4 Governance and accountability |
119. Our announced terms of reference did not specifically
refer to governance and accountability within the prison system,
but as our inquiry progressed it became clear to us that there
were aspects of these matters on which it would be necessary for
us to comment. Policy changes at an operational level as well
as at strategic level appear to have had an impact on performance
and safety within prisons, and they have provoked questions about
the right levels within the Ministry and the Prison Service at
which responsibilities should be exercised, and the appropriate
roles of governors and other staff. Strategic and operational
changes have also had an impact on mechanisms for dealing with
complaints by prisoners and for independent scrutiny of the performance
of the prison system. We consider these matters in this Chapter.
Changes to operational policies
120. In addition to guiding broader structural reforms
and efficiency savings the Secretary of State has instituted recent
change to two operational policiesthe Incentives and Earned
Privileges (IEP) scheme and Release on Temporary Licence (ROTL),
sometimes (incorrectly) referred to as day releasein order
to improve their public credibility.
THE INCENTIVES AND EARNED PRIVILEGES
121. Early in his tenure of office, Mr Grayling explained
to us his rationale for reviewing the prison regime and developing
one that was "defensible in the eyes of the public":
You have to make sure there are two things at
the heart of the way a regime within prison works. The first is
that it has to be defensible in the eyes of the public. If it
seems to be way out of kilter, it will create frustration with
the system, and that doesn't do anyone any favours. The other
is a very practical one. We are dealing with people who come from
very difficult circumstances outside prison, and it is often the
case that what they experience in prison is a greater degree of
comfort and security than they have experienced outside. That
is not a good thing for us. It may be something we cannot totally
solve, but I do not want people to look at prison and say, "I'm
not worried about going back there."
Mr Grayling's subsequent changes to the Incentives
and Earned Privileges schemewhich came into effect from
1 November 2013modified certain aspects of prisoner life,
and changed the requirements which prisoners have to meet in order
to acquire certain privileges. According to the Prison Service
Instruction (PSI 30/2103), in order to earn privileges, prisoners
would have to work towards their own rehabilitation, behave well
and help others.
Prior to the introduction of the new scheme 2 per cent of prisoners
were on a basic regime; 52 per cent were on standard and 45 per
cent on enhanced. In November 2014, 4 per cent were on basic,
8 per cent were on entry, 52 per cent were on standard and 36
per cent on enhanced.
122. Some of our witnesses were supportive of this
new system, in particular the way it enabled prisoners to earn
benefits related to sentence progression, rather than simply for
Among those witnesses who did not believe these changes were constructive,
concerns related primarily to the general presumption "that
items for prisoners will not be handed in or sent in by their
friends or families unless there are exceptional circumstances";
prisoners were permitted a single package when they first enter
prison. This subsequently led to people being unable to send books
to prisoners; the so-called 'book-ban'. We heard that this had
resulted in some prisoners being unable to possess enough books
in their cells to complete their educational courses, to receive
pictures and cards from their families, and to get sufficient
clothing and other supplies.
123. Making privileges harder to achieve has also
led to prisoners experiencing shorter visit times, reduced association
and time out of cell, lower pay, fewer activities (hobbies, television)
and reduced amounts of personal property (books, clothing and
Stephen O'Connell, president of the Prison Governors' Association,
said that governors felt that in some circumstances the scheme
was "morally wrong", in particular on occasions when
a person is put on a basic regime on sentence despite having been
on remand for some time and earned a higher level of privileges.
Prisoners also felt it was unjust to be placed on basic regimes
before they had been subject to adjudication, contributing to
a situation where they felt they were being penalised twice.
124. The importance of privileges to prisoners, and
the nature of control in prison life, led to some to question
whether a prescriptive standardised approach which restricted
governors' discretion was constructive.
John Podmore asserted: "If I may be blunt, incentives and
earned privileges were something that should be left to the Prison
Service and not to Ministers".
Nick Hardwick explained that different approaches were required
with different prisoners. He said:
I think what you ought to be saying to governors
is, "Look, what you need to do is have a sensible system
that passes the public acceptability test and meets the needs
of prisoners, but you are the professionals and we are going to
let you do that in a proper way." We will inspect it to make
sure it operates, but to try and design from the centre how it
should work in minute detail is a mistake.
Other witnesses gave practical examples of this.
Joyce Moseley did not believe the revisions took proper account
of neuro-scientific research on the maturation of young adults.
The impact of the 9pm 'lights out' policy on young people was
another instance of a blanket policy which might be sensible to
some, but detrimental to others.
