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7 Dec 2009 : Column 121W—continued

The total number of unoccupied places according to the table is approximately 3,000. This represents the difference between the total operational capacity of the estate and the population (at the end of October). In some cases, prisoners will be held in accommodation that does not feature in a prison's operational capacity (for example, are temporarily located in a segregation unit or in the health care centre, units that do not usually feature in operational capacity) or will be on temporary licence. However, these prisoners would ordinarily be accommodated in the general accommodation
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of the prison and therefore it is appropriate to include them in the calculation. Reductions in operational capacity because accommodation is not available for current use (for example, because of sustained damage, as in the case of HMP Ashwell, or substantial refurbishment programmes) have been discounted.

The level of unoccupied cells does not reflect the level of free, useable capacity in the estate. Places might be temporarily out of use, for example, where a cell has been damaged or is under going short-term maintenance. Some places cannot be used because they are in double cells required for single occupancy following a safety risk assessment. More generally, the demographics of the population mean that it is impossible in practice to make use of every operationally viable place. This is reflected in the operating margin: an allowance of 2,000 places that is removed from total operational capacity figures to provide the estate's useable operational capacity. The above table suggests that there is useable headroom of around 1,000 places in the estate, which is the current difference between useable operational capacity and the population.

Prison Accommodation: Sussex

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many prisoner places are available at each prison serving the Sussex area when at full capacity; and how many prisoners were serving sentences at each such prison on the latest date for which figures are available. [304758]

Mr. Straw: The following table gives the numbers of prisoners serving sentences in the two prison establishments in Sussex at the end of June 2009, the latest date for which figures are available:


Ford Lewes

Operational capacity



Sentenced population



Held on remand and civil offenders



Total held in custody



Places available



The operational capacity of a prison is 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 judgment and experience.

These figures have been drawn from administrative IT systems which, as with any large scale recording system, are subject to possible errors with data entry and processing.

Prison Visitors: Drugs

Mr. Ruffley: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many visitors to prisons were found to be in possession of illegal drugs in 2007-08; how many such visitors were referred to the police; and what steps were taken in respect of those not referred to the police. [302260]

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Maria Eagle: The data are not available in the format requested.

It is the National Offender Management Service's policy for all prison visitors found in possession of illicit drugs to be referred to the police. As a result of which in 2007-08 the police made 424 arrests of prison visitors the majority of which would have been for drug offences.

Irrespective of the subsequent action taken by the police, prisons will impose visiting bans and/or closed visits on the visitor concerned. The precise measures imposed will be decided locally, on a case-by-case basis dependant on the precise circumstances of the incident. These measures can also be imposed on the basis of suspicion, without the visitor found to be in possession of drugs.

These figures have been drawn from administrative data systems. Although care is taken when processing and analysing the returns, the detail collected is subject to the inaccuracies inherent in any large scale recording system. The data are not subject to audit.

Prisoner Escapes

Mr. Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many category D prisoners have absconded from prison in each of the last five years. [304756]

Maria Eagle: Data are shown in the following table of prisoners who have absconded from open prisons in England and Wales in the last five years broken down by (a) year (b) number of absconds.

Number of absconds from all prisons in England and Wales in each of the last five years

Number of absconds (all prisons-England and Wales)











The number of absconds has been falling year on year. Last year was the lowest number of absconds on record.

All prisoners are assessed for suitability to be categorised as category D before allocation to an open prison. Open prisons monitor prisoners' attitude and behaviour for indicators of potential to abscond, however not all incidents of abscond can be predicted.

Following an abscond, the incident is reported to the police. The current rate of arrest and return to custody is 96 per cent.

These figures have been drawn from administrative data systems. Although care is taken when processing and analysing the returns, the detail collected is subject to the inaccuracies inherent in any large scale recording system.


Mr. Vara: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice with reference to the answer to the hon. Member for Eastleigh of 27 October 2009, Official Report, column 334W, on prisons: convictions, for what reasons the information requested is not held. [303463]

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Maria Eagle: NOMS' central reporting systems do not record this type of information. The only way to obtain this type of information would be to contact all Prison Service establishments, requesting a check of their local records. This would incur disproportionate cost. Details of prosecutions and convictions, moreover, are not directly the responsibility of NOMS.

However, from April 2009, indictable and triable-either-way offences contained in the Offender Management Act have been included in the Home Office Counting Rules for Recorded Crime. Offences recorded by police will be published in next year's annual statistical bulletin, Crime in England and Wales (July 2010).

