Prison Governance Contents

2The role of the governor

46.Governors play a vital role in the effective running of a prison. They work in extremely complex and volatile environments with vulnerable people. A governor is ultimately responsible for everything that happens within a prison, as the governors we met told us.73 They are passionate about what they do, and all told us that it hurt when things went wrong.74 Many emphasised the changing nature of the role due to the government empowerment agenda and the need to have both a strategic and operational understanding of how to run an organisation.75

Governor empowerment agenda

47.Successive governments have had a policy of empowering governors. This was envisaged as moving from a highly centralised system to one where authority was devolved to governors, who would have a much greater say.76 In May 2016, the Ministry launched a programme of six reform prisons, which were intended to give governors unprecedented operational and financial authority. More information on these reforms can be found in Box 6. Reform prisons were mentioned in the 2016 White Paper, Prison Safety and Reform, but according to the Prison Reform Trust were “quietly shelved” after that.77

Box 6: The six reform prisons

Governors in the six reform prisons, announced in May 2016, were given unprecedent operational and financial authority, including to:

  • spend budgets more flexibly to prioritise the issues they considered most important;
  • design new strategies to recruit, manage, develop and recognise staff so they attract the right people and retain them;
  • manage staff more flexibly to increase frontline numbers and support safety, security and rehabilitation;
  • decide which goods and services they buy locally and who supplies them; and
  • decide whom they partner with and what services they commission, including the ability to opt out of national contracts.

Source: Ministry of Justice, Prison Safety and Reform, Cm 9350, November 2016, page 27

48.Governor empowerment was a major part of the 2016 White Paper, which proposed to build on reform prisons and roll governor empowerment out across the prison estate. More information on what was proposed can be found in Box 7. Such proposals have been implemented to varying extents; for example, governors have some control over their budgets, but it is limited.

Box 7: Governor empowerment as set out in the 2016 White Paper Prison Safety and Reform

The 2016 White Paper set out the following proposals in relation to all governors being given greater authority:

  • Accredited programmes: governors would be able to choose which programmes to run for prisoners to tackle their offending behaviour;
  • health: The Ministry would move to a joint approach to commissioning health services in England, with governors jointly involved in the decision-making process at each stage of the commissioning cycle alongside local NHS commissioners;
  • work: governors would be able to develop local commercial relationships to provide meaningful work opportunities for prisoners. They would be able to reinvest the income they generated to deliver additional services or grow their employment offer;
  • staff: governors would be able to design their staffing structure from scratch and hire the senior leadership team, officers and specialists with the skills they think the prison needs;
  • budgets: governors would decide how they spend their money rather than being given specific budgets for different things, with tight restrictions on how they spend it;
  • operating framework: governors would be able to introduce operational policies that fit the prison;
  • education: governors would be given the budget and responsibility for education once current contracts end so that they can overhaul education provision completely; and
  • family ties: governors would be given the budget and responsibility for services to families so that prisoners can build and keep family ties.

Source: Ministry of Justice, Prison Safety and Reform, Cm 9350, November 2016, page 28–29

49.Our predecessor Committee considered the governor empowerment reforms in the White Paper in its Report Prison reform: governor empowerment and prison performance. It generally supported the principle of greater governor empowerment, but it did not see any evidence that this would lead to better outcomes.78 The Committee called on the Government to publish an evaluation of the impact on performance of granting greater autonomy to governors after 12 months. The Government response to the Report said that it was working to develop an evaluation strategy for the full Prison Reform programme, and empowerment would be part of that.79 No such evaluation has been published.

50.A number of witnesses were sceptical of the extent to which governors had actually been empowered since the publication of the White Paper. Andrea Albutt, President of the Prison Governors Association, said that “We no longer use the term “empowerment”. We use the term “freedoms”—freedoms for governors. That probably says a lot about the empowerment agenda.”80 The Chief Inspector of Prisons, Peter Clarke, felt that there had never been clarity over what giving governors more autonomy actually meant. During his inspections he found a variety of perceptions at different prisons as to what governors can and cannot do and argued that “What they [governors] need is absolute clarity about their remit, the parameters of what they can do and the role of those above them in the leadership chain.”81

