Examination of Witnesses (Questions 360
MONDAY 15 MARCH 2004
Q360 Baroness Prashar: You made reference
to a high quality regime, and one of the features of a high quality
regime is to have consistent leadership in terms of governors
and so on. Over the last five years a third of all prisons have
had four or more governors or acting governors in charge. Why
have they moved around so much? That must have an impact on the
quality of the regime and the leadership.
Mr Wheatley: Moving governors
does have an impact. We grow governors. Governors learn their
trade by working in smaller establishments, first of all helping
other governors, then taking charge of a small establishment,
then usually a medium sized establishment before we put somebody
in charge of our most testing establishments. Holloway in the
women's estate would be a good example. We do that probably for
most governors over something like a 20-year active life in governing
because governors tend to join from other jobs. Very few of us
come in straight from university, as I did, and even if we do
we will probably come out the other side and be involved in the
job I am doing now, wider work in running the prison system or
dealing with the criminal justice system. If you are going to
pull people through with a very limited period in which they are
actively doing that job you produce lots of moves. If you also
add on to that substantial expansion of the prison estate, which
we have seen, including the private sector, who tend, with one
exception at the moment, to produce their directors out of my
stock of governors, and add in to that that people die, sometimes
retire early for good reasons, and sometimes fail and are not
able to carry on doing the job because it is a very testing job
and we need to move them quickly, that produces a higher rate
of movement of governors than some commentators think is ideal.
On the other hand it does mean that I put somebody in charge of
our biggest and most difficult establishments who have tested
and developed their skills in a variety of other circumstances.
I wish I did not lose people to other sectors; that would be rather
nice. I wish actually some people did not move on and do jobs
completely outside the Prison Service. One of my area managers
has just moved into a job working in the Home Office, which is
a good career development for her but I lose her skills and have
had to replace her. Each of these jobs that happens produces a
pull-through and some of the moves that you speak about are not
moves in themselves. It is that as a governor moves there must
be somebody who takes charge, so the deputy governor will immediately
step into the in-charge role, even if it is only for a week or
two, until the incoming governor arrives.
Q361 Baroness Prashar: How will you
ensure consistency in terms of the regime quality?
Mr Wheatley: What we try to do
in terms of ensuring consistency in establishment is to have a
very strong role for area managers and to make sure that governors
cannot just arrive, as I think they once did many years ago, and
do whatever their own thing happened to be without regard to what
had happened previously. By having clearer strategies for running
our establishments, much more active line management to governors
than we used to have in the past, we achieve that degree of consistency.
Q362 Lord Judd: I am sure you would
agree that the primary objective for the prison is rehabilitation,
and if rehabilitation is to work the prison is a community and,
if you are going to have a successful community, stability in
the leadership of that community is absolutely crucial surely?
Mr Wheatley: If I can only achieve
that at the cost of putting a governor in charge of, say, Holloway,
who had not been tried and tested elsewhere and had not learned
their trade, and as I said the really important thing is that
I can keep them there for ten years, I would put prisoners and
their rehabilitation at risk. I expect to move people between
places and as long as the total service is expanding (including
the private sector) as fast as it has done, from locking up a
population when I arrived in headquarters of 41,000 at the beginning
of 1992 through to 75,000 today with new establishments open,
that will produce a pull-through for governors which gives me
higher "churn" than I like, but I have got to manage
Q363 Lord Judd: Would you not agree
that there is an issue to be addressed here because if what I
say is true and you agree, that rehabilitation is an objective,
other considerations in the Prison Service are making it impossible
to have the ideal conditions in which the community atmosphere
can be developed?
Mr Wheatley: I do not think that
is true. What we are doing is trying, with the resources we have
got, to achieve the best possible result we can get. None of these
moves is being made capriciously, that we think we will just send
the governors to other prisons and move them on because we just
feel like it. What we are doing is trying to make sure that we
have the right people in charge of establishments to make those
establishments deliver, which includes delivering on rehabilitation,
which includes guaranteeing the right to life and looking after
people properly. We are trying to do that having taken sensible
decisions about which governors will do which job best. I am developing
prison governors' careers by trying them in places. I will take
an example: the Governor of Bedford recently moved to Feltham
and took a small, under-performing Victorian local prison and
made big changes in it and did that over, if I remember rightly,
a three-year period. The Governor of Feltham gained promotion.
I cannot guarantee who is going to get promotion because we deal
with promotion under proper Civil Service rules and people can
apply for it and be considered and the best person will be given
the job. He got promotion justifiably, having done a good job
at Feltham, and we took the view that we had to fill that Feltham
vacancy because Feltham is a big and very difficult establishment
to run and, although much better than it used to be, needs positive
and firm leadership. We got hold of the Governor of Bedford and
said, "We think you are the person for Feltham. We are going
to move you", and ascertained if he was prepared to do that.
