2 Modernising the prison estate |
13. Shortly after he took office as Secretary of
State for Justice in 2012, Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP outlined to
us his desire to develop a penal system that was cheaper, not
smaller. Pointing to the huge variation in cost of keeping people
in different prisons, he said he wished quickly to bring down
the costs of the prison estate in two ways: a new-for-old programme
and the development of lower cost regimes.
In this chapter we consider the first element of his cost reduction
The costs and benefits of the
Replacing old, structurally
14. The prison estate consists of a hotchpotch of
establishments to cater for a range of types of prisoner, including
under 18s, young adults, females and males, requiring different
levels of security related to their risk. The extent to which
prisons are suitable for modern purposes also varies widely. For
example, HMP Dartmoor is a 200 year old listed building, whereas
HMP Oakwood opened in 2013. The aim of the new-for-old programme
is for old and inefficient facilities to be closed whilst maintaining
sufficient places to meet demand. Under the programme 16 prisons
have been closed, two have opened, and four have been extended.
The NAO calculated that both new houseblocks and new build prisons
deliver lower running costs than existing establishments, and
noted that the latter now have much longer lifespans than they
did ten years ago.
15. The new-for-old policy provides the opportunity
to improve the physical infrastructure of the estate, remove structural
inefficiencies, and employ new technologies. The benefits of modern
prison design include reduced costs on heating, lighting, maintenance,
safety, and security. Savings also result from the need for fewer
staff: for every prison custody officer
saved through better design, an estimated £750,000 is saved
over the lifetime of a 25 year contract.
Serco noted that in newer prisons, which include in-cell showers,
self-service and learning facilities, efficiencies can be realised
when prisoners are in their cells. For example, ordering meals,
arranging visits, and making healthcare appointments can be done
electronically. Intelligent design of newly commissioned prison
buildings can help minimise the potential for negative impacts
of necessary savings.
Mr Andrew Selous MP, Minister for Prisons, Probation and Rehabilitation,
acknowledged there was a higher degree of capital investment in
the private sector than was possible in the public sector.
The use of in-cell technology was being trialled in the public
sector, but the level of capital investment required to implement
it across the estate was unlikely to be found at present.
16. The Government anticipates a gross cost reduction
of nearly £125 million from prison closures between 2013/14
and 2015/16. Closing
prisons is itself challenging. For example, when we visited HMP
Dartmoor during our inquiry into older prisoners it was clear
to us that the facilities were unsuitable for current purposes,
and modernisation was not feasible, not least because it is a
listed building. The Government has now announced that it has
commenced negotiations with the Duchy of Cornwall, which owns
the prison, about its closure. However, given that there is a
notice period of 10 years it is likely to continue to operate
for some years to come. We are concerned that this should be the
case and we are concerned that during that time investment to
improve conditions is unlikely. Savings have also been generated
through the merger of prisons, for example, HMYOI Castington and
HMP Acklington merged to become HMP Northumberland.
17. Re-configuring the estate also potentially provides
the opportunity to ensure that the location of prison places corresponds
with the areas that prisoners come from. In relation to this,
Kevin Lockyer, a former regional manager for NOMS, observed that
"broadly speaking, prisons are not in the right places".
This affects both the costs of running the estate, and efforts
to rehabilitate prisoners, with many prisons being in rural areas,
for example. He explained:
That sort of dislocation of people does not help
resettlement in the community or to reduce reoffending. It leads
to massive structural costs in shipping people around the system
and is not how you would design it. What works well is that some
prisons are fantastically well run, with engaged staff doing their
best in difficult circumstances. The human element of a lot of
what the Prison Service does is really good, but hampered by the
structural problems inherent in an estate that has grown like
Topsy over the last 150 years. 
This can undermine another objective of ensuring
that prisoners are held close to home to optimise the maintenance
of family links, which can be valuable in supporting resettlement.
NEW PRISON BUILDING
18. There are long-standing challenges inherent in
improving the prison estate by building new prisons. Phil Wheatley
CB, former Director General of NOMS, explained that decisions
about where and when to build new prisons were constrained by
several factors, including the imprecise nature of forecasting,
the time taken to build new places, securing the necessary finance
from the Treasury, and getting planning permission. The Prison
Officers' Association characterised NOMS' approach as building
where it was cheapest and moving the prisoners accordingly. The
new prison that is being built at Wrexham to provide 2,100 places
was cited as an example of this. The Ministry estimates that this
prison will cost around £250m to construct and have a lifespan
of a minimum of 60 years. Our colleagues on the Welsh Affairs
Committee have conducted an inquiry which includes more detailed
consideration of this issue.
19. Another challenge is that planning for the building
of new prisons inevitably takes place several years in advance
of those places becoming available. The Ministry's forecasts rely
on its prison population projections.
Of the three scenarios which are regularly producedresulting
in upper, lower and median projectionsNOMS bases its planning
for prison places on the central forecast.
The latest projections indicate that capacity is going to continue
to be an issue for the foreseeable future. By the end of June
2020 the prison population is projected to be 90,200, but could
be as low as 81,400 or as high as 98,900.
With existing useable capacity at 88,000, and a further 2,160
places (in new houseblocks and re-roled former young offender
institutions and women's prisons, all due to be opened by spring
2015), followed by Wrexham's 2,100 places in 2017, there would
be sufficient capacity to accommodate the middle range predicted
population. On the
other hand, the savings to the public purse from Wrexham, estimated
at £17 million per year with payback in around 23 years,
are dependent on the closure of an equivalent 2,100 inefficient
20. Capacity in the adult estate has benefited from
the fall in the youth custodial population; the Youth Justice
Board (YJB) has saved £317 million in this Spending Review
period by decommissioning places for young people, some of which
are to become adult establishments from spring 2015.