51.Witnesses identified the inability of governors to control fully their prison finances as a significant inhibiting factor to real autonomy. It was estimated that between 80% and 85% of a governor’s budget will be spent on staff costs, leaving only a small amount for discretionary expenditure and little real autonomy about how money is spent.82 Governors told us that autonomy over their budgets had improved, but they emphasised restrictions and rigid structures to get approval for expenditure that remained.83 The Prison Reform Trust noted that governors must rely on resources funded in different ways and services they may not have personally procured. It called for governors to be trusted with more flexibility over how they manage their budgets.84

52.We support the principle of governor empowerment and it seems sensible and logical that governors should have autonomy to run their prisons as they see best. Any devolution of responsibility to governors must be accompanied by the training and support necessary for governors to succeed in their role. In the three years since the 2016 White Paper and the setting up of the original six reform prisons, the governor empowerment agenda has been implemented on an ad hoc basis, and we are concerned by a lack of clarity as to how the role of the governor has changed as a result. Neither have we seen any evaluation of the impact the changes have had on prison performance. We recommend that the Ministry publishes a full impact evaluation of the changes it has made to governor responsibilities since 2016.

53.Governors will be able to make use of their autonomy and be truly innovative only if they have the necessary funding and the ability to use it how they see fit. We were concerned to hear that governor’s control over their prison’s finances remains limited. We call on the Ministry to set out in response to this report what discretionary funding is available for governors to undertake individual projects in their prisons, as well as what more can be done to give governors the financial independence to drive truly innovative change.

The accountability structures that governors work within

54.The lack of clarity over the extent to which governors have full control over their prisons, led many witnesses to identify an apparent expectation gap between what governors are perceived to be responsible for, particularly by the public, and what they actually have control over. This was articulated by many of the governors we spoke to, who agreed they were often held accountable for things over which they have no direct control.85 Digby Griffith, Executive Director, Safety and Rehabilitation, HMPPS, echoed this, telling us that “the governor is held responsible for a lot of things over which they do not have direct control”.86 He went on to say that “For many members of the public, prisoners are hidden away and the governor is responsible for them.”87 The Prison Officers Association was concerned that the role of the governor was used by the Ministry and HMPPS as a buffer when problems in frontline delivery arose.88

55.Witnesses agreed that governors held primary responsibility for what happened in their prisons. The Prison Governors Association said that “the Governor is accountable for everything that happens in and with their prison every hour, every day, every month of every year.”89 However, the sheer number of organisations and individuals that governors themselves are accountable to was emphasised by some.90 We also heard calls for clearer accountability structures within which governors operate. Peter Clarke told us that “The governor has to be held accountable because at a local level the governor is accountable, but in turn that governor needs to ensure that his or her team is held accountable.”91

56.We had an interesting discussion with our witnesses about who was ultimately responsible for delivering an action plan where the performance of a prison requires improvement. Peter Clarke had received varying responses to this question noting that some governors felt it was them, while others argued the responsibility lay with the Prison Group Director or another individual further up the chain.92 Phil Copple, Director General for Prisons, noted that “Responsibility is held at several different levels, depending on what the nature of the action is. A lot of them will be the responsibility locally for the governor to see through. Some of them will be on the wider service to see through”.93 Jo Farrar, the Chief Executive of HMPPS, accepted that the Service needed “to be clear about what governors and prison group directors are responsible for and what we are all accountable for.”94

57.We are concerned that the additional responsibilities that governors have received under the empowerment agenda do not match the rhetoric used by the Ministry and that therefore there is a lack of clarity both as to what governors themselves are responsible for, but more generally who is accountable for the performance of individual prisons. We recommend that the Ministry undertake a review of the accountability structures within which governors operate to ensure absolute clarity as to who is responsible for what.

The need for teamwork and collaboration

58.There are areas within a prison where the governor does not have direct responsibility for what happens. Health and education are examples, and we cover these in a later chapter, but there are many others, such as facilities management and the resettlement of prisoners. Many of our witnesses emphasised that to be successful, governors needed to be skilled in partnership working and able to work as a team with other organisations. The Prison Governors Association said that governors “rely on building strong functioning relationships with all partners both internal and external to the prison. This requires competent leadership, demonstrating strong influencing and negotiating skills.”95

59.Governors we met as part of this inquiry also emphasised partnership working to shape services and influence areas where they had more limited control, but gave examples of where they had struggled to exert any influence.96 The ability to use skills of persuasion, influence and co-operation, rather than direct command were emphasised as key skills in running today’s prisons.97 Digby Griffith summed up the situation, describing governors as “Chief Executives”, expected to bring together multiple agencies to work in partnership.98 Many different organisations work in a prison and we agree with our witnesses that partnership working is an important part of a well performing prison. A whole-prison approach is absolutely vital and it should be for the governor to work with partner organisations to set the vision and strategic direction for their prison.

