paragraph 98)

18.  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. (Paragraph 106)

19.  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. (Paragraph 108)

20.  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. (Paragraph 118)

21.  As a consequence of the recent reports and government initiatives, the basic framework is now largely in place to make possible the more effective rehabilitation of offenders. Nonetheless, the evidence we have taken in our inquiry reveals that much remains to be done: there is concern about how some of the recent initiatives (such as the introduction of NOMS) are being implemented; and despite the welcome recent decrease in re-offending rates, the scale of the problem is massive—it remains the case that nearly three in five prisoners are reconvicted within two years of leaving prison. As we have seen, the Government's optimistic assessment that by 2009 the prison population will neatly match prison capacity rests on some questionable assumptions. It is not clear that the combined effect of sentencing reforms and the prison-building programme will be to relieve overcrowding, as the Government projections assume. Meanwhile the current high level of the prison population creates a constant 'churn' of prisoners through the system, and high levels of transfers between prisons, which makes it much more difficult to provide effective rehabilitative interventions. In this as in other respects, overcrowding is having a significant impact on the management of prisons. (Paragraph 123)

22.  The Social Exclusion Unit report in 2002 pointed out that the best way of reducing re-offending is to ensure that prisoners on their release have the ability to get into work and a home to go to. In the remainder of this report, we investigate the current levels of provision of training, education and employment opportunities within prison, and of resettlement arrangements after release. (Paragraph 124)

23.  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. (Paragraph 132)

24.  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. (Paragraph 133)

25.  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. (Paragraph 134)

26.  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. (Paragraph 135)

27.  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 information electronically. (Paragraph 136)

28.  We recommend that the OASys assessment tool should be extended as soon as possible to apply to remand and short-term prisoners. (Paragraph 137)

29.  We endorse the conclusion of the Prison Industries Review that:"Industrial workshops are one of the best means, within prison walls, to reflect real working life. A proportion of the prison population will never have been exposed to real work before, and this may be their first opportunity to gain some transferable employment skills. In order to advance the resettlement agenda prison work needs to be targeted at those who are least likely to want to work. These individuals should be allocated for work, particularly on work initially that requires little training. They should not be ignored if they are difficult, or lack motivation. They should be the target audience of industries, and will benefit most from prison work. They have the potential for most return in terms of reduced re-offending on release." (Paragraph 147)

30.  We agree with the Prison Industries Review that it is "indefensible" that the Prison Service cannot find enough work or purposeful activity for prisoners. There continues to be an unacceptable disparity in the provision of work opportunities for prisoners across the prison estate. Whilst a maximum of just over 30% of prisoners may be involved in some form of prison work activity, only a third of those have placed in prison workshops, the type of work activity which most closely reflects "real working life". This suggests that involving prisoners in work schemes remains a low priority in the Government's current rehabilitation agenda. (Paragraph 153)

31.  Whilst the Home Office claim that the key recommendations of the Prison Industries Review are being implemented, it is clear that prison industries remain peripheral to the Prison Service's strategy for rehabilitation. Prison industries continue to be run in isolation from other activities rather than as a complement to other rehabilitation measures. There has been no substantial increase in the number of hours workshops operate. Hardly anywhere in the prison estate does the work regime yet reflect the structured working week found in outside work. Of particular concern is the failure of the Government to include outstanding recommendations from the Prison Industries Review within Pathway 2 (Education, Training and Employment) of its Reducing Re-offending National Action Plan published in July 2004. We take the omission of these recommendations as a sign that the Government has no intention of implementing them. This would be a great mistake. We recommend that this omission from the Plan be remedied as a matter of urgency. (Paragraph 154)

32.  It should also be a priority of the Prison Service to established a policy team to develop a long-term prison work strategy, and foster links with internal Prison Service departments, government departments, employers and local authorities. (Paragraph 155)

33.  The model of HMP Coldingley demonstrates that through a coherent, focused prison work strategy, prisoners can obtain transferable skills and qualifications at the same time as gaining experience of a real working environment and routine. We recommend that the Prison Service develop a prison industrial strategy to ensure that—in the words of the President of the Prison Governors' Association—"prison after prison does the same thing and does it in a very businesslike way to very high standards and very competitively". (Paragraph 160)

34.  In one respect only we consider that the Coldingley regime is open to criticism: that it does not allow prisoners to work part-time in order to accommodate other rehabilitative activities such as education, as recommended by the Prison Industries Review. We recommend that in this respect the regime should be modified. (Paragraph 161)

35.  We recommend that the Prison Industries Review recommendation to extend prisoners' working hours should be adopted across the prison estate as a matter of prison policy. A key performance indicator target should be set requiring individual prison establishments to provide a full working day for prisoners. We consider that the prison regime should be restructured to support prisoners working a conventional 9am to 5pm working day (in education, vocational training or work programmes, or a mixture of these), fostering the work ethic and giving prisoners responsibility for their future post-release by encouraging them to obtain recognised qualifications and marketable skills through on the job training. (Paragraph 162)