The Standing Committee on Youth Justice (SCYJ) believed that the
Government had missed the opportunity presented by the declining
youth custody population to reconfigure the secure estate to meet
the needs of children better. For example, it was concerned that
custodial provision for young people had been decommissioned in
a haphazard manner, pointing out, for example, that there were
no secure children's home places in London and the South East.
The YJB did not accept that decisions were haphazard. Lin Hinnigan,
Chief Executive of the YJB advised us that she could commission
places only from custodial facilities that were already in existence,
and there were no secure children's homes in London. She did acknowledge
that the needs of the adult estate were one element in the decisions
that had been taken about which establishments to decommission.
She pointed out that one desirable outcome of reconfiguration
had been that it had been able to withdraw from split sitessuch
as HMP Hindley, where under and over 18s are held separately in
the same prisonwhich it did not favour.
The SCYJ observed that occupancy rates of secure children's homes
appeared to have fallen relative to those in young offender institutions
this year; their Chair, Penelope Gibbs, was concerned that this
might be motivated by a desire further to decommission these places,
which were the most expensive form of custodial provision for
children. The YJB
did not agree that placement decisions were driven by resources
and believed that annual occupancy figures were a more reliable
indicator than the figures quoted by the SCYJ.
NEW FOR OLD AND PRISON PERFORMANCE
21. The NAO concluded that the Ministry's plans represented
value for money but suggested that NOMS' decisions about closing
smaller prisons related more to their costs than how they had
This is important as levels of performance of new establishments
which replace older capacity are characteristically low in their
early days of operation. We visited the two most recently built
prisonsHMP Oakwood and HMP Thamesideas part of this
inquiry; both had received very poor inspection reports during
their first year of operation.
We heard from witnesses, including HM Chief Inspector of Prisons,
private prison providers and senior prison staff, that it can
take some time for a new prison to function effectively.
For example, whilst some experienced staff can be brought in from
other establishments, new staff must be trained and gain on-the-job
experience. The impact
of this on outcomes for prisoners is unknown. When we visited
HMP Oakwood, the newest and largest prison, we were told by the
operator G4S Custodial and Detention Services that opening a prison
was a complex process. HMP Parc, also run by G4S, is a large high-performing
prison, but it grew to its current size over time.
Jerry Petherick, Managing Director of this division of G4S, said
that despite the early operational difficulties which affect new
prisons, the result was more efficient establishments than those
which expanded gradually through the building of new houseblocks.
Since our visit HM Inspectorate of Prisons has published a further
report which indicated some improvement.
22. HMP Thameside is also a good example of the challenges
facing prison planners. The prison opened in March 2012, and when
we visited in November 2014 it was holding 300 prisoners more
than it was built for and was subject already to plans for a £120
million expansion to hold a further 332 prisoners. In addition,
the prison had initially anticipated that 75 per cent of prisoners
held there would be on remand, with less requirement for provision
of education, work, assessment and sentence planning than sentenced
prisoners; in fact between 55 and 60 per cent were sentenced prisoners,
and the expansion scheme would make available more workshops and
23. As the prison estate has evolved, the roles of
establishments have changed and prisons are being used for populations
for which they were not originally designed. Some young offender
institutions have become adult establishments. In addition, the
dispersal of prisoners when prisons have closed or changed purpose
has resulted in some disruption.
For example, following a decision to reduce the use of HMP Feltham
for remand prisoners, the experiences of prison governors and
others from HMPs Belmarsh, Thameside, Pentonville, and Isis indicate
that in some cases the integration of younger prisoners into other
parts of the prison estate has had a destabilising impact on the
prisons concerned, including through increased violence.
At HMP Belmarsh this had subsequently settled down but this did
not appear to be the case at HMP Isis.
HMP Northumberland and HMP Birmingham which were taken over by
private sector providers, also experienced some initial de-stabilisation
as contractual changes bedded in.
24. The Secretary of State told us that he wished
to see the costs of prison places fall, citing the variation between
the cost per place at Oakwood of £14,000, and the comparable
figure of £40,000 at some older prisons.
The cost per prison place fell by 18 per cent between 2009-10
and 2013-14; there was a 17 per cent fall per prisoner. Nevertheless,
there is still an average cost of £36,000 per prison place,
£34,000 per prisoner, and costs continue to vary considerably
across the estate.
25. An important principle of prisons policy is maintaining
decency in the standard of residential accommodation provided.
Measures of decency in terms of the capacity of the prison estate
are explained in the box below:
|Measures of prison estate capacity
There are two measures of prison estate capacity: certified normal accommodation (CNA) is uncrowded capacity; and operational capacity is the maximum capacity based on published accommodation standards, as well as the provision and operation of appropriate regime facilities and the needs of order and control.
Operational capacity is set by senior operational prison managers, taking all of the above into account. Those prisons whose operational capacity is higher than certified normal accommodation are operating with crowded conditions.
Useable operational capacity of the estate is the sum of all establishments' operational capacity less 2,000 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.
The extent to which the population has exceeded certified
normal accommodation has fluctuated between about 10 and 12 per
cent over the four years to October 2014, with a peak of 12.8
percent in March 2013.
A growing number and proportion of prisons are operating well
over their baseline capacity. At the end of March 2014, 77 of
the 119 prisons in England and Wales were classified as overcrowded;
by December 2014 this had risen to 83 of 117 prisons.
On the other hand, by the Government's assessment there has been
a small fall in the proportion of prisoners held in crowded conditions:
in 2013-14, this decreased to 22.9 per cent compared to 23.3%
in 2012-13. This
proportion is at the lowest level since 2001-02 and has come down
from a high of 25.3 per cent in 2007-08.
26. The prison population has skirted very close
to the useable operational capacity of the estate as a whole over
the last year or so. For example, it was operating at 98 per cent
of its total capacity (of 88,500) on 7 November 2014.