125. Our evidence suggests that problems with the
scheme have subsided to an extent as it has become more established,
and as a balance has been found between central prescription and
sufficient delegation for governors to make decisions sensibly
in individual cases.
Mr Selous did not comment on the matter of governor discretion
but told us he believed the revised IEP scheme was right in principle
and had settled down well.
Nevertheless, the so-called book ban aspect of the scheme was
ruled unlawful by the High Court and concessions were subsequently
made by the Ministry of Justice to relax the restrictions.
RELEASE ON TEMPORARY LICENCE
126. Release on Temporary Licence (ROTL) has long
been used as an extremely effective tool to rehabilitate prisoners
and promote resettlement. We heard several positive examples of
its use. James Timpson, who employs prisoners on day release at
Timpsons outlets, discussed the beneficial impact that such work
had on the rehabilitation of prisoners, and we heard from a former
prisoner called Douglas who had benefited from access to full-time
education at a college local to his prison. Other witnesses wished
to see more use of ROTL as a rehabilitative tool.
Nevertheless, following a small number of high profile incidents
related to prisoners on ROTL the Government in March 2014 announced
a review. In a written statement in March 2014,
Mr Grayling said: "[f]or ROTL to be granted, there will need
to be a very clear benefit to how it will aid rehabilitation and
increase the chances of an offender leading a crime-free life
on release. There will also be a more thorough assessment of the
risks before temporary release is authorised and a more consistent
and robust response for prisoners who fail to comply with their
He added that all prisoners allowed release on temporary
licence would be tagged, regardless of the nature of their previous
127. The review resulted in greater restrictions
on use of ROTL. The Prisoners' Advice Service warned this was
an example of 'knee jerk reactive policy making' that could impede
Prisoners released on temporary licence must comply with a number
of conditions, including a date and time to return to prison.
Levels of failurea breach of any of these conditionsare
extremely low, at 0.06%, and, of these, only 6% involve an arrestable
offence (equivalent to five arrests per 100,000 releases).
128. Other policies might also act as a disincentive
to the use of ROTL. Deborah Russo of PAS suggested that the Prisoners'
Earnings Act levy can inhibit the effective use of ROTL for work
outside prison, and potentially reduce opportunities for rehabilitation,
as prisoners now have to compensate victims using their earnings
from the scheme.
The Secretary of State was conscious that that the restrictions
should strike the right balance between legitimate public concern
about a small number of incidents and not damaging a mechanism
that was important to rehabilitation.
129. Our evidence shows that the new restrictions
to ROTL are already having a detrimental impact. The Prison Reform
Trust has found that people in prison have reported increasing
delays in obtaining access to open conditions and permission for
temporary release, and mounting frustration at being denied opportunities
to progress their sentences.
The number of temporary releases authorised since 2013 has fallen
by nearly a quarter (23 per cent). People serving life and other
indeterminate sentences have been particularly affected. Figures
show that the number of individuals serving life sentences who
are granted ROTL on at least one occasion has fallen by 40 per
cent since 2013 while the number serving all forms of indeterminate
sentence has fallen by 34 per cent. This compares to a fall of
29 per cent for all prisoners.
on Temporary Licence (ROTL) is an effective tool in supporting
rehabilitation and can lead to better outcomes than releasing
prisoners without preparation from a recent experience of the
world outside prison. We recognise that the Government has to
ensure that it is operated in a way which recognises legitimate
safety concerns and can maintain public trust. While the number
of failures are very few, the consequences can be high-profile
and tragic. Nevertheless, if as a result of the restrictions imposed
considerably fewer prisoners receive ROTL opportunities, the chances
of effective resettlement for them will be reduced, undermining
the Government's efforts to institute a rehabilitation revolution.
In addition, if there is any detrimental impact on Parole Board
decisions there would be further upward pressure on the prison
population. We recommend that the overall
impact of these restrictions on the sustainability and effectiveness
of ROTLwhich should be based on the presumption that it
will be available unless there are strong public safety grounds
for refusal in a particular casebe reconsidered as a matter
Roles and responsibilities of
prison governors and prison officers
131. We have referred earlier in this Report to the
extent that prison governors and officers are being placed under
pressure through budgetary constraints. In this section we consider
other ways in which the roles of both cadres of staff have been
changing over recent years, and the potential implications for
the management and operation of prisons, particularly in the public
THE CHANGING ROLE OF PRISON GOVERNORS
132. Benchmarking in public sector prisons has sought
to standardise practice across various aspects of prison operations
and management. This, together with the trend towards centrally
outsourcing services, the provision of health and education within
prisons becoming the responsibility of other Government Departments,
and the introduction of more rigid operational policies, led some
of our witnesses to suggest that governors' roles had diminished.