36.  We believe that the Prison Service should make the development of structured work a central part of the national prisons strategy. Every effort should be made to use the Coldingley system as a model for other establishments, adapted as necessary to extend it to those who have little previous experience of work or who are reluctant to take on prison work. (Paragraph 163)

37.  A coherent constructive prison work strategy will not be developed while the responsibility rests on ad hoc initiatives by individual prison governors. (Paragraph 164)

38.  We note that prisoners do external work under day release schemes from open prisons on a much greater scale in Germany than in the UK. We recommend that the Prison Service should expand its current system of day release along the lines of the Tegel model set out above, to allow a wider number of prisoners to take part in work and educational programmes in the community as part of their preparation for release. Home leave can provide prisoners with the only chance of sustaining the family unit, and is particularly pertinent to women prisoners, the majority of whom are desperately trying to maintain relationships with children. Save in the most serious cases, there should be a presumption that home leave is available for women prisoners. Day release and home leave plans should become an integral part of the Prison Service's broader resettlement strategy. (Paragraph 170)

39.  We support a major extension of the Transco approach. We recognise that it directly meets the employment needs of a private sector company. The programmes are driven by those needs, rather than by charitable or educational aims. However, in identifying and meeting those needs, the Transco work scheme offers a higher quality of education, training and motivation than the vast majority of prison-based education or training. (Paragraph 177)

40.  We note that the Transco work scheme demonstrates that some of the labour shortages in the economy that are currently met through managed migration could be met by enhancing the employment potential of the prison population (Paragraph 178)

41.  We endorse efforts to develop the Transco work scheme across other industries and sectors. However, whilst the Prison Service offers support to the programme, we do not believe that there is yet a central drive from within the Prison Service to maximise its potential. The Prison Service now needs to give priority to supporting this type of initiative. The development of training programmes leading to guaranteed employment requires stability in the prison population and longer-term commitments to individual prisoners. We are not convinced that the Prison Service is yet committed to providing such opportunities. (Paragraph 179)

42.  We believe that a radical reprioritisation of work within the prison rehabilitation agenda is necessary. Partnerships between the prison sector, companies and their supply chains should be established as a matter of priority to identify and provide sustainable employment opportunities for offenders on successful completion of relevant training courses. Basic labour shortages and skills gaps in the external labour market should be identified and matched to vocational training and work programmes in prison. There should be much greater use of day release schemes on the German model to enable prisoners to experience work in the community prior to their release, and demonstrate their abilities and trustworthiness to employers. (Paragraph 180)

43.  We recommend that a business case should be formulated for the creation of a specialist not-for-profit agency outside the Prison Service, staffed by personnel with the necessary financial and commercial expertise and experience, to co-ordinate investment, marketing and supply for prison industries. (Paragraph 181)

44.  We recommend that the emphasis on prison work should be on employing the largest number of prisoners in some form of productive work scheme for the standard number of hours of the working week, rather than design a system facilitating full-time work for a very small number of highly trained prisoners. (Paragraph 182)

45.  Building on the recommendations of the Internal Review Report, we suggest that the Prison Service consider developing a more structured sequence of work opportunities for prisoners. Contract workshops offering basic, low-level work can still have value where linked in an integrated manner with the teaching of basic skills, such as numeracy or accounting skills. Workshops should provide prisoners with experience of the real working day which will be a new experience for many of them. As they proceed through their sentence, and on condition of successfully completing requisite elements of their sentence plan (e.g. education courses, offending behaviour programmes and drug treatment programmes), prisoners should have the opportunity to apply for higher skilled work, ultimately moving towards training and working in a prison workshop or on day release in education and training programmes. As the sentence progressed, the emphasis should increasingly be on getting prisoners into work outside. The advantage of this more structured sequence of prison work is that it would give prisoners clear staging posts. It would also provide prisoners with an incentive for completing the other rehabilitative elements of their sentence plan, not least basic education and treatment programmes. (Paragraph 183)

46.  We believe that extra investment in prison work, training and education is much more likely to be forthcoming if a strong business case can be made in terms of benefits for the UK economy as a whole. We recommend that HM Treasury, in conjunction with the Home Office, should carry out an assessment of the potential of ex-offenders to meet UK skill needs. (Paragraph 186)

47.  We urge the Prison Service to monitor closely the development of the Howard League's pilot project at HMP The Mount. (Paragraph 190)

48.  We recognise that the argument for paying prisoners a more representative wage is not to make them better off while they are in prison, but to give them experience of paying tax, national insurance and living costs, and facing up to the same responsibilities as other citizens. We recognise the complexity of developing such a policy, not least in terms of public perception, the costs of administration of such a system and the setting of deductions. We recommend that the Prison Service run a small number of pilot schemes to assess the impact of paying market rates with appropriate deductions to cover the cost of accommodation, food, child support and—as a requirement—reparation for victims. This might help overcome objections that prison work undercuts local companies. (Paragraph 192)

