Prisons: planning and policies - Justice Contents

1  Introduction

1. On 20 November 2013 we announced an inquiry into planning and policies of the prison estate. This is our first major inquiry on prisons planning and policies in this Parliament, and provides an opportunity to consider the impact of the Government's programme of reforms and efficiency savings across the prison estate. This inquiry is set within the context of the historically high prison population in the prison estate of England and Wales: on 21 November 2014 the prison population reached 85,925.[1] The prison system in England and Wales has one of the highest incarceration levels in Europe, standing at 149 per 100,000 people.[2]

2. During the course of this inquiry we visited HMPs Featherstone, Oakwood, Belmarsh and Thameside to allow us to make comparative observations of the prison estate, across the public and private sector. From 3 to 5 November 2014 we visited prisons in Denmark and Germany to allow us to examine so-called "working prisons" and other innovations being introduced in comparable European nations.

3. We received a total of 65 written submissions and held seven oral evidence sessions with a variety of witnesses, listed at the end of this report. One of those evidence sessions was held at HMP Belmarsh as part of our visit there on 18 November 2014. We are grateful to all those who took the time to contribute to this inquiry.

The previous work of the Committee

4. Earlier in this Parliament we conducted several inquiries in which we considered elements of prison policy. In our Interim report on the Government's Transforming Rehabilitation Programme[3] we made some early observations about the establishment of resettlement prisons, which we will consider in this Report in greater detail. We have also reported on the suitability of the prison estate for particular groups as part of our inquiries into Older Prisoners,[4] Women Offenders[5] and Youth Justice[6]. Our predecessor Committee's inquiry on the role of the Prison Officer[7] in 2009 was also relevant, and it was referred to by some of our witnesses.

Terms of reference

5. Our terms of reference focused on these five specific areas:

·  The Government's approach to achieving efficiencies across the prison estate, including the public sector benchmarking programme and the use of competition;

·  The impact of lower operational costs on prison regimes, access to education, training and other purposeful activity, the physical environment, safety and security;

·  The costs and benefits of the new-for-old prison capacity programme and the Government's intent to reduce overcrowding;

·  The ongoing re-configuration of the prison estate, including the extent to which prisons are suitably located and accessible to visitors, and the implications of the Transforming Rehabilitation programme;

·  The nature of support that public sector prisons require from the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) and its capacity to deliver it; and the extent to which the Government's aspiration for "working prisons" has been achieved.

Overview of the Government's prisons policies

6. The Government's vision for future delivery of offender management in custody has three elements:

i)  There will remain a strong, viable public sector provision

ii)  The public sector will be smaller and will work alongside a more diverse provision of services by private, voluntary and third sector partners to drive innovation and transform rehabilitative outcomes (including "through-the-gate" provision); and

iii)  Unit costs will be reduced by implementing the most efficient operating models making effective use of the market and using "payment by results", where appropriate, to incentivise a focus on outcomes.[8]

In relation to the final element, two measures have been employed to reduce the operational costs of the system: benchmarking; and replacing inefficient prisons with new prisons and extra house blocks in existing prisons, the "new-for-old" capacity programme.

7. In a Written Ministerial Statement on Prison Competition and Efficiency made on 8 November 2012,[9] the Government announced its strategy for achieving efficiencies across the prison estate. This set out an intention to accelerate cost reduction to maximise savings, specifically through the public sector benchmarking programme and the use of competition. A separate benchmark is designated for each type of prison and for each prisoner type. During Phase 1 of the project, the public sector benchmark was applied in full to 50 prisons from October 2013. Phase 2, from March 2014 to April 2015, involves applying and then implementing benchmarks in 51 prisons including the high security estate, women's prisons, open prisons and prisons holding young adults. As well as the competition to run Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs), the successful bidders for which were announced on 5 December 2014, the Ministry has invited tenders for prison works and facilities management services currently costing approximately £110 million per annum.