Some witnesses made similar observations in relation to directors
of privately run prisons. For example, G4S found managing the
interface between prison management and subcontractors to be both
time consuming and demanding, and cautioned against further subcontracting.
Dr Geoffrey Penzer, Chair of the IMB at privately-run HMP Thameside,
similarly believed that contracts should be formulated to give
the director sufficient authority to ensure the necessary integration
of all services.
Directors of most Sodexo prisons run their prisons in a way more
akin to what governors in the public sector used to do, managing
their own primary health care, substance misuse programmes, prison
shops and education provision.
133. The Chief Inspector of Prisons, the former Director
of NOMS, and some private prison contractors were concerned that
having too many separate contracts operating in prisons could
fragment and therefore compromise the integration of the system.
Mr Wheatley, the initial architect of the specification,
benchmarking and costings programme commented on the additional
policy of outsourcing non-core custodial services:
[Benchmarking] did not necessarily imply that
you were going to offload other bits of the prison by a process
of letting contracts. Indeed, as I left, I was very keen on integrating
what we all did, rather than splitting it up so that education
just did education and worried about how many exams people got,
health only did health and worried about the number of times people
went to hospital and how long they lived, and prison staff just
did the hotel function and maintained security. In my view, that
is not a good way of running a prison.
134. One source of difficulty for the transition
to benchmarked staffing levels has been the inability of governors
to recruit directly to their prisons.
Private sector providers explained the benefits of being wholly
responsible for the operation of their prisons, including for
staffing, thereby maintaining more operational flexibility.
On the other hand, there was broad support for the notion of specialised
services like healthcare being provided by the NHS, for example.
Some witnesses also concluded that the evolving nature of the
role of governors had implications both for models of procurement
and for models of leadership, with more emphasis required on influencing
and relationship management skills, for example.
135. When we asked Mr Selous for his views on how
prison services might be best integrated he agreed that governors
had a critical management role in overseeing partners who were
providing health or education within prisons and ensuring that
this dovetailed into the overall prison regime. On the other hand
he still saw the key leadership role of governors as getting "out
and about in the prison, going around talking to prison officers
and talking to prisoners on a regular basis".
The Chief Inspector shared the view that the latter was an important
element of the role, and believed it would be a mistake if partnership
management overshadowed that.
The Ministry is currently reviewing professional training for
CONSULTATION WITH GOVERNORS
136. The prison governors we took evidence from were
satisfied with their engagement with NOMS, including during the
process of benchmarking and subsequent implementation.
Governors felt that they had been consulted adequately as part
of shaping a range of policies, and were able to propose adaptations
to their benchmark.
On the other hand, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons did not believe
NOMS was sufficiently resourced to provide support to public sector
governors in public sector prisons and some private sector prisons
are no longer responsible for the sum total of everything that
happens within their prison walls. As well as effectively becoming
contract managers for provision of services for which they used
to be directly responsible, they are constrained in their operational
decisions when dirigiste decisions are taken from the centre on
such matters as the Incentives and Earned Privileges scheme, the
'lights out' policy and release on temporary licence. We conclude
that relegating governors to an oversight and partnership management
role with much reduced discretion undermines their control over
the performance and safety of the establishment and their ability
to govern their prisons using their professional judgment, as
they are trained at public expense to do. We
recommend that the National Offender Management Service review
the cumulative effect of these changes on the role of prison governors,
and report the matter to our successor Committee.
Contracting out non-core services
138. Part of NOMS' cost-reduction programme was the
decision to put out to competition certain non-core services,
such as those for prison maintenance and facilities management.
There is a broader question of how governors and their staff will
manage the potentially competing requirements of different providers
operating within their prisons. There is some evidence to indicate
that NOMS had not considered sufficiently the interplay between
various providers in their consultation on prisons policies. For
example, the Association of Colleges felt that learning and skills
providers ought to have been consulted by NOMS on benchmarking
plans. The funding
arrangements for learning and skills are such that providers'
income is affected if prisoners are not allocated to, or able
to attend programmes.
Community Rehabilitation Companies are also paid by results which
could result in tensions between their needs and those of learning
and skills providers in terms of access to prisoners, for which
each will be reliant on the co-operation of prison officers.
139. There is
a risk that the proliferation of partner organisations providing
services to prisons could distract prison management teams from
their core role. This potential effect is all the more important
when resources are such that reduced staffing levels are impinging
on the safety of prisoners and staff for which Governors have
THE CHANGING ROLE OF PRISON STAFF
140. As we noted in Chapter Three, the significance
of the relationship between prison staff and prisoners was referred
to frequently by our witnesses. Prison officers long ago ceased
to be "turnkeys" and now play a range of functions.
