Select Committee on Home Affairs First Report



Prison Establishments

Local Prisons

The main function of a local prison is to serve its geographical area. It receives prisoners direct from the courts, either sentenced or remanded awaiting trial or reports. Normally it accommodates all male remands and male adult convicted serving up to four-year sentences. Local prisons may also accommodate females and long-term prisoners. These prisons need to be near the population centres because prisoners have to go to court, receive legal visits, and be visited by their families.

Short-term Prisons

Although these prisons deal with a local area, they are not local prisons in that they do not take remands and do not receive prisoners direct from courts.

Long-term Prisons

These prisons do not receive long-term prisoners direct from the courts but rather from local prisons or from the National Induction Centre. Dispersal prisons form part of the high security estate and take a specific quota of category A prisoners. The rest of the population is made up largely of category B prisoners and a small number of category C or D prisoner. Category B prisons tend to have a secure perimeter and relatively high staffing levels. However they offer a less restricted regime than high security prisons with less internal security. Category C prisons make up one of the largest parts of the prison estate. They vary enormously from prison to prison. In general, they have a lower level of security but often more rules in operation.

Open Prisons

These establishments primarily hold adult male long-term prisoners in open conditions ,preparing them for release. They also accommodate some short-term prisoners of the lowest security category. They have less security and prisoners tend not to be locked up. Prisoners are transferred to open prisons if the Prison Service is satisfied that they can be trusted not to abscond. Prisoners are likely to be released regularly on temporary licence from prisons in order to work.

Women's Prisons

These were previously categorised as open, closed or local prisons. However, semi-open prisons have recently been introduced. Female young offenders are held in prisons with adult prisoners, although they should be held in designated young offender wings.

Young Offenders Institutions

Young Offenders Institutions hold male prisoners between 15 and 21 years. There is no equivalent for young female prisoners.

Categories of Prisoner

Category A

Prisoners whose escape would be highly dangerous to the public or the police or the security of the state, no matter how unlikely that escape might be, and for whom the aim must be to make escape impossible.

Category B

Prisoners for whom the very highest conditions of security are not necessary, but for whom escape must be made very difficult.

Category C

Prisoners who cannot be trusted in open conditions, but who do not have the resources and will to make a determined escape attempt.

Category D

Prisoners who can be reasonably trusted in open conditions.

Operational Capacity

The operational capacity of a prison is the maximum safe, overcrowded capacity of a prison: i.e. the total number of prisoners that an establishment can hold taking into account control, security and the proper operation of the planned regime. It is determined by area managers on the basis of operational judgement and experience.

Useable Operational Capacity

Useable Operational Capacity of the prison estate is the sum of all establishments' operational capacity less 1,700 places. This is known as the operating margin and reflects the constraints imposed by the need to provide separate accommodation for different classes of prisoner i.e. by sex, age, security category, conviction status, single cell risk assessment and also due to geographical distribution.

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Prepared 7 January 2005