Operational capacity has fluctuated over the last two years. In
December 2012 it was 91,574 but by December 2013 it had fallen
to 87,111, despite the size of the prison population at these
times being broadly similar. Prisons have been under pressure
to accommodate the recent rise in the prison population: 40 public
sector prisons reportedly were asked to accommodate between them
440 additional prisoners over the summer of 2014.
Mr Spurr described the situation as "tight but manageable",
pointing out that overall operational capacity was actually 90,000
places. The NAO estimated
that to end overcrowding without reducing the prison population
would cost over £900 million, which was unlikely to be found
given the constraints on public expenditure.
IMPLICATIONS OF OVERCROWDING
27. The Secretary of State himself was relatively
untroubled by prison overcrowding. He said "It means prisoners
sharing a cell. It remains my view that, if prisoners have to
share a cell in order to make sure they can go to prison, this
is not a great problem."
On the other hand, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons saw it as a "real
problem". He said there were two areas where overcrowding
had negative effects: the physical conditions in which prisoners
were held, and the availability of sufficient training, activity
and rehabilitation programmes. In relation to the former he observed:
"In some places, two men are in what is essentially a large
toilet designed for one, and often in very squalid conditions."
In relation to the latter, there are more prisoners to move around
to activities and healthcare appointments, for example, with implications
for staffing levels, and strain can be placed on the capacity
of workshops and programmes.
28. Both the Prison Officers' Association and the
Prison Governors' Association expressed concerns that the Government
had no plans to decrease levels of crowding;
the latter, and HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, characterised the
situation as "institutional overcrowding".
Mr Spurr distinguished between planned cell sharing and overcrowding
in inappropriate conditions, such as those described by the Chief
Inspector, and emphasised that in new accommodation some cells
were designed to be shared; this will be the case at HMP Wrexham,
for example. Nevertheless,
data for the financial year 2013 to 2014 show that, on a typical
day, almost 19,000 prisoners were doubled up in cells designed
for one, and about 800 were trebled up in cells designed for two.
The practice of holding more prisoners in cells than they were
designed for continues even in newly built prisons. For example,
the NAO found that NOMS had planned for HMP Thameside to house
more prisoners than it was built for, due to the shortage of prison
places in London.
29. Lower category prisons, in particular category
D open prisons, tend to be less overcrowded and hence have greater
spare capacity than local prisons. The Prison Officers' Association
suggested that capacity problems in some parts of the estate could
result in a situation where prisoners could be held in prison
accommodation of a category that was not appropriate to their
risk. Thomas Bailey,
HMP Isis's POA representative, argued that on occasions prisoners
were allocated to a certain security category depending on the
vacant spaces available in each category.
Mr Spurr believed that the security categorisation policy was
very clear and operating well.
The Secretary of State recognised that there had been a change
in the risk profile of offenders going into open prisons, including
some offenders on indeterminate sentences for public protection.
the recent rise in the prison population has been achieved without
increasing crowding to a great extent. But it is worrying that
despite the Government's efforts to supply sufficient prison places
to meet demand, the proportion of prisons that are overcrowded
is growing, and the proportion of prisoners held in crowded conditions
remains at almost a quarter. It deeply concerns us that as a result
of a shortage of prison places in London, NOMS is building prisons
fully intending to hold more prisoners in them than they have
capacity for, as the National Audit Office reported happened at
is a more significant issue than the way it was described to us
by the Secretary of State, who characterised it simply as people
sharing a cell designed to hold fewer people. When a prison holds
many more people than it was designed for this impacts more broadly
on regimes and the capacity of prisons to rehabilitate through
the provision of purposeful activity. If
greater overcrowding is accepted as de facto policy then it is
important that NOMS is clear about the wider capability of the
prison estate to absorb more prisoners when they are building
new facilities, expanding existing ones, and determining an individual
prison's decent and safe level of capacity. Current measures of
overcrowding do not facilitate this, so we recommend that NOMS
should design a broader measure which better reflects the reality
of prison conditions.
Catering for different populations
32. As a result of the Government's plans for building
new large-scale prisons, opening new houseblocks within the perimeters
of existing prisons, and closing smaller ones, there has been
a significant drift towards larger penal institutions. The number
of such prisons has nearly trebled in the past decade. The existing
strategy for estate modernisation will result in almost half of
people in prison in England and Wales being held in prisons holding
33. There was some disagreement among our witnesses
on the relationship between the size of prisons and their effectiveness.
Kevin Lockyer, formerly of NOMS, believed that the key determinant
of the decency, safety and effectiveness of a prison was not its
size, but its age, and pointed to the effectiveness of large multi-purpose
prisons. On the other
hand, Professor Jewkes of the University of Leicester, the Howard
League for Penal Reform (the Howard League) and the Prison Reform
Trust (PRT) argued that there was a growing body of academic research
that found that 'old' did not necessarily mean 'bad', and that
prisons worked more effectively to rehabilitate prisoners when
small in size, located within close proximity to prisoners' home
communities, and built with principles of normality and humanisation
in mind. This is
the philosophy adopted in Denmark, which we observed when we were
there. Dr Kimmett Edgar of PRT gave us his reading of the evidence:
I appreciate that there is a position from the
Treasury and a position from a prison management point of view.
I did a little digging prior to coming here, looking at inspection
reports and prisoner surveys. If we take five large, new prisons
and five small prisons, in almost everything that matters it is
very obvious that prisoners are worse off in large prisons. On
safety, something like 22%I can give you the exact figuresfelt
unsafe compared with 15% in smaller prisons. In terms of knowing
who to approach for help with accommodation and employment, again
smaller prisons were clearly providing a better experience for
Andrew Neilson, the Howard League's Director of Campaigns,
outlined why it might be difficult to find reliable evidence about
the effects of prison size:
we have not built any small prisons recently
in this country; therefore any comparison you are making is not
just about large versus small but large and brand spanking new
versus small, old and deteriorating Victorian estate. That is
not a fair comparison.