 New ways
of working seek to put all prison officers in prisoner-facing
roles, which help deliver NOMS' policy priorities.
Some feared, however, that, following benchmarking, the importance
of staff-prisoner relationships might be overlooked, and the role
of staff could regress in the direction of a less modern model.
141. Phil Wheatley felt that the professional work
of prison officers, and the fine judgements required of them,
were not sufficiently well understood by the public and politicians.
This is a view our predecessor Committee expressed in its report
on the Role of the Prison Officer.
Paula Harriott of User Voice suggested that one of the real barriers
to rehabilitation and reform for people who were within the criminal
justice system was that generally they did not ever meet anybody
who was reformed and had come from their background; she wished
to see more reformed ex-offenders within the Prison Service workforce.
The Zahid Mubarek Trust emphasised that because prison staff were
not drawn from similar cultures and ethnicities to those of prisoners
they frequently misunderstood them, leading to unnecessary conflict.
142. Our witnesses repeatedly drew our attention
to the importance of relationships between prisoners and staff
in maintaining safe and effective regimes and changing prisoners'
perspectives of themselves.
Paula Harriott, herself a former prisoner, said:
The staff-prisoner relationship is critical to
reframing a prisoner's self-identity. When you are sent to prison
and are in receipt of punishment, you are judged and labelled
by the community and society. You internalise that label and it
can really marginalise you in terms of rehabilitation and reform.
You can feel that you are out at the edge and there is no way
back. A kind word, a challenging conversationbut one that
is done with value and respectis incredibly critical in
reforming your self-identity.
143. We saw some examples of this operating in practice
on our domestic and overseas visits. One programme that was operating
at HMP Belmarsh, the STAR drug education programme, was developed
and run by officers and was valued by prisoners and officers alike
as an opportunity for more informal interaction which then influenced
relationships back on the wings. This programme was likely to
cease to operate soon after our visit; it was not clear whether
this was as a result of new ways of working or the new arrangements
for resettlement provision. Nevertheless some witnesses did not
believe that prison culture currently was conducive to prison
officers operating as rehabilitators, even if they would like
Buparai, the POA representative at HMP Belmarsh, questioned whether
existing activities were focused sufficiently on prison officers'
role in reforming prisoners. He said:
All the time we are not giving prisoners any
moral guidance, then we are just putting the bum on the seat,
showing the Government that prisoners are attending activities
as per the required schedule of activity. However, these prisoners
then leave prison and it is a case of revolving doors and they
are straight back in, because we have not tackled the moral issues.
This contrasted with what we saw in Denmark where
we visited Horserød open prison and Vridsløselille
Regardless of category, embedded in Danish prison culture is the
promotion of responsibility among prisoners and the principle
of approximating regimes to normal life as much as possible. For
example, prisoners are given a weekly budget to shop and cook
for themselves. We were struck by the fact that self-catering
was almost universal in Danish prisons, and appeared to be both
cost-effective and trouble-free. This contrasted with the large
institutional catering arrangements which dominate prison life
in England and Wales. We recommend that NOMS examine the scope
for extending self-catering by prisoners.
144. Our predecessor Committee proposed that the
Ministry of Justice commission a wide-ranging review of prison
officers' recruitment and training.
Prison officer training in Norway, for example, is a two year
degree, one year being theoretical and one year practical.
In Denmark, it is three years, with two years of practical training
after the first year of studying. Peter McParlin, National Chair
of the Prison Officers' Association, stated at a Howard League
conference that the Ministry had undertaken a review but had been
unable to implement its findings.
145. The main
foundation of a safe prison is dynamic security, established through
consistent personal contact between officers and prisoners, enabling
staff to understand individual prisoners and therefore anticipate
risky situations and prevent violence. Prison officers also have
a pivotal role to play in prisoners' rehabilitation. Their involvement
in sentencing, planning and resettlement, and enabling prisoners
to take responsibility, should be enhanced. It would be counterproductive
to reduce their role to one of basic oversight of safety and security.
We are not convinced that the Ministry has considered sufficiently,
or valued highly enough, the complicated and difficult nature
of work undertaken by frontline prison staff under its benchmarking
THE CONTRIBUTION OF PRISONERS
146. The Government wishes to see peer support being
given greater prominence in through-the-gate resettlement provision
under its Transforming Rehabilitation reforms. Our witnesses argued
that prisoners themselves could play a much broader role in creating
We spoke to a number of former prisoners who explained to us that
fellow prisoners were more likely to trust, and hence listen to
and understand, the advice of people who had been through the
Raymond, a former prisoner, told us:
We need peer mentors to help the officers to
police the place. Obviously the majority of the prison co-operation
is from offendersit's from prisoners. It is not through
any policing; it's because they're of a certain mindset, and they're
willing to engage and they're willing to conform to certain rules
of the establishment. The peer mentors do help and assist officers
with this, so they are very important.