Prisons: Alcoholic Drinks

Mr. Vara: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many instances of alcohol abuse were reported in each prison in England in each of the last five years. [303546]

Maria Eagle: Instances of alcohol use in prisons are treated as a miscellaneous incident and recorded centrally on the Prison Service Incident Reporting System. These incident reports are currently in a format that cannot readily be interrogated electronically. To provide the information requested would involve the manual inspection of more than 100,000 incident records which could only be achieved at disproportionate cost. The National Offender Management Service has in place a strategy to reduce both the supply and the demand for alcohol with a comprehensive range of security measures and searching techniques to detect items of contraband, including alcohol, and prevent smuggling into establishments. It is a criminal offence to convey alcohol into prison and prisoners caught in possession of alcohol within prison will face disciplinary action. Alcohol consumption is a cause of criminality in society and many prisons have programmes in place to assist prisoners to lessen their dependence on alcohol.

Prisons: Drugs

Mr. Vara: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice with reference to the answer to the hon. Member for Eastleigh of 11 November 2009, Official Report, columns 492-4W, on prisons: drugs, how many prisoners have tested positive for drugs on (a) one, (b) two, (c) three and (d) four or more occasions in each prison in 2008-09. [303464]

Maria Eagle: The information is not held centrally. To provide the data would require a detailed investigation into each prison's mandatory drug testing records, which would be at disproportionate cost.

Mr. Vara: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many body orifice security scanners are (a) installed and (b) in use in each prison. [303547]

Maria Eagle: This year NOMS purchased and delivered at least one BOSS chair to every prison that did not already have one, with the exception of immigration removal centres, where the use of mobile phones is not prohibited. Some chairs have since been moved between prisons to better match local risk.

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In a survey of BOSS chair usage between 17 and 25 September, 115 prisons reported that the BOSS chair was in use. Reasons for non-operation included awaiting building work to accommodate the chair, and chairs awaiting repair or return from repairs. The pattern of use will vary over time and it is not possible to say how many BOSS chairs are operational on any given day.

NOMS Headquarters have not mandated how BOSS chairs must be used. As is the case for many searching technologies and techniques, the decision on how to use the BOSS chairs is for individual Governors to make, and will depend on their local circumstances, including their existing local searching strategies. The relevant Prison Service Instruction (PSI) states:

Prisons deploy a range of activities and equipment, including hand-held detection wands, as effective alternatives to BOSS chairs.

Mr. Vara: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice in which prisons the searching of (a) visitors and (b) staff is not mandatory; and if he will make a statement. [303549]

Maria Eagle: The National Offender Management Service's (NOMS) policy requires that in all prisons, procedures are in place for the searching of prisoners, staff, domestic, official and professional visitors and contractors and that this is set out as part of a written local security strategy agreed with the regional manager.

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While the searching of visitors and staff will be carried out in all prisons, the level and frequency of such searching at individual establishments is determined by local security and control needs and this is set out in each prison's local searching strategy.

In the majority of prisons, this will mean a programme of routine searches of both staff and visitors in addition to searches based on suspicion or on receipt of intelligence. In some prisons, particularly some open prisons, a better use of resources may be achieved by carrying out only targeted, intelligence-led or random search programmes.


Dr. Pugh: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what the recidivism rate is for offenders convicted of (a) drug-related crime and (b) all other crimes. [303036]

Claire Ward: Table 1 shows the one year adult reoffending rates for offenders in England and Wales released from custody in the first quarter (1 January to 31 March) of the years 2000 to 2007, who commenced a court order under probation supervision, or who were discharged from a custodial sentence given for a drug-related offence. The table shows the proportion of offenders who committed at least one further offence and the frequency of offences per 100 offenders. It also shows reoffending rates for the whole cohort.

Table 1: One-year reoffending rates, offenders commencing a court order or discharged from a custodial sentence, 2000-07 who were convicted for a drug-related offence

Number of offenders Actual reoffending rate (Percentage) Number of offences per 100 offenders

Drug-related offences

2000 Q1




2002 Q1




2003 Q1




2004 Q1




2005 Q1




2006 Q1




2007 Q1




All offences

2000 Q1




2002 Q1




2003 Q1




2004 Q1




2005 Q1




2006 Q1








Notes: 1. Data for 2001 are unavailable due to problems with archived data. 2. Any offences committed in the one-year follow up period are not necessarily of the same offence type as the index.

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