The Howard League believed that there might be
a false economy from lower costs per prisoner in larger establishments
as a result of losses incurred in the medium to long-term due
to poorer outcomes for prisoners.
A ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL PRISON ESTATE?
34. Professor Jewkes, among others, believed that
the growth in the size of prison establishments was reducing the
extent to which the prison system recognised and catered for the
diverse needs of the prison population.
The apparent trend towards less diverse prison provision may have
been influenced by recent Government policies which have included
the replacement of young offender institutions, secure training
centres and secure children's homes with secure colleges, the
planned closure of open prisons and reduction in mother and baby
units for women, and the proposed abolition of specialist institutions
for young adults.
A number of smaller specialised prisons have closed, for example,
HMP Shepton Mallet, which held sex offenders, and HMP Canterbury,
which held foreign national prisoners.
Young offenders under 18
35. The question of the ability of large scale establishments
to cater for a range of prisoners has been a particular feature
of the debate about the Government's proposals to build secure
colleges for 320 12-to-17 year old boys and girls. In the existing
youth custodial estate, in which fewer than 1,000 children are
held, young offender institutions are for 15-to-17 year olds and
secure training centres for under 15s. The Standing Committee
on Youth Justice (SCYJ) did not believe that the Government's
proposition to build secure colleges began with an assessment
of what constituted the best outcomes for children who have to
be kept in a secure place; they, along with the Secure Accommodation
Network and Children's Rights Alliance, believed that the quality
of care was of utmost importance and warned that economies of
scale should not apply to ensuring children's best interests.
In our 2013 Youth Justice Report we recommended that young offenders
should be sentenced to small custodial units that are close to
home, have a high staff to offender ratio, and are safer and more
humane than other forms of custodial provision for young people.
Legislative provision enabling the Government to pilot a secure
college is contained in the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015,
which received Royal Assent on 12 February 2015. We
stand by the view expressed in our report on Youth Justice that
small custodial units are safer and more humane for children and
young people. Notwithstanding the potential educational benefits
of secure colleges, we question why the Ministry of Justice sees
it necessary to dedicate scarce funding to develop such a large-scale
establishment, when the number of children requiring secure accommodation
is shrinking rapidly.
36. The Government proposes to bring into force provisions
in the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000 to repeal
the sentence of detention in a young offender institution, which
currently ensures that young adults are held in specialist provision.
This change has been postponed pending the independent review
of deaths of young adults in custody led by Lord Harris of Haringey
due to report in spring 2015.
The proposal reflects concerns that when large numbers of people
in this age group are held together, they can become so volatile
it becomes difficult for staff to manage them. On the other hand,
the Youth Justice Board and the Transition to Adulthood Alliance
believed a distinct approach was required for young adults because
of their particular needs, the transition from contact with social
services, children's services and the youth justice system, and
their especially high risk of self-harm and suicide.
The Transition to Adulthood Alliance wished to see more research
on the implications of this well-recognised problem.
Mr Spurr acknowledged that young adults as a group were particularly
challenging, but argued that the matter was complex; ending the
sentence of detention in a young offender institution for young
adults did not necessarily imply that there would no longer be
NOMS is developing a tool to assess maturity and is evaluating
which of the existing mixture of arrangements is the best approach;
this will be considered alongside the recommendations of Lord
Harris' review. Joyce
Moseley OBE, Chair of the Transition to Adulthood Alliance, believed
that it was necessary to look more broadly at policy for this
group, for example by applying the practices that have been used
by the Youth Justice Board with under 18s.
There is some evidence about
the difficulty the prison system has had in providing appropriately
for young adult prisoners, and there is no definitive answer about
the best forms of establishment to meet their particular needs.
It is clear to us that there is a need
for NOMS to ensure that there is dedicated responsibility for
this group both at an institutional and national level. This is
an issue that could be further explored by the Justice Select
Committee in the next Parliament.
37. We considered in detail the suitability of the
custodial estate for women in our report on Women Offenders, and
concluded that Baroness Corston's recommendation for the creation
of small custodial units for women, which has never been implemented,
remained valid. Following a review, the Government elected instead
to create strategic hubs to provide better geographically distributed
prison places, and to pilot small open unitsthe first two
of which have recently openedpending the decision to close
existing capacity for females in open prisons.
38. The estate
modernisation policy of closing of old inefficient prisons and
replacing them with new more cost-effective ones is a good one
in principle. We recognise in particular that some prisons have
been operating, and some continue to operate, with decrepit buildings
that hinder effective rehabilitation; and we note that redesign
and re-configuration provide the opportunity for new technologies
and their resulting efficiencies to be embedded in the infrastructure
of the prison estate. It is unfortunate that to date the resources
for capital investment in new technologies in public sector prisons
have not been found while private sector prisons have given priority
to investment in new technology. We recommend
that the Ministry carry out a cost-benefit analysis of implementation
of in-cell technology across the public sector prison estate.
39. A policy
of replacing older establishments with newer ones is resulting
in the creation of large, multi-purpose prisons, while questions
arising from available evidence on the relationship between the
size and effectiveness of institutions do not appear to have been
addressed by the Government. The success of the Government's policy
also depends crucially on the ability of NOMS to predict demand
for places with sufficient accuracy, and to provide places accordingly.
The time taken to build new prisons, and their associated costs,
means that it can take several decades to yield savings. In addition,
these savings are dependent on the consequent closure of older
and more expensive places, which might not be possible if future
demand tends towards the upper end of what are inevitably imperfect
projections. We welcome the fact that the cost to the public purse
of a prison place has fallen to some extent, but it remains high
and it is unlikely to fall significantly while the population
continues to rise.
40. A key question
is whether making savings in the prison estate inevitably results
in a one-size-fits-all approach to prisons policy. Our evidence
suggests there is a definite risk of this following recent decisions
on custodial provision for children, young adults and women in
prison. We consider that the custodial estate needs to be designed
so that it meets the different needs of different sectors of the
prison population. Reconfiguring the estate could provide an important
opportunity to reconsider the best forms of custodial provision
for key cohorts of prisoners, for example, through smaller, more
geographically dispersed, units for both females and children.