Adellah, another former prisoner, said:
Peer mentors, experienced people like ourselves
and organisations like User Voice are going to have a massive
positive impact even on those who don't appear to want to change.
It doesn't mean that they don't want to; it is just that nothing
fresh has been given to them and no opportunities have been presented
to them. 
147. In our inquiry we saw or heard of the value
of mechanisms to involve prisoners themselves such as prison councils,
listeners, induction mentors, reading mentors and prisoners supporting
others to come off the basic level of the incentives scheme. However,
we received some evidence to suggest that initiatives like these
this might have become a lesser priority.
The Zahid Mubarek Trust had seen a reduction in race relations
representatives, for example.
We also heard from a Toe-by-Toe (reading) mentor who had been
unable to support prisoners on other wings due to staff shortages.
The former director of NOMS cautioned against disregarding the
importance of such channels for prisoners to have a voice:
what prisoners think and say can very often
be dismissed as, "Well, that's just prisoners." We should
be listening very carefully to what prisoners say. I very much
advocate user involvement and prisoner councils
If you want
to find out what is going on in prison, ask a prisoner.
148. Paula Harriott of User Voice argued that prison
councils created a vehicle for prisoners to voice their concerns
in a responsible manner to the director or the governor of the
prison, cutting out the middle management.
Rod Clark of the Prisoners Education Trust wished to see prisoners
take more control of their own learning, for example, by enabling
more peer support when prisoners were not otherwise purposefully
engaged, including through evening classes.
Dr Edgar believed opportunities for user involvement should be
offered more widely to prisoners, having observed that a small
number of prisoners tend to fulfil myriad roles.
For example, he suggested that prisoners should be engaged more
directly as stakeholders in violence reduction, and should be
consulted on preventive strategies.
149. It is important that within
new ways of working in prisons there is sufficient time to allow
for productive interaction between staff and prisoners, which
contributes significantly to improving safety and rehabilitative
outcomes in prisons. Prisoners themselves have an important role
to play in creating effective regimes. We recommend that NOMS
encourage the establishment of prison councils and other initiatives
which engage prisoners in meaningful dialogue with prison management
about the impact of prison management and policies, and which
provide a framework of support for prisoners who wish to help
Prisoner complaints mechanisms
150. Complaints mechanisms are important tools to
allow prisoners to communicate issues and problems they face in
their everyday lives within the prison. Prisoners who already
have significant anger management problems can become disruptive
because a complaint, large or small, is not dealt with in a timely
fashion. The Prison Service internal complaints process entails,
in the first instance, talking to staff on the prison wing to
see if they can sort out a matter informally or speaking to a
member of the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB); if the matter
cannot be resolved informally, a formal complaint can be made
using forms available on the wing; if the response does not resolve
matters satisfactorily it is possible to appeal against it again
using forms held on the wing.
151. We heard that prisoners have little faith in
the internal complaints system to provide a fair response; they
often saw replies as unresponsive, untimely and of poor quality.
Adellah, a former prisoner, said that prisoners had the feeling
that complaints were not heard, applications were ignored, and
the systems were not well understood.
Nigel Newcomen told us that often complaints were made to him
about the poor quality of the complaints procedure itself.
Some, including Mr Newcomen himself, thought that the recent rise
in the number of complaints could be linked to the increased complexity
of complaints after the removal of areas of prison law other than
those related to deprivation of liberty, i.e. parole decisions
and sentence calculation, from the scope of legal aid in December
2013. The Government
proposes that alternative means of redress such as the prisoner
complaints system should be the first port of call for issues
removed from the scope of legal aid.
152. In an effort to improve efficiency NOMS had
recently streamlined the internal complaints system from a three-stage
to a two-stage process.
We heard mixed reviews of this. The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman
did not believe that the refinements had improved the process.
Prison governor Simon Cartwright reported that since the streamlining
it had become more difficult to ensure that answers to complaints
were completed in a timely and detailed manner. However, Jerry
Petherick indicated that when used correctly the system allowed
complaints to be dealt with more effectively.
Mr Cartwright stated that although initial policing of the new
scheme was difficult, the overall system was functionally 'sound'.