49.  The provision of basic education to address the very high levels of illiteracy and innumeracy amongst prisoners has hitherto been a successful intervention strategy by the Prison Service. Impressive targets have been met, as the statistics demonstrate. We commend the Prison Service's efforts to date. (Paragraph 210)

50.  We recognise, however, the challenges that remain. The evidence suggests that implementation remains incomplete. The number of basic skills awards gained in 2003-04 was over 46,000. This is a fine achievement, but needs to be placed in the context of the 130,000 prisoners estimated to pass through the prison system in a year. We note the other deficiencies to which the Adult Learning Inspectorate has drawn attention, which reflect our own observations. (Paragraph 211)

51.  There is a disturbing degree of variation between individual prisons in the extent of prisoners' access to education and the provision of educational programmes. Such variation reflects disparate investment in education by individual prisons and demonstrates the lack of a unified education policy across the prison estate. We recommend that minimum standards be imposed by the DfES by way of key performance indicator targets which every prison must meet. (Paragraph 212)

52.  In the medium to long term, we consider that an overly narrow emphasis on basic education should not be encouraged. We welcome the appointment of Heads of Learning and Skills in each prison to take forward a broader education strategy. In particular, we consider there to be a strong case for widening the methods of delivering education. Transplanting the formal educational classroom model into the prison rehabilitation regime is not necessarily the best method of encouraging prisoners to learn. (Paragraph 213)

53.  We recommend that consultative forums be established in each prison to allow prisoners the opportunity to contribute to decisions regarding delivery and content of educational programmes. (Paragraph 214)

54.  Consideration should be given to the feasibility and desirability of raising the payments given to prisoners attending education and training courses, with a view to ensuring that there is no significant disincentive to prisoners to attend such courses. (Paragraph 215)

55.  We note the damage done to prisoners' education by the 'churn' of prisoners through an overcrowded system. We support the proposal by the Prison Reform Trust that every prisoner should have a personal record of achievement which they will take with them when transferred to a new prison. Communication between prisons, and co-ordination of educational provision within the prison system, should be improved to minimise the disruption caused to prison education by transfers. (Paragraph 216)

56.  We recommend that the Prison Service consider encouraging more extensive use of the 'Toe-by-Toe' system of teaching basic reading and writing skills. (Paragraph 217)

57.  We welcome plans to integrate accredited training into prison workshops. Nonetheless, the Prison Service deserves criticism for having failed hitherto to remedy the core defects that it has itself identified in its vocational training programme. Vocational training workshops enable a more innovative and integrated approach to education and work, setting training alongside work opportunities for those prisoners who reject the formal classroom model of education. We were impressed by the well-equipped motor mechanics training centre at HMYOI Aylesbury, jointly run by the prison and Toyota; but we note also the massive gap between this and the standard provision that is available in YOIs and in the prison estate as a whole. During our prison visits, many prisoners told us that they attended particular classes because they were the only ones available, not because they thought they would help them get jobs. (Paragraph 223)

58.  We consider that the management of vocational training by DfES provides the potential for a more holistic approach to the delivery of education and skills. (Paragraph 224)

59.  We welcome the investment in upgrading vocational training workshops and recommend that this should be sustained to re-equip and modernise all workshop equipment. It is vitally important that all vocational training workshops should be designed to meet the relevant industry standard and provide recognised qualifications or awards. (Paragraph 225)

60.  Without this investment, prisoners will be trained on machines which are out-of-date in practices which are no longer relevant in the modern workplace. Prisons with appropriate, well-resourced workshops, in favourable locations and with medium- to long-term prisoners are likely to be better able to attract work contracts, provide a fuller working day and pay enhanced or 'real' wages. (Paragraph 226)

61.  We share the Government's disappointment at the results of the most recent research into the impact of offending behaviour programmes. We consider that the great expansion in offending behaviour programmes since they were introduced in the early 1990s, and the alteration in focus of whom they were delivered to, have compromised programme delivery. (Paragraph 233)

62.  In our view, the results of the Home Office research argue in favour of reducing the priority given to offending behaviour programmes. They should continue to be offered as part of the range of interventions for prisoners but fitted into a much wider rehabilitation agenda. We welcome the Government's plans to develop strategies to evaluate the effectiveness of current programmes through reviews of (i) the targeting of programmes and (ii) the approach to auditing the quality of delivery. We recommend that a much more sophisticated selection process be introduced to ensure that appropriate prisoners attend each of the particular courses, and that providers of programmes be carefully scrutinised on an ongoing basis to ensure satisfactory and consistent high standards of delivery of the programmes across the prison estate. (Paragraph 234)