Instead, decisions have been taken to retain the recent emphasis
on a smaller number of large establishments.
41. It also
appears to us that there are some consequences of modernisation
that have not been planned for properly. When prisons are going
through transition, whether that takes the form of opening, changing
purpose, merging, or becoming managed by another sector, levels
of performance are typically affected, at least in the short-term.
There may well be unanticipated and unquantified costs of reconfiguring
the prison estate in this manner. If the pressure to expand capacity
continues, so too will the need for ongoing adaptations of the
estate, with the risk that some establishments may be in a constant
state of flux.
Future-proofing and the risk
42. Mr Selous gave us several examples of prisons
that were changing their purpose, or being "re-roled",
as the Ministry has implemented its reconfiguration of the estate.
In order to maintain maximum flexibility in the use to which prisons
subsequently can be put, the Ministry has adopted a policy of
"future-proofing" prisons when they are built. Professor
Yvonne Jewkes, who has conducted research on prison architecture
and design, described this as follows:
Prisons are built to a one-size-fits-all model,
which is category B standardin layperson's terms, high
security. Part of the reason for that, officially, is future-proofing,
so that, if at some point in the future an institution has to
take higher security prisoners than currently, it avoids the need
for expensive retrofitting of security paraphernalia. Part of
it, apparently, is familiarity, so that prisoners and prison staff
moving across the system are familiar with any prison they go
She believed that this practice was "dangerous",
explaining that "[a]ccommodating medium security prisoners
in high security conditions reinforces negative labels and notions
of criminality, and very often elicits the very behaviour that
it is seeking to avoid. Over-securitising prisoners is not conducive
The Ministry noted that it had been building its perimeter fences
to standardised security levels, but acknowledged that security
must be proportionate to risk:
Applying unnecessary security is costly, a disproportionate
use of staff time and can inhibit, rather than enable, prisoner
access to rehabilitative interventions and activities. Similarly,
failure to properly apply appropriate security measures risks
prisoner escape, harm to others and erodes public confidence in
the ability of NOMS to keep prisoners in safe and secure custody.
43. We asked other witnesses for evidence on the
extent of "over-securitisation" and any impacts it had.
Simon Cartwright, the Governor of HMP Belmarsh, which has the
infrastructure of a high security prison and accommodates both
Category A and lower category prisoners, was of the view that
a regime and culture could be instilled in such prisons to meet
the resettlement needs of a mix of prisoners.
On the other hand, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons said that strict
security measures, such as strip searching when entering a prison,
could be counter-productive if applied in a blanket way.
The configuration of the women's estate in particularwhich
has limited scope for holding women of different security categories
in different conditionsmeans that most are subject to unnecessarily
We heard also that measures to improve security that were implemented
almost fifty years ago in response to a series of high profile
escapes remained in place and had not recently been reviewed.
PRISONS IN DENMARK
44. John Podmore, a criminal justice consultant,
made the case for greater use to be made of open prisons, a policy
which we observed in operation in Denmark.
There, any restriction placed on prisoners must be defensible,
with the result that there is the largest possible degree of openness
in terms of the security of prison establishments. We saw open
prisons with closed units within them, rather than vice versa.
The Government plans to replace open prisons for women in England
and Wales with open units in closed prisons, for example. Danish
prisons also operate on a 'normalisation' principlewhich
entails regimes approximating as much as possible life outside
the prisonwith an expectation that prisoners spend time
with their families at weekends.
45. It may be
prudent to build prisons to standard specifications to minimise
the need for rebuilding them should they change purpose, but this
can lead to prisoners being held in accommodation or conditions
that are disproportionate to the risk that they pose, which is
not conducive to rehabilitation. The approach to security in prisons
which we saw in Denmark assumes that the use of open prisons should
be the default, with restrictions minimised as much as possible.
This is essentially the opposite of the approach taken in England
and Wales, and we believe there is merit in the Danish approach.
The profile of the prison population is
changing, including becoming older, and in some respects more
challenging. In this context, we recommend that the Government
review the way prisoners of different security categorisations
are accommodated to ensure that it remains appropriate and proportionate
to the risks presented by 21st century prisoners.
Working prisons, resettlement
prisons and the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms
46. Under its working prisons policy the Government's
stated aim is to get prisoners working up to 40 hours a week in
a daily routine focused around work and linking work activity
with qualifications and employment opportunities. NOMS has established
One3One Solutions to promote the services of prisoners and generate
work. We heard evidence that it can work very effectively.
James Timpson OBE, chief executive of shoe repair business Timpsons,
told us of his success in developing training academies and recruiting
prisoners to the extent that 10% of his staff are now known ex-offenders.
Mr Timpson also chairs the Employers Forum for Reducing Reoffending
(EFRR), another part of NOMS' effort to engage with employers
to recruit offenders, and to do so more frequently. We also saw
examples for ourselves: at HMP Belmarsh, we saw a printer cartridge
refurbishment workshop which had recently opened and was being
extended, and at HMP Oakwood we were shown a busy call centre
in operation. Employers
on the EFRR have employed over 1500 people in the last three years;
this initiative relies on supportive governors as much as willing
47. The majority of our witnesses were of the view
that the working prisons initiative had stalled, if not failed.
We encountered a very mixed picture of provision, which remains
available only to a relatively small number of prisoners. Carole
Homan, Chair of HMP Belmarsh's Independent Monitoring Board (IMB),
questioned whether much of the work could be classed as productive.
The Prison Reform Trust calculated that if the Ministry was successful
in doubling the number of prisoners working in industrial workshops,
this would still mean fewer than 25 percent of prisoners would
be employed in this way.