Quality assurance mechanisms had also improved matters,
as had the use of the in-cell kiosk system which allowed for timelier
and more accessible responses.
153. If difficulties
experienced by prisoners are not addressed in a timely and effective
manner this can compound the problem. Given that there are fewer
opportunities for prisoners to raise matters directly with staff,
it is important that the more formal prisoner complaints system
functions effectively. This would be aided by the wider availability
of in-cell technology.
Independent Monitoring Boards
154. The Prison Act 1952 requires every prison to
be monitored by an independent board appointed by the Secretary
of State from members of the community in which the prison or
centre is situated. The Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) is
specifically charged to: satisfy itself as to the humane and just
treatment of those held in custody within its prison and the range
and adequacy of the programmes preparing them for release; inform
promptly the Secretary of State, or any official to whom he has
delegated authority as it judges appropriate, any concern it has;
and report annually to the Secretary of State on how well the
prison has met the standards and requirements placed on it and
what impact these have on those in its custody. To enable the
Board to carry out these duties effectively its members have right
of access to every prisoner and every part of the prison and also
to the prison's records.
155. IMBs have a role in monitoring internal complaints.
However, Paula Harriott suggested that prisoners have little faith
in the wider scrutiny process of the prison system, including
The Chair of the IMB at HMP Thameside said that while the fairness
of responses was consistently monitored, it was equally important
that they are provided in a consistent manner: "an apparently
just response to a complaint is not really just if it cannot be
156. Several Chairs of IMBs themselves believed that
the MoJ did not have sufficient regard for concerns about prison
conditions which IMBs had conveyed.
For example, Dr Penzer, Chair of the IMB at Thameside, said:
Everyone I have met in NOMS and the MoJ, from
the Minister downwards, says they value IMBs. I think our existence
increases their sense of security because if things were dramatically
wrong we would say so [
] Although I believe that most IMBs
play a useful role within the establishments where they are based,
helping to ensure that staff do not slip into unfair or inhumane
practices, I know of little evidence that IMB reports have a significant
impact on NOMS or MoJ, or that changes are made in response to
IMB judgements. Generally the responses to IMB reports go along
the lines 'ABC is an important point and the reason things are
as they are is XYZ'. Rarely is the response 'ABC is an important
point that we did not know about and we are going to do PQR to
put it right'.
In a further submission, he questioned whether the
role of IMBs was sufficiently clear. He observed:
IMBs' proper focus on independent monitoring
to include elements of advising and recommending.
As soon as we advise or recommend our independence is compromised
(you cannot independently monitor the implementation of your own
advice). We take an interest in processes (where our expertise
is at best questionable) and inputs rather than concentrating
on monitoring outcomes. We write annual reports to which NOMS
and MoJ often respond inadequately. My impression is that although
the reports may sometimes be found to be 'interesting', they are
seldom felt to be 'useful'.
157. Angela Levin, former Chair at HMP Wormwood Scrubs,
resigned because she felt there was such a chasm between the official
perspective and the truth. She said:
When I wrote the IMB report that ended in June
2013 on behalf of the board, the key point we all wanted to make
very strongly thenwhich was before the cutswas that
the prison was on a knife edge. I used that phrase and wrote about
the violence, the self-harming and all the things we have already
discussed. It was four months before I had any sort of reply.
I then heard from the Prisons Minister, who in his letter explained
to me how the prison worked, totally ignoring the point. I then
sent another letter and was asked to go and see Michael Spurr,
who is the head of the National Offender Management Service. I
was treated like a naughty schoolgirl going to see the headmaster
and was told, "You are completely wrong. You didn't see that.
No, no that is not happening." I was not talking with my
own voiceI was representing a board of people who were
there a lot."
PRISONS AND PROBATION OMBUDSMAN
158. One role of the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman
(PPO) is to independently assess complaints which have gone through
the internal process but have not been dealt with to prisoners'
satisfaction. Prisoners had a positive impression of the effectiveness
of the Ombudsman, but whether he had sufficient capacity to undertake
this role satisfactorily was questioned by other witnesses.
Deborah Russo said "The Ombudsman has an incredible backlog,
which renders the entire system unworkable. The quality of the
decisions that are made is very poor. Furthermore, the system
is slow and backward looking. It is not suited to deal with many
of the complex and important issues that were previously covered
by legal aid".
These claims were challenged by Andrew Selous and
Michael Spurr, who sought to assure us that the Ombudsman had
been given extra funding and resources to deal with the higher
volume of complaints.