63.  We consider that the current Prison Service Key Performance Indicator for offending behaviour programmes is misplaced, because it measures their success by the number of courses run, rather than by outcomes. We recommend that the Prison Service put in place ongoing monitoring programmes evaluating outcomes in terms of completion rates and impact on reconviction rates on an annual basis. (Paragraph 235)

64.  We endorse the view of the Prison Service that HMP Grendon is "a model of good prison practice and a leader in the treatment of severe personality-disordered offenders". Although by its nature this model of treatment will only be suitable for a minority of offenders, we consider it important that the work done at Grendon should continue. We recommend that the Government should commit itself to maintain and if possible increase the present level of resourcing of Grendon and other therapeutic units. We agree with the Minister that prisoners should only be sent to Grendon if they are willing to benefit from that regime and have been assessed as suitable for allocation there. (Paragraph 240)

65.  We consider that the expanding use of remand is cause for concern. The growing numbers of remand prisoners are impacting significantly on the already overcrowded prison estate. The fact that over 50% of all remand prisoners are not subsequently given a custodial sentence points to an urgent need for reform to reduce the numbers of remand prisoners. It is unfortunate that the Government's National Action Plan contains no reference to remand prisoners. We recommend that the Government should commission a comprehensive review of the role of remand in the criminal justice system as a matter of priority, particularly in light of the weakening of the presumption in favour of bail introduced by the Criminal Justice Act 2003. (Paragraph 247)

66.  Whilst respecting remand prisoners' status as (in most cases) unconvicted prisoners, we believe that measures should be put in place to ensure the time remand prisoners spend in custody is used constructively. (Paragraph 252)

67.  We recommend that remand prisoners should undergo a needs assessment on reception to prison, including mandatory drug testing, and that the Prison Service should develop a separate prison regime tailored to meet their specific needs. This regime should include a short induction programme, education and work opportunities and drug and alcohol treatment programmes, with arrangements in place for continuation of treatment and programmes in the community. Participation in these programmes would of course be on a voluntary basis. Short, intensive basic literacy and numeracy programmes should also be made available to those remand prisoners who need them. We recommend that Jobcentre Plus surgeries in prisons should assist remand prisoners with benefits and employment issues arising as a result of their imprisonment, and that prison housing advice and support services should try where possible to preserve the accommodation to which the prisoner will be returning. (Paragraph 253)

68.  A radical rethink about the treatment of short-term prisoners is urgently required. The complacent thinking that nothing effective can be done to rehabilitate short-term prisoners has crippled the response to regime provision for short-term prisoners. Inaction towards and neglect of this majority group of prisoners can no longer be justified. (Paragraph 260)

69.  We welcome the Government's attempts, through the introduction of the new sentencing framework in the Criminal Justice Act 2003, to rebalance the criminal justice system and enhance the use of robust community penalties such as Custody Plus as a effective alternative to imprisonment. We hope these measures will have a significant impact on reducing the number of prisoners who serve a short prison term with no supervision post-release. (Paragraph 261)

70.  However, we are critical of the failure to include in the Government's National Action Plan strategies for the short to medium term to improve the prison rehabilitation regime for short-term prisoners. We recommend that this omission be remedied as a matter of priority. (Paragraph 262)

71.  In addition, it is not yet clear how many prisoners even after the introduction of Custody Plus will continue to serve relatively short-term sentences. We recommend that the Home Office should publish their estimates of how many prisoners will, after the introduction of the new sentencing framework, serve custodial sentences of between six months and two years. The introduction of the new community penalties will not eliminate the need for a fundamental overhaul of the Prison Service's attitude to short-term prisoners, which is currently dominated by the view that nothing constructive can be done. (Paragraph 263)

72.  We recommend that the Prison Service should introduce a properly structured approach to the treatment of short-term offenders. This should comprise effective assessment (possibly using a variant of OASys, which does not at present extend to short-term prisoners), provision of work and training, and assistance with resettlement. (Paragraph 265)

73.  We recommend that special intensive courses in basic education and drug treatment be designed which can be completed by short-term prisoners whilst in custody. Building on these, short-term prisoners should have the opportunity to commence longer-term education, vocational and treatment programmes in prison which are directly linked with programmes available in the local community. This will allow them to continue the programmes after release. (Paragraph 266)

74.  We commend the key elements of the Kent and Medway Short Term Prison Project, in particular its use of continuing targeted intervention and police and volunteer supervision. We recommend that this be developed nationally and taken forward by NOMS. (Paragraph 267)

75.  We recommend that every prisoner should receive health care screening, including mandatory drug testing, on admission to prison, as part of their needs assessment. Whilst we are aware of the arguments against such a potentially invasive mandatory drug testing requirement, we consider such a step justified in light of the current statistical evidence of the high levels of drug misuse by very many entering the prison system. It does not seem to us unreasonable that there should be a power to drug-test those who have been convicted and sentenced equivalent to the existing power to drug-test those who are arrested. We recommend that this provision should be introduced by way of Government amendment to the Drugs Bill expected to be introduced in the present Session of Parliament. (Paragraph 271)