48. The observations of our witnesses could be attributed
in part to difficulties in developing regimes that allow prison
work to be commercially viable. The regime which was put into
operation at HMP Isis following staff shortages almost "immediately
halved" the time of purposeful activity available to offenders,
with 40 per cent of them locked up in their house blocks each
working day. In
some cases where capital investment had been made to improve infrastructure,
industrial workshops lay idle. For example, at HMP Wormwood Scrubs
a £1.3 million laundry was unable to operate due to staff
we took evidence from, including the Prison Governors' Association's
representative Stephen O'Connell, generally interpreted the working
prisons initiative narrowly, applying it to those establishments
that are dedicated working prisons.
Even in these prisons the situation appears to have deteriorated:
there are insufficient staff in two out of the three of them to
operate to the level required to facilitate a working week.
Other limiting factors include the transient nature of the prison
population in local prisons and the physical capacity to house
In the prison at Tegel, near Berlin, we saw that it was possible
for prisoners to work in a wide range of professions in a large-scale
institution, housing predominantly long-term prisoners. This was
similar to the approach we observed at HMP Featherstone, though
there it was on a smaller scale.
49. Between 2010-11 and 2013-14, there was a 15 per
cent increase in the number of prisoners working in industrial
activity; and a 33 per cent increase in the total number of hours
14.2 million hours equates to only a few hours per week per prisoner.
Mr Selous confirmed that he remained committed to increasing work
in prisons. Mr
Spurr acknowledged that there had been a shortage of work available
for prisoners, but explained that NOMS had sought to develop regimes
which maximised the number of people in activity, despite staff
shortages, as this helped to maintain stability.
INTEGRATING PRISON WORK WITH LEARNING
50. One of the Government's objectives is for prison
work to be better integrated with education and training. Offender
Learning and Skills Services (OLASS) are co-commissioned by the
Skills Funding Agency (which is sponsored by the Department for
Business, Innovation and Skills) and NOMS. Research carried out
by the Prisoner Learning Alliance during summer 2013including
three expert roundtable events with over 50 practitioners, governors,
prison officers, voluntary sector organisations and learnersindicated
that this is not always being achieved and that opportunities
to embed functional skills or industry-recognised qualifications
within prison workshops were being missed.
To some extent this is unavoidable. For example, if work is low-skilled
there is little room for educational engagement.
On the other hand, Rod Clark of the Prisoners' Education Trust,
representing the Alliance, believed a broader approach to embedded
learning could be adopted across a range of purposeful activities,
including the use of gyms.
In addition, other policies, including the level of prisoners'
pay, which incentivises prisoners to undertake work as opposed
to education and training, the Victim Surcharge, and the introduction
of Advanced Learning Loans for higher level training could all
act to discourage prisoners from undertaking learning.
51. The Government's
working prisons policy is a worthy aim and prison industries are
becoming more common. Nevertheless, it remains the case that most
prisons do not have the facilities for workshops on a scale that
would enable the majority of prisoners to do work which will equip
them for employment on release. Where there are such facilities,
the aims of involving employers on a commercial basis and normalising
a working week for prisoners are not achievable without sufficient
staff to enable prisoners to be unlocked for a full working day.
This appears to be much easier to achieve in prisons dedicated
to that purpose.
52. The current
commissioning arrangements for prison work and learning and skills
do not appear to support the integration of these two vital aspects
of rehabilitation. We recommend that the
Ministry of Justice and the Department for Business, Innovation
and Skills take steps to ensure that the next round of commissioning
for learning and skills in prisons prioritises arrangements for
embedding learning in the various forms of purposeful activity
in which prisoners are engaged. In the shorter term, we recommend
that the Government should review the combined impact of the various
policiesthe differential in remuneration when prisoners
are in employment, the Victim Surcharge and Advanced Learning
Loansso as to ensure that they do not disincentivise prisoners
from developing their learning and skills, and hence future employability.
COMPATIBILITY OF WORKING PRISONS AND RESETTLEMENT PRISONS
53. Another Government priority is the creation of
a network of resettlement prisons where prisoners can receive
support "through-the-gate" in preparation for their
return to the community. The Howard League questioned whether
working prisons and resettlement prisons were compatible, observing
For institutions to be working prisons, they
require a fairly stable population of prisoners serving medium
to long sentences who are able to work. Furthermore, a working
prison must adapt its entire regime to suit a full working week,
which includes ensuring all prisoners can be escorted to and from
work and not interrupting the working day with roll checks, leisure
activities and various appointments. If prisons are changed into
resettlement prisons [
] this will result in a large number
of specialised prisons holding a significant number of short-sentenced
prisoners for the first time and will greatly increase the 'churn'
rate in these prisons. Such a change places significant obstacles
in the way of achieving a full working week and attracting private
companies to invest in prison work.
Nick Hardwick explained that resettlement prisons
would operate a split regime with half a day of activity and half
a day of resettlement; we note this is unlikely to be conducive
to operating the normal working day as envisaged by the Howard
League. We visited
HMP Featherstone in February 2014 and were impressed by the workshops
we saw in operation. At that time the senior management team were
unclear about how the prison's training status would fit with
its designation also as a resettlement prison.
POTENTIAL PROBLEMS FOR DEVELOPMENT
OF RESETTLEMENT PRISONS
54. We heard two particular observations about the
creation of resettlement prisons. Some questioned whether there
was sufficient capacity in the prison estate to achieve the objective
of moving prisoners to their 'home' prison three months prior
to their release, and concerns were also raised the potential
impact on the large majority of prisoners serving medium to long-term
55. In relation to capacity, two issues were raised
with us: 'headroom' and staffing. HM Chief Inspector of Prisons
and the Prison Reform Trust questioned whether, while prisons
were operating so close to capacity, there was sufficient headroom
in the system to enable the movements required to bring prisoners
close to home as they prepared for release.