The condition of the prison estate and the role of the governor

60.We emphasised in chapter 1 the poor condition of the prison estate as a significant strategic challenge for the Ministry and HMPPS. The Prison Governors Association described the condition of many prisons as “deplorable and not fit for purpose”.99 Dame Anne Owers, National Chair of the IMBs, said the challenge of properly maintaining the estate was something that been reported on for years and felt that it had taken a crisis for the problem to be taken seriously.100 She identified a sense of “learned helplessness” among staff, who had often given up trying to do things to improve the situation owing to a “loss of staff, lack of investment and failing facilities management contracts”.101 Peter Clarke pointed out that in some prisons, such as HMP Liverpool, a mindset had developed amongst staff of accepting poor conditions.102 When we met with governors, they told us that the reality of the situation was that to run a decent Prison Service there first needed to be a decent prison estate.103

61.The Secretary of State and his officials acknowledged the poor condition of the prison estate and the need for action. All agreed that more funding was required to take the action necessary to deliver sustained improved. Phil Copple noted that “this year, for major renewal and maintenance our budget is about £75 million. Ten years ago, the figure was more than £230 million, and that figure is not adjusted for inflation.”104 Sir Richard Heaton, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, estimated the backlog of maintenance across the prison estate at £900 million (£760 million capital DEL and £140 million resource DEL).105 Andrea Albutt told us that just to stabilise prison assets would require £500 million per year for a decade.106 Jo Farrar said that she had visited a number of facilities that she did not consider to be in an acceptable condition and that she was working with the Ministry to make the case for proper investment. She hoped to have additional investment this year so that more could be done.107 However, Phil Copple cautioned that:

you can quickly have a prison deteriorate, but it takes a long time to improve it. That is symptomatic of the adult male closed estate in many respects over recent years. It will be a long haul to improve it. Money will make a big difference, particularly in living conditions. That is why we need to get proper investment in the estate. Local management and their efforts and the support they get from above are also important… With exceptional local management and exceptional levels of support from above, you can make more progress than otherwise would be the case, but you will not have a magic bullet that finds millions and millions of pounds to improve the physical conditions.108

Facilities management contracts

62.Many witnesses identified facilities management contracts as a major reason for the current condition of the prison estate. Facilities management in the prison estate is provided via contracts with two main companies: Amey and GFSL, a government company set up to take over the Carillion contract for prison maintenance following that company’s collapse in January 2018.

63.Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, described the facilities management contracts as a complete disaster.109 The Prison Governors Association concluded that the contracts were a risk to health and safety, as well as decency.110 Sir Richard Heaton told us that GFSL is “still in a transitional phase of stabilising and improving the service, resulting in current performance not yet at the levels either the Ministry or GFSL would like to see.” The Ministry estimated that it had spent £10–15 million more on GFSL in 2018–19 than it had spent on Carillion in 2017–18.111

64.The 2016 White Paper proposed that national contracts be reviewed to assess whether further responsibility could be devolved to governors to give them greater flexibility to buy services from elsewhere if they chose.112 Facilities management contracts remain national contracts. Governors we met expressed frustration at being tied to such contracts, which they felt impeded making improvements to decency. One governor said they felt “held to ransom” by the contracts, noting that they had limited authority over contractual levers. Another said that control over facilities management should be devolved to governors.113 Andrea Albutt said that governors had limited control and had to try to use their leadership skills to influence the contracts.114 Dame Anne Owers said that many IMBs were reporting that there was still “administrative red tape and labyrinthine procedures where it takes ages to get something done.”115 The Secretary of State told us that he was deeply frustrated with the amount of time it took for maintenance work to be undertaken.116

65.A number of our witnesses suggested that a solution to some of the prison estate’s maintenance problems would be to give governors autonomy to authorise and undertake minor repairs work, rather than relying solely on national facilities management contracts. Dame Anne Owers said that prisons previously had their own works departments, meaning that someone was always on site able to undertake small works, alongside prisoners.117