76.  Mandatory drug testing on admission will benefit prisoners by facilitating more accurate assessments of the types of treatment required, thereby ensuring the most appropriate package of rehabilitative interventions for individual prisoners. In addition, mandatory testing will generate data which can be used to inform the development of a more targeted prison drug treatment strategy, and which will allow comparisons to be made with the results of compulsory drug testing on arrest. (Paragraph 272)

77.  We encourage the Prison Service to continue to focus on reducing the numbers of drugs available in prison through strict security measures and continued use of random drug testing. (Paragraph 273)

78.  In our view, the management of the delivery of drug treatment programmes constitutes a key element in the prison rehabilitation regime. We are critical of the limited number of places on prison drug treatment programmes and the restrictions on accessing those programmes. The provision of drug treatment services to only 10% of prisoners misusing drugs is inadequate when an estimated 80% of prisoners arriving in prison have serious drug or alcohol problems. (Paragraph 277)

79.  We recommend that the number of places available on intensive drug treatment programmes be substantially increased, and that resources invested in community drug treatment services should be made available to the prison population, with prisons being directly linked with local community drug treatment providers. (Paragraph 278)

80.  In addition, we recommend that short, intensive, drug treatment programmes be made available to short-term prisoners, who are currently excluded from any form of intensive drug treatment programmes. We welcome the Government's commitment to developing a short duration drug treatment programme for short-term prisoners as an action point in its National Action Plan. (Paragraph 279)

81.  We recommend that the Government should make a public commitment to ensuring that the guaranteed quality of access to drug treatment for prisoners will never be less than that offered to offenders in the community. (Paragraph 280)

82.  We recognise the significant investment that the Government is making in drug treatment services. However, care must be taken not to focus on the availability of treatment to those entering the Criminal Justice System at the expense of those with drug problems already in the prison system. As a first step, targets for access to services for new offenders and for existing prisoners should be aligned. The longer-term objective should be to move towards continuity of care for released prisoners, which is critical to avoid wasted investment. (Paragraph 285)

83.  We recommend that the Government work in partnership with community providers to put in place a tracking system to monitor prisoners' access to community drug treatment and report to Parliament on the progress made in levelling out access to and provision of drug treatment as part of its Reducing Re-offending National Action Plan. (Paragraph 286)

84.  The Committee is critical of the failure to date to develop any overall strategy for dealing with prisoner alcohol misuse or addiction as an important element in its prison rehabilitation strategy, particularly in light of the alarming upward trend in alcohol-related crime. We welcome the Government's commitment in its National Action Plan to introduce alcohol strategies for approval by March 2005. These strategies will comprise the twin elements of treatment interventions and alcohol testing. We urge the Government not to let the timetable on the introduction of these strategies slip. There needs to be rapid progress in setting up mechanisms to implement the national strategies at the regional and local level. (Paragraph 287)

85.  Whilst the Government has said that it wishes to constrain the overall growth in prisoner numbers, the sharp rise in women prisoners would appear to deserve particular attention. The vast majority of these women are in prison for non-violent offences and have never been a danger to the public. We recommend that the Government consider setting targets for reducing the numbers of women offenders sentenced to prison and monitor the use of the community sentences available under the Criminal Justice Act 2003 and their impact on reducing the female prison population. (Paragraph 298)

86.  We welcome the Government's publication of a programme specifically focused on reducing female offending, but we note with disappointment that this is couched in very general terms. A clearer and more detailed statement of planned actions and expected benefits is needed. We recommend that the Government develops a more focused prison rehabilitation strategy for women prisoners which can be incorporated into the National Action Plan. (Paragraph 302)

87.  We are concerned about the lines of accountability and operational responsibility for women prisoners as a minority group, following the abolition of the separate women's estate in April 2004. In the absence of a senior operational manager with specific responsibility for that estate, we recommend the appointment of accountable officers with responsibility for women prisoners at each establishment where women are held. The responsibilities of the accountable officer should include monitoring the development of a women-oriented prison rehabilitation regime. (Paragraph 303)

88.  In our view, women prisoners, like men prisoners, should be held in prisons according to the security category that is appropriate to the risks they pose. As we have already noted, women prisoners in general pose much less of a security risk to society than men prisoners. Current sentencing policy and the number of open places available for women prisoners means that the security conditions under which they are held are not necessarily correlated with actual risk. We recommend that the Government take action to remedy this mismatch as a matter of urgency. In particular, we recommend that the number of places for women in open prisons be substantially increased. (Paragraph 305)