According to the PRT, existing policies on 'closeness to home'
and 'local discharge' could not be facilitated because of existing
Thomas Bailey, Prison Officers' Association representative at
HMP Isis, felt there were not sufficient staff to deliver effective
resettlement prisons at present.
In some case staffing problems in offender management teams have
resulted in backlogs in the risk assessment system (known as OASys),
to the extent that some prisoners are being released without them.
56. On the other hand, Michael Spurr was confident
that the majority of prisoners, even in a situation with population
pressure, would be held in the right prisons. He drew our attention
to clear contractual arrangements in the event that people are
not held in their 'home' prison: the appropriate Community Rehabilitation
Company was required to provide a basic resettlement service to
every prisoner in each prison; and there was a 'rate charge' so
that the home CRC could request additional rehabilitative work,
such as drug treatment, to be done by the prison in which they
are held. In relation
to staffing, he felt this was a matter for CRCs.
57. We heard also that the time prisoners spent leading
up to their final three months was just as important as immediate
preparation for release.
The Prison Reform Trust believed that prisons holding predominantly
sex offenders, for example, were already under-resourced.
The Howard League suggested that it would be difficult to reverse
the impact if prisoners had spent "a year or more locked
up in an overcrowded, violent environment with nothing to do."
We heard also of a practical concern related to the potential
impact on levels of violence in prisons of the re-igniting of
relationships between gang members being brought back to their
local prison to prepare for release.
58. In previous
Reports we have commended the Government's creation of a nationwide
network of resettlement prisons. It should not, however, confuse
the priorities of multiple purpose establishments, and dilute
the priority accorded to resettlement needs elsewhere in the estate.
This initiative to improve provision in the last three months
of a sentence should not come at the expense of rehabilitative
support for the majority of prisoners who are serving medium to
long-term sentences. If time in non-resettlement prisons has been
used productively, prisoners will be in a better position to prepare
for resettlement. We recommend that NOMS
develops measures of performance to ensure that the quality of
rehabilitative provision for prisoners who are not in the final
three months of their sentence is maintained, and publishes them
59. There are
also some immediate issues which must be rectified as a matter
of priority if support for offenders in moving from custody into
the community is to work to best effect. These include as a matter
of urgency resolving staffing shortages and clearing the backlog
of risk assessments. Both issues are likely to hamper considerably
the efforts of the new providers of Community Rehabilitation Companies
as they seek to implement their through-the-gate services. There
is a risk that such services could be rendered inoperable as a
result of failures in the system that are the responsibility of
NOMS. We ask the Ministry to clarity in
its response to this Report whether it has any financial obligations
towards Community Rehabilitation Companies in the event that they
are unable to operate effectively because of failures in the system
that are beyond their control.
15 Q 11; Justice Committee, The work of the Secretary of State,
Session 2012-2013, HC 741-i. He said Oakwood, the newest prison,
costs about £14,000 per year per place; some of the older
prisons are nearer £40,000. Back
Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General, Managing the Prison Estate,
HC 735, Session 2013-14, 12 December 2013. According to the NAO,
since the 2010 Spending Review, NOMS closed 16 prisons in three
tranches, subsequently receiving savings of some £104 million
annually. In September 2013, it announced a further four closures,
at HMPs Blundeston, Dorchester, Northallerton and Reading, and
the reclassification of HMP The Verne as an immigration removal
centre; it also proposed closing HMP Dartmoor. In 2012, two new
prisons were opened: HMP Thameside, in London, and HMP Oakwood,
near Wolverhampton. Back
Private sector prison staff. Back
PPP45 [G4S] Back
PPP15 [Serco] Back
Q 383 Back
Q 391 [Mr Spurr] Back
PPP33 [Ministry of Justice] Back
Q 67 Back
PPP05 [Mission And Public Affairs Council, Church of England];
PPP13 [Prison Officers Association]; PPP14 [Children's Rights
Alliance For England ]; PPP15 [Serco]; PPP17 [British Psychological
See paragraph 12 above. Back
Q 389 Mr Spurr ;Q 379 Mr Andrew Selous Back
Q 309 [Mr Spurr] Back
Q 379 [Mr Selous] Back
PPP33 [Ministry of Justice] Back
Q 301; Q 379 [Mr Selous] Glen Parva, Hindley and Feltham will
provide adult male capacity from spring 2015. Back
PPP26 [Standing Committee for Youth Justice]; Q 305 [Ms Gibbs] Back
Q 301 [Ms Hinnigan] Back
Q 306 [Ms Gibbs]; PPP57 Standing Committee for Youth Justice.
Between April and September 2014, the youth custodial population
has fallen 5% and the use of secure children's homes has declined
by 29% Back
PPP55 [Youth Justice Board] Back
National Audit Office, Managing the prison estate, December 2013 Back
HM Inspectorate of Prisons, Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Thameside
14-17 January, May 2013; HM Inspectorate
of Prisons, Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Oakwood 10-21 June 2013,
March 2013; HM Inspectorate of Prisons, Report on an announced inspection of HMP Oakwood 1-5 December 2014,
February 2015 Back
Q 395, Justice Committee, Twelfth Report of session 2013-2014,
Crime reduction policies: a coordinated approach,
HC 1004; Qq 177-180 [Grahame Hawkings; Simon Cartwright; John
Biggin]; Q 338 [Jerry Petherick; Mike Conway; James Thorburn];
PPP50 [Dr Geoffrey Penzer] Back
Ibid; Q 188 [Mr Hawkings] Back
Q 78 Back
Q 339 Back
Q 180 [Mr Biggin]; Q 345 [Mr Thorburn]; PPP50 [Dr Penzer Back
Q 227 [Steve Gillan]; PPP24 [HMIP]; PPP50 [Dr Penzer] Back
Q 227 [Mr Gillan]; Q 253 [Mr Pinchin]; PPP54 [Carole Homan]; Back
PPP54 [Independent Monitoring Board, HMP Belmarsh]; Q 207 [Mr
Bailey]; see also Q 343 [Mr Thorburn]; Q 345 [Mr Petherick] Back
Q 335 [Mr Conway]. Q 341 [Mr Petherick] Back
Q 11, HC [Session 2012-13] 741-i Back
Ministry of Justice, Cost per place and cost per prisoner 2013-14 summary,
28 October 2014 Back
PPP24 [HMIP]; Ministry of Justice Monthly Population Bulletin October 2014;
Ministry of Justice Monthly Population Bulletin October 2013;
Ministry of Justice Monthly Population Bulletin October 2012;
Ministry of Justice; Monthly Population Bulletin October 2011;
Ministry of Justice, Monthly Population Bulletin October 2010. Back
Ministry of Justice Monthly Population Bulletin March 2014, London:
Ministry of Justice; Ministry of Justice Monthly Population Bulletin December 2014.