After we took evidence from Nigel Newcomen it became apparent
that the much higher volume of complaints he signalled to us had
subsided to some extent, resulting in an 18 per cent rise for
the last three quarters for which figures are available (April
to December 2014) compared to the equivalent period in the previous
HER MAJESTY'S INSPECTORATE OF PRISONS
159. The post of HM Chief Inspector of Prisons was
created in 1982 under the Criminal Justice Act of that year, consolidating
under one person the prisons inspections function which dates
back to 1815, when magistrates were first given responsibility
for inspecting prisons. The Chief Inspector is a Crown appointment,
made on the advice of the Justice Secretary, and in consultation
with and followed by a pre-appointment hearing by the Justice
Committee. The Inspectorate's remit is to ensure independent inspection
of all prisons and young offender institutions in England and
Wales and to report to Ministers on the treatment and condition
of detainees. The current Chief Inspector's 5-year term of appointment
comes to an end in July 2015. We expect shortly to hold a pre-appointment
scrutiny hearing with the Secretary of State's preferred candidate
to be the next Chief Inspector.
160. HM Chief Inspector of Prisons does not dealt
directly with complaints but provides independent scrutiny of
prison performance, relying heavily on the perspective of those
with lived experience of it. The Chief Inspector reports directly
to the Secretary of State. When we asked him about his impressions
of the degree of independence enjoyed by the Inspectorate he said:
personally, I do not think it is appropriate
for the post to be sponsored by the Ministry of Justice, because
some critical things, like the appointment of my successor, the
setting of our budget and some other matters, are done by the
body that has operational responsibility for the services that
we inspect. Where there are conflicts and independence things,
it is often about perception as much as about reality. Even if
everybody behaves with complete propriety, which generally they
do, it is certainly not seen as independent. We have a lot of
visitors coming to see us from overseas. They are very interested
in what we do and in our independent model. Then they ask where
we get the money from and who appoints me, and they raise their
eyebrows and say, "Oh, that sort of independence."
There are practical problems for a relatively
small organisation with people who work from home being part of
a very large office-based bureaucracy. That does not work very
well at a practical level. The other problem is that sometimes
we get the worst of both worlds. There might be a temptation sometimes
for people to interfere in things that they should not. Also,
the normal governance processes that you would expect to apply
to a body like mine, around accountability, having a board and
those sorts of functions, do not exist. That is a potential weakness.
161. The National Audit Office (NAO) has undertaken
a comparative study of the five home affairs and justice inspectorates.
In relation to the conclusions drawn by Mr Hardwick, the NAO agreed
that the inspectorates' independence can be perceived as limited,
found varying degrees of influence exerted by sponsoring Departments,
and concluded that existing arrangements risked perceived or actual
conflicts of interest. They suggested that the role of the sponsoring
Department should be clarified but did not recommend that inspectors
report directly to Parliament as Mr Hardwick has proposed to us
in the past.
162. Questions have arisen in the course of our inquiry
about the role of Independent Monitoring Boards (IMBs), the capacity
of the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman and the independence of
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons. The future role of Independent
Monitoring Boards would benefit from further, more detailed, consideration
by our successor Committee. We are also concerned at the backlog
of complaints now faced by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman,
and the likely impact of the rise in self-inflicted deaths on
his workload. The Ministry must discuss with him how resources
can best be made available to manage this. We remain of the view
that the independence of HM Chief Inspector of Prisons would be
strengthened if he or she reported directly to Parliament.
263 Q7, HC 741-i Back
National Offender Management Service, Prison Service Instruction 20/2013 Back
PPP62 [Ministry of Justice] Back
Q 203 [Mr Biggin] Back
Prison Service Instruction 20/2013, para 10.4 Back
Q 43 [Ms Russo]; Q79 [Ms Russo]; PPP12 [Prison Reform Trust];
PPP60 [Howard League for Penal Reform] Back
Ibid; PPP12 [Prison Reform Trust] Back
Q 128 [Mr O'Connell]. See also PPP18 [A4e] about difficulties
of prisoners maintaining their innocence progressing with their
Q 244 [Ms Homan] Back
Q 129 [Mr O'Connell; Mr Hardwick; Mr Newcomen]; PPP12 [Prison
Reform Trust] Back
Q 79 Back
Q 129 [Mr Hardwick] Back
Q 328 Back
Q 327 [Ms Hinnigan; Mr Jones; Ms Gibbs] Back
Q 129 [Mr Hardwick; Mr O'Connell]; Q 203 [Mr Hawkings; Mr Biggin] Back
Q 397 [Mr Selous] Back
PPP60 [The Howard League For Penal Reform] Back
Q 155 [Mr Clark]; Qq 276-277
[Douglas; Raymond]; Qq 103-104
[Mr Neilson; Mr Edgar] Back
HC Deb 10 March 2010 col 1WS Back
HC Deb 10 March 2014 col 4WS.