89.  The relatively small number of women's prisons in relation to the size of the present female prison population means that women prisoners are scattered about the country to a greater degree than men prisoners, a long way from home and family and unable to benefit from resettlement strategies. The only way to address this is either to invest substantially in the women's prison estate, or to invest in reducing prisoner numbers—and the latter is likely to prove more cost effective. (Paragraph 306)

90.  We recommend that the delivery and content of offending behaviour programmes should be adapted to meet the specific needs of women prisoners, taking account of those women's different life experiences and placing their offending within the context of what may often be long-term victimisation or abuse. (Paragraph 308)

91.  We welcome the Government's commitment in its National Action Plan that research will be carried out into the specific risk factors relating to women's substance misuse and offending. However, we do not think this response to the problem is adequate, given that around 40% of all women prisoners can be diagnosed as harmful or dependent users of drugs. We recommend that the substantial increase in the female prison population be matched with a proportionate increase in the number of intensive drug treatment programme places available in women's prisons from the 455 places currently available. (Paragraph 309)

92.  We consider that whilst the majority of women prisoner's first priority on release may be to secure accommodation for themselves and their children, women prisoners should nevertheless be given equal opportunities to access education, relevant skills training and work programmes as part of their prison regime. In devising a work strategy for women prisoners, we recommend that the Prison Service should consult with women prisoners themselves to identify the types of skills training and work programmes they would find most useful and relevant to them. The general focus on work-like experience and relevant training we have set out in respect of men prisoners is equally important for women prisoners. Outside prison the Government has supported women—including mothers—into work through the New Deal, on the grounds that this is best for them and their children. It is perverse to apply a different attitude to women prisoners who, arguably, have most to gain from secure employment on increased incomes. (Paragraph 313)

93.  We recommend that the Prison Service, in partnership with relevant community agencies and social support services, devises a resettlement plan for women prisoners, the contents of which should include basic advice on the care of children whilst women prisoners are in prison, and guidance on childcare, benefits entitlement and housing needs on release. (Paragraph 315)

94.  We were impressed by the innovative work in which the Asha Centre is involved. The Centre is assisting women in transition to have the confidence to take the first steps away from re-offending lifestyles, and to challenge patterns of abuse and offending behaviour. In our view, this is an important part of the resettlement process for ex-prisoners. It demonstrates the positive role of independent organisations in fostering community support networks which facilitate reintegration and resettlement. We recommend that NOMS should take active steps to learn from such models of good practice in developing its resettlement strategy. (Paragraph 317)

95.  We commend the recent introduction of gender-sensitive training. We recommend that the Prison Service monitor the ratio of male/female personnel within women's prisons to ensure so far as possible the presence of adequate numbers of female prison officers at all levels of the prison management structure. (Paragraph 318)

96.  We recommend the development of a specific and focused rehabilitation strategy for women prisoners informed by independent research identifying trends across the women's estate in relation to levels of mental illness amongst women prisoners, the extent of drug misuse, and problems emerging from mother and baby units. We recommend that the Government develop national policies in relation to women prisoners' health care, childcare, education, employment, contacts with families, alcohol and drug misuse, and counselling and resettlement. (Paragraph 320)

97.  We recommend the development of a comprehensive needs assessment programme orientated to women prisoners which identifies the individual female prisoner's problems at the same time as investigating the wider context of social exclusion and abuse suffered by those prisoners. (Paragraph 321)

98.  We welcome the Home Office's undertaking [that all 17 year old girls will be moved to discrete juvenile units by 2006] and look forward to seeing it implemented on schedule. (Paragraph 327 ii)

99.  We welcome the Youth Justice Board's efforts to date to reform the operation and performance of the youth justice system and the work it has completed, in partnership with the Prison Service, to improve rehabilitative provision for juvenile prisoners. (Paragraph 333)

100.  However, we regret the consistent failure to meet the YJB target of 30 hours of constructive activity per week for this prisoner group, and the Government's failure to meet its statutory obligation regarding the number of hours juvenile prisoners spend in education and training courses. The very low literacy and numeracy levels of this prisoner group dictate that education and training should form the cornerstone of the prison rehabilitation strategy for juvenile prisoners, with the adoption of innovative approaches to education, training schemes and work placements. (Paragraph 334)

101.  It is regrettable that the Government's National Action Plan for rehabilitation does not provide a strategy for dealing with juvenile prisoners. We recommend that a the Government develop a comprehensive prison rehabilitation regime for juvenile prisoners. This should address the lack of provision of appropriate housing for young people and the difficulties in securing education and training post-custody. In addition, access to and provision of drug treatment programmes should be improved for juvenile prisoners. (Paragraph 336)

102.  Recent efforts to reform the prison regime for young prisoners have focused on the juvenile prison estate. As a result, 18 to 21 year old prisoners have been overlooked. We recommend that the Government match the investment it has made, through the Youth Justice Board, in developing a prison rehabilitation strategy for juveniles, by designing an equivalent tailored range of rehabilitative interventions for young adult offenders. (Paragraph 345)