66.The Secretary of State agreed, suggesting that governors should be able to commission minor repairs themselves, saying that “we need to do something more systemic to give governors a higher level of autonomy to get on with the little repairs that mean so much to the prison community.”118 He cited the example of Q-Branch at HMP Leeds, which involves a small group of staff and prisoners carrying out maintenance tasks, saying that “the example that prison officers and prisons are showing in Leeds is a clarion call to the rest of us as to not only how to involve prisoners in maintaining the estate but to save money and do it in a cost-effective way.”119 Phil Copple explained how this could be rolled out across the rest of the prison estate:

we would create flexibility using some prisoner labour, as well as a small number of directly employed staff, to carry out some of the most minor repairs, and try to improve conditions in establishments. They are able to source materials locally to do that, which is distinct from the core services in the management contract, and certainly distinct from more major investment in renewal and refurbishment across the estate.120

The Secretary of State thought this could be rolled out at pace across the prison estate.121 He said that “ I am hoping that when we come to the end of next year, when I think contracts are due for review, we look seriously at reinjecting the local dynamism that can result in little repairs being made that, if left undone, can lead to a whole series of other problems developing that cost us more money in the long run.”122

67.We welcome the Secretary of State’s commitment to introducing greater autonomy for governors to undertake minor repairs and we support him in his endeavour of setting up works departments in prisons to do this. We believe this is a sensible initiative that will have a positive impact on the condition of prisons, as well as creating purposeful activity for prisoners, and call for this to be implemented as soon as possible. We recommend that in response to this Report the Ministry sets out more detail about how it will implement this initiative and when it expects to roll it out across the prison estate.

68.We continue to be very concerned about the performance of facilities management contracts. The condition of the prison estate is dire and the current contracts bureaucratic with limited opportunities for governors to exert any influence in individual prisons. We recommend that the Ministry, at the earliest possible opportunity, move away from national contracts for facilities management to much smaller, localised arrangements. The example of the contracts used under the Prison Education Framework may prove useful in this, but the overarching principle must be that governors have more control over the service and can adapt it to meet the needs of their prison.

Box 8: Q-Branch: An example of good practice

Q Branch is a small team of staff and prisoners who carry out maintenance tasks of varying kinds around HMP Leeds. The scheme employs skilled prisoners to carry out in-house work and gain national vocational qualifications in areas such as painting, woodwork, bricklaying and plastering. The work carried out are tasks that the Facilities Management provider does not have time to complete. Prisoners also carry out tasks that are routinely completed by other professionals or contractors and include waste management, gardening and landscaping, among other activities. HM Inspectorate of Prisons, following their inspection in October and November 2017, described the initiative as an example of good practice. The scheme has also been successfully rolled out at HMP Wealstun and nine other establishments in the North.

Source: Ministry of Justice (PPG0044)

Governor autonomy in relation to capital expenditure

69.The scope for governors to control capital expenditure in their prison remains very limited. Andrea Albutt summarised the position, explaining that:

If I, as a governor, decided that I needed technology at the front of my prison, I would not have the money in my budget to do that. I would have to put a business case, through my prison group director, asking for more money to do that. Whether or not that business case was agreed, the prison group director would not necessarily have the resource to pay for it either, so it would then have to be escalated higher.123

Sir Richard Heaton explained the process through which capital expenditure is approved. He said that capital budgets for improvement works in prisons are held centrally and there is no formal capital allocation to individual prisons. Governors can bid for funding and these bids are submitted to a dedicated Board, depending on the value of the works. The Board then makes prioritised allocation decisions in the light of the overall funding available.124

70.However, a number of governors told us that even where bids were approved, they were often told that there was no money to pay for them.125 Andrea Albutt also raised concerns that bids were not approved quickly enough before the end of the year, meaning that the money could then not be spent.126 The Secretary of State said that the Ministry should “look seriously at how we can devolve a budget to governors with a reasonable threshold under which they should have discretion to spend on repairs.” He added that “I am very much in favour of trying to restore a local element of discretion.”127

71.The current system for approving capital expenditure is bureaucratic and we welcome the Secretary of State’s commitment to look seriously at this issue. Governors should have more discretion to authorise capital expenditure themselves. We accept the need to approve some major capital work centrally, but call for greater responsibility for governors. We recommend that the Ministry review governor’s responsibilities for approving capital expenditure and consider how further financial authority can be devolved to them.