See also Prison Service Order 6300,
amended August 2014 Back
PPP37 [Prisoners Advice Service]. Back
PPP12 [Prison Reform Trust]; PPP64 [Prison Reform Trust supplementary].
Q43; Q279 [Douglas]. The Prisoners' Earnings Act 1996 commenced
on 26th September 2011. It enables prison governors to impose
a levy of up to and including 40% on wages over £20 per week
(after tax, national insurance, any court ordered payments and
any child support payments) of prisoners who have been assessed
as being of low risk of absconding or re-offending and allowed
to work outside of prison on temporary licence, in order to prepare
for their eventual release. Back
Q 21 Back
PPP64 [Prison Reform Trust supplementary]; see also Prison Reform
Trust, Inside Out, February 2015. Back
Q 91 [Mr Podmore] Back
PPP45 [G4s] Back
PPP50 [Dr Penzer, Chair of IMB at HMP Thameside]; we heard at
HMP Oakwood that some of the problems for which the prison had
been criticised by the Inspectorate were not the responsibility
of the Director as they related to education and training and
healthcare provision. Back
Q 336 [Mr Conway] Back
Q 81 [Mr Wheatley]; Q 125 [Mr Hardwick] Q 336
[Mr Petherick; Mr Conway] Back
Q 81 [Mr Wheatley] Back
Q 335 [Mr Conway] Back
Q 118 [Mr Biggin] Back
Q 337 Back
Q 337; Q 186 [Mr Hawkings]; PPP12 [Prison Reform Trust] Back
Q 392 Back
Q 125 Back
Q 393 [Mr Spurr; Mr Selous] Back
Q 190 [Mr Hawkings]; Q171 Back
Q 202 [Mr Hawkings] Back
PPP24 [HMIP] Back
PPP19 [Association of Colleges] Back
PPP10 [Milton Keynes College] Back
PPP09 [Prisoners' Learning Alliance] Back
Q 185 [Mr Cartwright] Back
PPP41 [National Offenders Management Service] Back
PPP12 [Prison Reform Trust] Back
Q 95 Back
Op cit, para 48 Back
Q 39 Back
PPP44 [Zahid Mubarak Trust] Back
Q 30 [Ms Levin]; PPP23 [Women in Prison]; PPP50 [Dr Penzer]; Q 99
Mr Edgar; PPP34 [Prison Governors' Association]; Q 179 [Mr Cartwright] Back
Q 31 Back
Q 30 [Mr Robinson] Back
Q 230 Back
See Q 337 [Mr Conway] Back
Justice Committee, Older prisoners: follow-up, 29 October 2014,
HC 659 Back
Q 95 [Mr Podmore]; Q 106 [Mr Neilsen] Back
Howard League conference, 19 November 2014 Back
Q 163 [Mr Clark]; Q 37 [Mr Robinson]; Q 22 [Ms Harriott]; PPP32
[User Voice] Back
Qq 259, 300 [Daniel and Adellah] Back
Q 261 Back
Q 300 Back
Q 56 [Ms Harriott]; Q259 [former prisoner Daniel] HMP Oakwood
Basic Intervention Group; Q 300 [Daniel and Adellah]; Q 82 [Mr
Wheatley]; Q 103 [Dr Edgar] Back
PPP44 [Zahid Mubarek Trust] Back
Q 37 [Mr Robinson] Back
Q 82 [Mr Wheatley] Back
Q 39 [Ms Harriott] Back
Qq 163,165 [Mr Clark] Back
Q 103 Back
PPP12 [Prison Reform Trust] Back
Q 55 [Ms Harriott]; Q291 [Adellah] Back
Qq 291-2 Back
Q 144 Back
Q 119 [Mr Newcomen; Q 94 [Mr Podmore]; Q 109 [Mr Neilsen]; Q 57
[Ms Russo] Back
PSO 2510 Back
Q 144 Back
Q 355 [Mr Petherick] Back
Q 205 Back
Q 205; Q 294
[Raymond]; Q 353; Q 383; Back
Q 55 Back
PPP51 [Dr Penzer] Back
Q 241 [Mr Pinchin] Back
PPP50 [Dr Penzer] Back
PPP51 [Dr Penzer] Back
Q 58 Back
Q 295 [Raymond and Douglas] Back
Q 57 Back
Q 403 Back
See paragraph 73 above. Back
Q 138 Back
National Audit Office, Inspection: a comparative study, 13 February