103.  Levels of constructive activity and intervention programmes for the young adult prison population are woefully inadequate. We commend the Governor and his staff at HMYOI Aylesbury on the rehabilitation initiatives they are running for young adult offenders. We recommend that the Prison Service incorporate such models of good practice into a national rehabilitation strategy for young adult offenders, to be set out in a revised edition of the National Action Plan. (Paragraph 346)

104.  We recommend that the Government conduct a small number of pilot schemes for appropriately trained mentors of young adult offenders. The scheme should be independently monitored and evaluated to assess its impact on re-offending rates. (Paragraph 348)

105.  We are deeply concerned at the over-representation of minority ethnic groups, particularly black men, across the criminal justice system, and by suggestions that black prisoners are more likely to be found guilty of disciplinary offences and less likely to have access to constructive activities in prison. The absence of comprehensive ethnic and religious monitoring across the prison estate is much to be regretted, as is the resultant lack of empirical data regarding the treatment of minority ethnic and religious groups within the prison system. We recommend that mechanisms be put in place for the systematic collation and comparison of data relating to the ethnic and religious backgrounds of prisoners (i) on disciplinary charges, (ii) in segregation, (iii) on basic regimes, and (iv) allocated the most basic prison work opportunities. This data is important to the development of prison diversity policies at the national, regional and local levels. It is also essential as a means of alerting the Prison Service to practices and procedures which may be directly or indirectly discriminatory by disproportionately adversely affecting minority ethnic prisoners. (Paragraph 353)

106.  We welcome the Government's commitment in its National Action Plan to 'mainstream' diversity. However, we consider that that specific measures with set timetables are required to address the problems identified by the Commission for Racial Equality in its recent report on racial equality in prisons. We recommend that, in the short term, the Government's Criminal Justice System Race Unit should conduct an internal audit of the Prison Service's rehabilitation interventions to assess whether they comply with the needs of minority ethnic and religious groups. A revised version of the National Action Plan should contain specific action points identified by the audit as necessary to remedy deficiencies in the current provision of rehabilitation interventions to minority ethnic and religious prisoners, together with targets for implementation and mechanisms for ongoing monitoring. (Paragraph 356)

107.  We welcome the Government's adoption of the principle of equivalence in relation to the provision of mental health care for prisoners, and the dedicated NHS funding to support the introduction of multi-disciplinary teams in prisons designed to provide mental health services for prisoners along the lines of community mental health teams. However, there is a long way to go before prison health care provision matches the NHS standards of care in the community. (Paragraph 360)

108.  We consider that the current system of prison mental health care provision is failing in two fundamental respects. First, some individuals suffering mental illness are committing crimes, being convicted and being sent to prison because of the failures of mental health care provision in the community. Second, prisoners who become severely mentally ill in prison are not being diverted out of the prison system to appropriate specialist secure units in the community. (Paragraph 364)

109.  We deplore the delays in assessing the mental health care needs of prisoners on admission to prison and throughout their sentences. The Government's National Action Plan fails to include specific action points aimed at improving access to and provision of high quality mental healthcare to prisoners. We recommend that this gap in strategic policy planning be addressed as a matter of urgency. In particular, we recommend that more places be made available in specialist secure units in the community to provide the expert mental health care prisoners need within proper facilities. (Paragraph 366)

110.  We recommend that the Healthcare Commission be given statutory authority to monitor, inspect and evaluate the adequacy of mental health care provision across the prison estate, both on a thematic and prison-by-prison basis, indicating models of best practice and providing recommendations for action. (Paragraph 367)

111.  We do not find the Home Office's Resettlement Key Performance Indicator helpful. We suggest the adoption of an indicator which is a more accurate gauge of the employment levels of ex-prisoners. (Paragraph 372)

112.  We regret that the Government's National Action Plan limits resettlement activities to the provision of housing advice and improving "accommodation outcomes". We recommend that the Government develops a more comprehensive resettlement model to be incorporated into its National Action Plan, with the aim of providing prisoners close to release with practical advice and support to address accommodation, employment and family matters. (Paragraph 374)

113.  We welcome the Government's initial attempts in its National Action Plan to address the issue of accommodation for ex-prisoners. We recommend that the resettlement of offenders become a cornerstone in the new approach to offender management envisaged by NOMS, with the development of comprehensive resettlement strategies as integrated parts of the Regional Rehabilitation Strategies. (Paragraph 376)

114.  We also recommend that Crime Reduction Partnerships should be actively involved in the resettlement of ex-prisoners. Resettlement strategies should be integrated into local crime reduction strategies so that health, education and housing agencies, together with social services, are committed to dealing with the resettlement of offenders. (Paragraph 377)