Procurement

72.Many governors raised procurement as a barrier to making improvements. One governor told us that one of their greatest frustrations was the bureaucracy of getting permission to get things done. A number of governors described procurement rules as “a constant battle”. Many felt that trying to innovate was exhausting because they constantly had to jump through hoops and fight to get things delivered.128 Andrea Albutt emphasised the problem of centralised contracts, saying that prisons often struggle to get equipment into prisons: “You need to purchase new furniture for prison cells, but six or seven months down the road you still do not have it.”129 The Prison Governors Association used the example of HMP Bristol to illustrate the problem, noting that new cell furniture had been ordered in January 2019 but still had not arrived by June 2019.130

73.We also heard about the challenges of procuring drugs scanners because there is not a procurement system in place to acquire them; Andrea Albutt said HMPPS was having to piggyback on a UK Border Agency (UKBA) contract to acquire them.131 The Ministry confirmed that in the last year it had leveraged the UKBA contract to purchase 17 body scanners. It is in the process of setting up its own contract to purchase such technology.132

74.We are concerned by what we have heard about the bureaucracy of procurement in the prison system, particularly the length of time it can take to get equipment into individual prisons. We welcome the Government’s recent announcement of £100 million investment in prison security, but this will only be effective if the equipment it purchases, such as drugs scanners, arrives in prisons in a timely fashion. We call on the Ministry to commission an independent review of procurement processes to ensure that prisons get the equipment they need in a timely fashion.

Training and development

75.Prison governors emphasised to us the increasing complexity of their role following the governor empowerment agenda, saying that governors now needed a good understanding of the strategic functions of running a prison, such as human resources and contract management. They also emphasised the need for more leadership training.133 This is something our predecessor Committee called for in its Report Prison reform: governor empowerment and prison performance.134 It raised concerns about governors having the capability to take on additional responsibilities and called for additional support and training to help governors fulfil their role. We repeated this call in our Report Prison Population 2022.135 The Government has said it is investing £1.5 million in learning and development initiatives. As part of the 10 prisons project, interventions were put in place for the governors and their leadership teams to help build competence and confidence within establishments.136

76.Many witnesses felt that additional training would be beneficial in supporting governors to carry out their job effectively. The Prison Officers Association was critical of the current provision and said that if the Ministry wants to devolve any further powers to governors, they need to provide the training and knowledge to enable governors to be successful.137 Jo Farrar told us about some of the work the Service is currently undertaking to develop its governors, including the introduction of a senior leaders scheme, which “will take people with high potential whom we expect to be the governors of the future and start to give them the right training and development.”138 Phil Copple also noted that governors are able to undertake six-to-eight-week placements outside the Prison Service to learn from other organisations. However, he accepted that more needed to be invested in this area, something which had been learnt from the 10 prisons project.139

77.The Prison Officers Association felt the new senior leaders programme did not offer officers enough time on the frontline, noting that in the past officers would have had to have been in post for at least four years before they could apply for promotion.140 The Prisoner Learning Alliance argued that more could be learnt from similar schemes in the private sector. They said that “Not enough thought is given to the type of leadership style and type of prison, and whether a governors skills and attitudes are a good ‘fit’ for an establishment.”141 Governors also called for more tailored training, highlighting the diversity of the prison estate and the fact that managing different prisons often required different sets of skills.142

78.Governors must have the necessary support and training. We welcome the initiatives being undertaken by HMPPS, such as the senior leaders scheme, but agree that there needs to be greater investment in leadership development. The ability of governors to go on short secondments outside the Prison Service to learn about leadership in other organisations is a vital tool and we would like to see this available more widely. The work undertaken on leadership development as part of the 10 prisons project is positive, but we note no evaluation of this aspect of the project has been published. We recommend that the Ministry sets out how it intends to take forward the leadership development work undertaken as part of the 10 prisons project, including how this will be rolled out across the rest of the estate.

79.A number of our witnesses raised the need for additional support to help governors fulfil their role. Andrea Albutt told us that “In governing a prison, governors need the services of competent people around them as well… They need knowledge of and access to the services that help run their prisons.”143 Governors told us that they do receive some support, in the form of finance and HR business partners, but that these are shared resources with other prisons.144 The role of the governor is ever more complex and is rapidly moving from having a mainly operational focus to requiring a more strategic approach. Governors need access to sufficient support and expertise to enable them to fulfil this role.