London: Ministry of Justice. Back
HC Deb 21 July 2014: C823W Back
Q 112 [Mr Hardwick]; Q 377 [Mr Selous] Back
BBC News, Prisons inspector accuses ministers of prisons 'failure',
14 June 2014 Back
Q 378 Back
National Audit Office, Managing the prison estate, page
26. Based on building 6,000 new places at an average capital cost
for a new prison place of £158,000. Back
Q 9, Justice Committee, The Work of the Secretary of State, Session
2014-15, HC 312 Back
Q 112 Back
PPP33 [Ministry of Justice]; PPP34 [Prison Governors' Association];
PPP13 [Prison Officers' Association] Back
Q 215; PPP24 [HMIP] Back
Q 374 [Mr Spurr] Back
Howard League press notice, Feeding the crime problem: 3 in 4 men's prisons are overcrowded,
2 March 2015 Back
Managing the prison estate, p23 Back
Qq 217-222 [Mr Bailey; Mr Gillan] Back
Q 217 Back
Q 378 Back
Q 20, Justice Committee, The work of the Secretary for State ,
Session 2014-15, HC 312 Back
PPP12 [Prison Reform Trust] Back
Q 78 [Mr Lockyer]; Lockyer, K. (2013) Future Prisons: A Radical Plan to Reform the Prison Estate,
Policy Exchange. Back
Q 73; PPP12 [Prisons Reform Trust] Back
See also PPP12 [Prison Reform Trust] Back
Q 98 Back
PPP06 [Howard League] Back
Q 73; see also PPP06 [Howard League] Back
PPP23 [Women in Prison] Back
PPP20 [Progressing Prisoners Maintaining Innocence] Back
Q 314 [Ms Gibbs]; See also PPP02 [Secure Accommodation Network];
PPP14 [Children's Rights Alliance] Back
HC [Session 2012-13] 339 Back
HC Deb, 6 Feb 2014, col 35WS Back
Allen, R. (2014) Young adults in custody: the way forward, Transition
to Adulthood Alliance; Youth Justice Board, Transforming Management
of Young Adults in Custody, Consultation response from the
Youth Justice Board for England and Wales. Back
Q 381 Back
Q 381 [Mr Spurr; Mr Selous] Back
Q 332 Back
Q 311 Back
Q 72 Back
Q 73 Back
PPP33.[Ministry of Justice]; Q 378 [Mr Spurr] Back
Q 184. See also Qq 183- 184 [Mr Hawkinge; Mr Biggin]; PPP53 [Ms
Q 116 Back
PPP12 [Prison Reform Trust]; PPP23 [Women in Prison] Back
Q 71 [Mr Podmore] Back
Q 27 [Ms Harriott]; Q 90 [Mr Podmore]; Q 196 [Mr Cartwright];
Q 362 [Mr Timpson]; Q 395 [Mr Selous]; PPP12 [Prison Reform Trust];
Q 163 [Dr Mills] Back
Qq 356-360 Back
Q 129 [Mr Cartwright] Back
PPP58 [National Offender Management Service] Back
Qq 364-365 [Mr Timpson] Back
Q 125 [Mr Hardwick]; PPP12 [Prison Reform Trust]; PPP13 [Prison
Officers' Association]; PPP06 [Howard League]; PPP24 [HM Inspectorate
of Prisons] Back
Q 252 Back
PPP12 [Prisons Reform Trust] Back
Q 242 [Mr Pinchin] Back
Q 27. Michael Spurr admitted that it had not been possible to
secure a commercial contract; the problems with staffing had been
short-term and are now resolved PPP0058 [National Offender Management
Q 121 Back
PPP58 [National Offender Management Service] Back
Q 395 Back
Q 394 Back
PPP09. [Prisoner Learning Alliance]. The Prisoners' Education
Trust has established the Prisoner Learning Alliance (PLA) who
meet on a quarterly basis: 'To bring together diverse non-statutory
stakeholders with senior cross-departmental officials, to provide
expertise and strategic vision to inform future priorities, policies
and practices relating to prison education, learning and skills'.
Q 162 [Mr Clark] Back
Q 163 Back
PPP09 [Prisoner Learning Alliance]; PPP18 [A4e Ltd] Back
PPP06 [Howard League for Penal Reform] Back
Q 125; see also Q 196 [Mr Cartwright] Back
PPP45 [G4S]; PPP12 [Prison Reform Trust]; PPP06 [Howard League
for Penal Reform] Back
Q 122 [Mr Hardwick]; PPP12 [Prison Reform Trust] Back
PPP12 [Prisons Reform Trust] Back
Qq 230-234 [Mr Bailey] Back
Q 188 [Nick Hardwick]; Q203 [Mr Hawkings]; PPP13 [Prison Officers'
Q 22 HC [Session 2014-15] 848 Back
Q 393 [Mr Spurr] Back
PPP09 [Prisoner Learning Alliance] Back
PPP12 [Prison Reform Trust] Back
PPP06 [Howard League for Penal Reform] Back
Q 253 [Mr Pinchin] Back