115.  We recommend that in the short-term, co-ordinated communication systems be established to enable prison staff (and prisoners) to make contact with key agencies in the local areas to which prisoners are returning. In the medium term, resettlement teams should be established in each of the ten NOMS regions with responsibility for the practical resettlement of prisoners to that region, identifying housing and training or employment opportunities within the region, as well as liaising with housing agencies, training providers and employers and arranging support for offenders from mentors. (Paragraph 378)

116.  In our view, to achieve the objective of reducing re-offending there are sound reasons in the long term to move from the regional to the local model of offender management, particularly in light in the shift towards community sentencing introduced by the Criminal Justice Act 2003. We recommend that the Government develop a long-term local community strategy in tandem with its implementation of regional offender management. (Paragraph 380)

117.  The recent series of Government reports, taken together, provides a reasonably coherent and sensible framework for sentencing, prison regime and resettlement. However, implementation has been patchy. Progress has been made in developing more credible and effective sentencing, and in reviewing sentencing guidelines. The creation of NOMS contains at least the potential for integrating the day-to-day work of the prison and probation services and providing 'end to end' management of prisoners from sentence to resettlement. NOMS is in its early stages and we will be monitoring closely how the new organisation develops. (Paragraph 381)

118.  There has, however, been markedly uneven achievement in regard to the prison regime and resettlement. Progress has undoubtedly been made on drug treatment and provision of basic education. However, the ability of prisoners to return to work—or find work for the first time—is an essential part of rehabilitation. We found little evidence that serious efforts are being made within the Prison Service to prepare prisoners for the world of work. Much other provision for rehabilitation and resettlement continues to be inadequate—as previous chapters of this report illustrate graphically. We are particularly concerned about the failure to make appropriate provision for vulnerable groups: women, young prisoners, mentally ill prisoners and those from minority ethnic backgrounds. Too few attempts are made, either, to provide rehabilitative services to short-term or remand prisoners. (Paragraph 382)

119.  We agree with the Government that the core purpose and measure of rehabilitation must be to reduce re-offending. However, a reduction in re-offending can only be achieved through a rehabilitative strategy which reintegrates offenders into society by giving them the opportunity and assistance needed to reform. (Paragraph 384)

120.  An effective prison rehabilitation strategy must look not only at the offending criminal behaviour but also at the individual prisoner himself or herself. A prison rehabilitation regime must, where appropriate, challenge a prisoner's chaotic and deprived lifestyle by—

  • investigating the prisoner's background and needs in order to develop specific measures for his or her reintegration into society
  • addressing offending behaviour and other deficiencies such as drug and alcohol misuse
  • offering alternative life choices to the offender through the provision of education, training and work opportunities.

Further, the rehabilitation regime must be designed to deal with the different needs of different types of prisoner and the different factors affecting the re-offending of certain groups—in particular, women, young adults, black and minority ethnic groups, remand prisoners and short-term prisoners. (Paragraph 385)

121.  Wherever possible, offenders should be actively engaged in their own rehabilitation, and encouraged to take responsibility for themselves and their behaviour, from sentence planning through to resettlement. (Paragraph 386)

122.  The objectives we have set out in the previous paragraphs can only be achieved if there are significant changes in the regime within prisons. We have set out specific proposals earlier in this report. To summarise, the changes that are needed are (in order of priority):

    (i)  a major drive to provide work and work-like regimes and training within prisons;
    (ii)  an extension of this provision and other rehabilitative interventions to short-term and remand prisoners;
    (iii)  significant improvements to drug and alcohol treatment;
    (iv)  independent inspection of mental health provision; and
    (v)  specific provision to address the needs of minority and vulnerable groups. (Paragraph 387)

123.  The Prison and Probation Service should not provide services which are available in the community. Rather, the task of the Prison and Probation Service should be to make sure that the offender has access to the community services that he needs. (Paragraph 388)

124.  We recommend that, in future, rehabilitative needs should be taken into account when decisions are taken on the locations of new prisons. It is particularly important that a network of local community prisons be built up to benefit short-term prisoners and prisoners close to the end of their sentence. (Paragraph 390)

125.  Overcrowding is undoubtedly causing severe problems within the prison system. However, overcrowding should not be used as an excuse for poor management. We are not convinced that every effort is currently being made to minimise transfers between prisons where these impede the work of rehabilitation. (Paragraph 391)

126.  The current situation means that it is something of a lottery as to whether a particular prisoner actually benefits from rehabilitative interventions appropriate to his or her needs. We believe that this is unfair to the individuals concerned. We recommend that the Prison Service should move towards ensuring greater consistency of provision across the prison estate, by means of common standards and, where appropriate, ring-fenced funding for particular rehabilitative provisions. We accept that this will inevitably entail some loss of prison governors' present autonomy, but consider that this would be a price worth paying. (Paragraph 393)

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