Recruitment and retention

80.Having a strong pipeline of future governors for recruitment is important to having effective leadership across the prison estate. The Ministry has a strategy for developing leadership in HMPPS and has re-introduced a direct entry scheme for future leaders. However, it accepted that this does not yet go far enough, telling us that “There are lots of people with relevant experience whom we believe could bring new skills and complement the skills of experienced staff already working in prisons.”145 The Prisoner Learning Alliance agreed, stating that “The current recruitment process is not robust and sustainable enough to ensure an adequate number or quality of governors. There is a level of attrition with people leaving the Prison Service or, for governors there are opportunities for employment at regional and HQ level which take senior staff away from operational roles.”146

The effect of high turnover of governors

81.One of the main reasons for having strong recruitment channels for governors is relatively high turnover in the grade. As at 30th September 2018, the average length of service for governors in their current post was 2.6 years.147 Figure 2 shows the number of prisons that have had multiple governors between 2010 and 2018. Fifty-two establishments have had four or more governing governors in nine years.148

Figure 2: Number of prisons with multiple governors in post between 2010 and 2018

Source: PQ 248732 [On prison governors], 02 May 2019. Data relates to the period January 2010 to December 2018.

82.The issue of governors being moved around rapidly within the Prison Service, either between prisons or into a headquarters role, was also identified as a problem. The Prisoner Learning Alliance set out the consequences of high turnover of governors at individual establishments:

We often see that a governor who is managing and improving their prison effectively can be moved to another prison that is struggling. While the logic is understandable, this can potentially have two impacts. The prison that loses the governor has a leadership vacuum, progress loses momentum and structures and initiatives that have been implemented before the governor’s departure are not taken forward and embedded. Secondly, if the prison the governor moves to is not a good fit for their qualities and capabilities, they are unable to make the changes needed to improve their new establishment and a struggling prison continues to be lack stability and effective leadership.149

Frances Crook told us that she did not think governors stayed long enough when they wanted to, saying that “It is horrific when a prison has a governor with a stable team for five years, and suddenly they are parachuted somewhere else and three or four months go by with no leadership and somebody is acting up.”150 Andrea Albutt noted that if a governor stays at a prison for five years, that prison is generally more stable. She emphasised that high turnover has always been a problem, but that the current state of the prison system compounds the issue.151 She agreed that tenure and the ability of a governor to stay in one prison long enough to make a difference should be higher up in the Ministry’s thinking.152

Figure 3: Number of governors by completed years

Source: PQ 169406 [Prison Governors], 03 September 2018. Data for governors in post as at 30 June 2018. Figure only includes Governing Governors working in the HM Prison Service. Therefore, these figures do not include deputy Governors or those covering Governing Governor roles.

83.We believe that prisons require stability to make improvements and this starts with stable leadership. Turnover of governors is too high, and they do not have enough time to embed long-term change before leaving or moving elsewhere within the Prison Service. In order to reduce turnover and stability we recommend HMPPS should work on the principle that where possible governors remain at one prison for at least five years before being moved to other parts of the Service.

Incentives to help with retention

84.A number of witnesses emphasised the need for better incentive packages to encourage staff to stay in the Prison Service for longer. The Prison Reform Trust said that “For the toughest governing jobs, the Prison Service needs the flexibility to offer rewards, including generous help with living away from home if that is unavoidable, that relate to that role at that time, rather than a rigid grading structure which provides rewards in perpetuity.”153 Andrea Albutt said there were no incentives for governors to stay. In particular, she raised the issue that governors are unable to earn extra money doing overtime, which can act as a disincentive when looking for promotion.154 Prison Governors also told us that individuals often look for jobs in the police or security, where they believed there was a better working environment.155 One governor also raised concerns about the high number of individuals on temporary promotion, saying they felt HMPPS took for granted that people wanted promotion without offering sufficient incentives.

85.Both governors and prison officers must have sufficient incentives to stay in the Prison Service and this is an important part of reducing turnover. We recommend that the Ministry and HMPPS review incentive structures to see what more can be done to incentivise individuals to stay in the Service.