8. The Transforming Rehabilitation programme, a package of reforms to probation and rehabilitative services, also involves reconfiguring the prison estate to support the establishment of a nationwide 'through-the-[prison]-gate' resettlement service, to give most offenders continuity of support from custody into the community. A network of resettlement prisons will seek to ensure that offenders are prepared for release by the same provider, or Community Rehabilitation Company, that will support them in the community. On 15 August 2014, the Government published a revised list of resettlement prisons, which comprises resettlement establishments for the adult male, women's and young adult estates.[10]

9. Prior to this the Ministry of Justice had made a commitment to create 'working prisons'. This would involve transforming prisons into industrious places and provide prisoners with productive work. This includes: education and training focused on equipping offenders to work; getting prisoners working up to 40 hours a week; focusing the daily routine around work; preventing prisoners being idle and ensuring prison work is sustainable and self-financing.[11]


10. In its Managing the Prison Estate report[12] published in December 2013, the National Audit Office (NAO) noted that the main factor behind NOMS' estate strategy was the 2010 Spending Review requirement to find recurring savings from its budget of £894 million (24%) by the end of 2014-15.


11. The Government has reviewed and revised two operational schemes in the last two years. The Incentives and Earned Privileges (IEP) scheme encourages prisoners to move through the privilege levels in order to foster desired behaviours that are vital for rehabilitation and effective sentence planning. In April 2013, the Ministry of Justice completed a full review of this policy for adults, and then made changes to it which came into effect from 1 November 2013. Release on Temporary Licence (ROTL) is designed to allow the rehabilitation and reintegration of prisoners during the later stages of a prison sentence through their participation in rehabilitative activities in the community. Following some high-profile and widely-reported incidents which occurred while prisoners were on temporary release, the Secretary of State for Justice made a Written Statement in March 2014, announcing some changes to tighten the scheme.[13]


12. The Ministry of Justice publishes annually a bulletin which gives projections of the prison population in England and Wales. The latest bulletin, published on 27 November 2014,[14] makes projections for the period from November 2014 to December 2020. The projections are based on assumptions about future custodial convictions and incorporate the anticipated impacts of agreed policy and procedural initiatives. They also use a model of flows of offenders into and out of prison which counts the resulting prison population each month. The projections include three scenarios. The "central scenario"—the Ministry's best estimate—predicts that the prison population will increase from the current population of 85,925 to 87,700 by June 2015. By the end of June 2020 the prison population is projected to be 90,200. The other two scenarios indicate that the population could fall to 81,400 or rise to 98,900 by the end of June 2020.

1   Ministry of Justice Statistics Bulletin, Population in Custody Tables England and Wales, 21 November 2014. Back

2   International Centre for Prison Studies Prison Brief, updated November 2014.  Back

3   Twelfth Report from the Justice Committee of Session 2013-14, Crime reduction policies: a co-ordinated approach? Interim report on the Government's Transforming Rehabilitation programme HC 1004 Back

4   Fifth Report from the Justice Committee of Session 2013-14, Older Prisoners HC 89 Back

5   Second Report from the Justice Committee of Session 2013-14, Women offenders: after the Corston Report HC 92 Back

6   Seventh Report from the Justice Committee of Session 2012-13 , Youth Justice, HC 339 Back

7   Twelfth Report from the Justice Committee of Session 2008-09, Role of the Prison Officer HC 361 Back

8   PPP33 [National Offender Management Service] Back

9   HC Deb 8 November 2012 Col 45WS Back

10   Ministry of Justice, List of Resettlement Prisons, 15 August 2014  Back

11   National Offenders Management Service, Working Prisons, 17 December 2012 Back

12   Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General, Managing the prison estate, Ministry of Justice and the National Offender Management Service, HC 735 of Session 2013-14, December 2013 Back

13   HC Deb 10 March 2014 Col 4-5WS Back

14   Ministry of Justice, Prison population projections 2014-2020 England and Wales, 27 November 2014 Back

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Prepared 18 March 2015