Prison Officers

86.Our inquiry has largely focused on governors and leadership within prisons, but a number of witness emphasised the increase in the number of prison officers with limited experience in recent years and many raised concerns that this was impeding the recruitment of talent to leadership positions within HMPPS. The Ministry told us that as at 31 December 2018 there had been a net gain of 4,767 prison officers since November 2016.156 This followed a significant decline in the number of prison officers from 2010 and has meant that there is far less experience in the prison system than there used to be; the average length of service has decreased from 13.5 years in 2010 to 11 years in 2018.157 As at 31 March 2019, 47% of prison officers had less than 3 years’ experience, compared to 16% as at 31 March 2016.158

87.Philip Wheatley, former Director General of the Prison Service, emphasised that it takes a number of years to equip operational staff with the knowledge and experience for them to progress to governor-level. He warned that promoting individuals prematurely risked operational failures that might both negatively impact on a prison’s performance and permanently damage the confidence of the person involved.159 The Ministry acknowledged the fact that HMPPS now has many new and inexperienced staff who require training. It also noted that the leaving rate for prison officers, 11.6% for the year to 31 March 2019, was higher than it wished.160 The then Secretary of State, rt hon David Gauke MP, wrote to us in July 2019, telling us about the HMPPS Retention Board, which has been set up to try to improve retention in specific local areas.161

88.A number of witness noted the Unlocked Graduate Scheme as a positive development. Unlocked Graduates is a graduate leadership development scheme, designed to recruit and develop talented graduates into outstanding prison officers over a two-year period. Participants work alongside and are mentored by existing officers, while also studying for a master’s degree.162

Figure 4: Number of Band 3–5 prison officers between 2010 and 2019

Source: HM Prison and Probation Service, HMPPS workforce statistics bulletin: March 2019 tables, May 2019, table 3

89.We welcome the overall increase in the number of prison officers, but are concerned by the high rate of attrition among officers and the effect this has on the experience in the Service. If HMPPS is unable to retain officers in the long term this will reduce the pipeline of talent for future governors. We note the work currently being undertaken by the Ministry but recommend that a formal strategy is required to improve retention of prison officers.

Representation of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic individuals in leadership positions

90.As at 31 March 2019, 7.3% of public sector Prison Service staff declared their ethnicity as being BAME, an increase from 6.4% 12 months previously.163 David Lammy, in his review on the outcomes of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) individuals in the criminal justice system, found that “the lack of diversity among prison officers, including prison leadership, helps perpetuate a culture of ‘us and them’ with BAME prisoners. It contributes to an atmosphere in which many rebel against prison regimes, rather than start on the road to a life without offending.”164 The Ministry has responded by committing to ensuring that BAME representation in HMPPS senior leadership is reflective of the wider population by 2030 and that by December 2020, 14% of all staff should be recruited from a BAME background.165

91.A number of our stakeholders raised BAME representation among HMPPS senior leaders as a significant issue. The Prison Governors Association told us that “Diversity remains an issue at Governing Governor level where you can count on one hand the number of BAME leaders of prisons, with not one governing within the Long Term/High Security Estate.”166 Frances Crook said this was a problem because prison staff and leaders do not reflect the prison population of which, as at 30 June 2019, 27% had a BAME background.167 Andrea Albutt emphasised that people from BAME backgrounds do not apply for the assessment process to enter junior governor grades and that work needed to be undertaken to understand why.168 The Ministry says that HMPPS have “held one-to-one interviews and focus groups with senior leaders and BAME staff in prisons to gather their views on barriers to progression and how we can remove these.”169

92.We welcome the Ministry’s commitment to improving BAME representation in the Prison Service but, two years on from the Lammy Review, progress has been disappointingly slow. This must continue to be a priority for the Ministry, which has committed to publishing an update on its implementation of the recommendations in the Lammy Review by the end of 2019. We look forward to seeing this and recommend that the Ministry publishes diversity data by grade, as well as a more detailed analysis of the barriers to progression of BAME staff within HMPPS and an evaluation of the changes the Ministry has implemented since the publication of the Lammy Review to remove such barriers.


73 See for example Prison Reform Trust (PPG0003) and Annex 1.

74 See Annex 1.

75 See Annex 1. See also Prisons Research Centre, Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge (PPG0006).

76 See for example Q416

77 Prison Reform Trust (PPG0003). See also Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPG0023) and Clinks (PPG0027).

78 Justice Committee, Prison reform: governor empowerment and prison performance, Twelfth Report of Session 2016–17, HC 1123, 7 April 2017

79 Justice Committee, Second Special Report, The Government’s Response to the previous Committee’s Reports (on Prison reform: governor empowerment and prison performance, and Prison reform: Part 1 of the Prisons and Courts Bill), October 2017, HC 491, 23 October 2017.

80 Q2

82 See Q4; Prison Governors’ Association (PPG0040); Annex 1.

83 See Annex 1.

84 Prison Reform Trust (PPG0003)

85 See Annex 1.

87 Q223 [D Griffith]

88 POA (PPG0010)

89 Prison Governors’ Association (PPG0040)

90 See for example Prison Reform Trust (PPG0003) and Prison Governors’ Association (PPG0040).

95 Prison Governors’ Association (PPG0040)

96 See Annex 1.

97 Prisons Research Centre, Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge (PPG0006)

99 Prison Governors’ Association (PPG0040)

103 See Annex 1.

105 Letter from Sir Richard Heaton, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice to Bob Neill, Chair, Justice Committee, Ministry of Justice Main Estimate 2019–20, 2 July 2019

107 Q457 [J Farrar]

108 See for example Q429.

109 Q37 [F Crook]

110 Prison Governors’ Association (PPG0040)

111 Letter from Sir Richard Heaton, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice to Bob Neill, Chair, Justice Committee, Ministry of Justice Supplementary Estimate 2018–19, 8 April 2019. The £10–15 million figure refers only to the fixed cost element of the contract.

112 Ministry of Justice, Prison Safety and Reform, Cm 9350, November 2016, page 29

113 See Annex 1.

114 Q37 [A Albutt]

116 Q457 [R Buckland]

119 Q457 [R Buckland]. See also Q376.

122 Q457 [R Buckland]

124 Letter from Sir Richard Heaton, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice to Bob Neill, Chair, Justice Committee, Ministry of Justice Supplementary Estimate 2018–19, 8 April 2019

125 See Annex 1.

127 Q457 [R Buckland]

128 See Annex 1.

130 Prison Governors’ Association (PPG0040)

132 Ministry of Justice (PPG0044)

133 See Annex 1.

134 Justice Committee, Prison reform: governor empowerment and prison performance, Twelfth Report of Session 2016–17, HC 1123, 7 April 2017, page 14

135 Justice Committee, Prison Population 2022: planning for the future, HC 483, April 2019, pages 52–53

136 Letter from Sir Richard Heaton, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice to Bob Neill, Chair, Justice Committee, Ministry of Justice Main Estimate 2019–20, 2 July 2019

137 POA (PPG0010). See also Miss Emily Talbot (PPG0032).

139 Q422. See also Ministry of Justice (PPG0014).

140 POA (PPG0010)

141 Prisoner Learning Alliance (PPG0024)

142 See Annex 1.

144 See Annex 1.

145 Ministry of Justice (PPG0014)

146 Prisoner Learning Alliance (PPG0024). See also Prison Reform Trust (PPG0003).

147 PQ 2195 7 [Prison Governors], 11 February 2019

148 PQ 248732 [On prison governors], 02 May 2019

149 Prisoner Learning Alliance (PPG0024)

150 Q40 [F Crook]

153 Prison Reform Trust (PPG0003)

154 Q53; Q55.

155 See Annex 1. Also Q55.

156 Ministry of Justice (PPG0014)

157 PQ 2526 5 [Prison Officers], 9 May 2019. Figures used includes Band 3–4 / Prison Officer (including specialists), Band 4 / Supervising Officer and Band 5 / Custodial Managers.

158 HM Prison and Probation Service, HMPPS workforce statistics bulletin: March 2019 tables, May 2019, table 4. Band 3–5 prison officers only.

159 Mr Philip Wheatley (PPG0009)

161 Letter from David Gauke, Secretary of State for Justice, to the Chair, Justice Committee, Prison population 2022: planning for the future, 16 July 2019

162 Unlocked Graduates (PPG0043)

163 HM Prison and Probation Service, HMPPS workforce statistics bulletin: March 2019 tables, May 2019, table 5a

166 Prison Governors’ Association (PPG0040)

167 Q40; Ministry of Justice, Prison Population: 30 June 2019, 25 July 2019, table 1.4.




Published: 31 October 2019