We moved him very quickly indeed and then advertised the vacancy
at Bedford and have since got a good candidate for it. We had
to cope with those eventualities quickly and we have done that
and it has produced pull-through, so that I could put a tried
and tested governor into Feltham who has worked with young offenders
before, who can lead turnarounds of establishments, has proved
his worth in that, and has proved his leadership and management
skills, and we have put him into a place where I know those skills
will be needed.
Q364 Lord Judd: If you go back for
a moment to the area of mental instability and so on, some people
will argue that for the prison population as a whole there is
a tendency for mental health to deteriorate during the prison
experience. MIND has certainly made that point in written evidence.
Do you agree?
Mr Wheatley: I think there is
a risk in prison that if we do not treat people properly and recognise
the difficulties they have got, they might deteriorate. However,
I can think of many people I know who have come in with fairly
acute mental health problems that have not been successfully treated
in the community who have much improved because of the interventions
that have happened in prison. Both could be true. If we are operating
well the latter is more likely to be true and that relies on us
being able to assess people properly, and therefore "churn"
is very important at that point. If we are not assessing people
properly it is more doubtful that we will achieve that. It is
very important to have good quality mental health interventions
available for us, and they have much improved over the last few
years, particularly access to community psychiatric nurses in
prison. The In Reach programme in prison has been very effective
in improving our treatment of a number of people, including some
of those in the personality disorder group.
Q365 Lord Judd: I note what you are
saying about improvement of the quality of service in that area.
Would you not agree that there are nevertheless a lot of people
who for mental health reasons or drug addiction reasons would
really be better off in a different kind of institution than prison?
Mr Wheatley: Of course. It is
largely a matter for the courts in my case as to who I get, and
I do not try and second-guess the courts. It is not my business
to do that. We do identify a number of prisoners each year, round
about 600, slightly more than that over the last year, who require
in-patient mental health treatment and we transfer them; we have
the powers to transfer them. We know we have got people who have
got mental health problems who in the community would not be in
psychiatric hospitals but with mental health In Reach and appropriate
treatment can be managed safely for them and safely for other
prisoners in ordinary prisons, just like at home they would be
with the community psychiatric nurse.
Q366 Lord Judd: So you think that
either people should be in mental hospitals or special institutions
or else you can handle the whole issue with the right services?
Mr Wheatley: With the right interventions
for those who are not going through a florid mental illness that
cannot be treated or is not being effectively treated, we can
manage them in prisons reasonably. The mental health In Reach
we have got has made us do a much better job there. The links
we are making as a result of changes to the way that health is
delivered to primary care trusts, direct delivery of National
Health Service treatment into prison, are also improving what
we do with this group. For the group which does need hospitalising
as a result of changes mainly that the Department of Health have
made, we are finding it easier to get them into psychiatric hospitals
and the delay in getting them in slightly less than it used to
be. I wish there was no delay at all, of course.
Q367 Lord Judd: You would not associate
yourself with the argument that there is room for a different
kind of institution which is not necessarily a mental hospital
but not necessarily a prison either?
Mr Wheatley: It is not really
an issue for me. We are able to cope at the moment with appropriate
In Reach and that is very important. Without that psychiatric
In Reach working it is much more difficult and there is a risk
that we do not diagnose every mental disorder as well.
Q368 Lord Judd: You say you are able
to cope. You are confident you are coping?
Mr Wheatley: I am confident we
are coping, through I have already put the caveat in that
if the "churn" is too great it does mean that I cannot
be confident that every case is picked up because we are simply
moving people too fast and are not able to assess them properly,
so I worry about that.
Q369 Lord Judd: How far do you think
that the Probation Service and those responsible for sending people
to prison are taking sufficiently into account the mental health
implications which are there in many of the cases before them
and the prisons they send them off to?
Mr Wheatley: It is not something
I can judge really. I do not know what information the courts
have at the point they sentence and that will vary, I suspect,
from court to court, depending on what sorts of schemes they have
got locally to try to divert people from police cells into other
forms of treatment, so I cannot second-guess that. I certainly
hope that we do not get anybody who does require immediate transfer
into hospital. We do obviously get some; that is why we are moving
600 a year who need psychiatric in-patient treatment, some of
whom have been moved at the beginning of their sentence, some
of whom do have an outbreak of psychiatric disorder while they
are with us or the drugs that were previously working stop working
and they run into difficulties. The majority are people we identify
shortly after reception.
Q370 Lord Judd: Would you accept
that you have a problem in persuading a lot of those who are interested
in penal policy that what you have said is not complacent because
there are a lot of people out there, including MIND, for example,
who do not share your perception? What can be done to put their
minds at ease?
Mr Wheatley: I am certainly not
campaigning to say, "Send to us anybody; we can cope with
them". What I am saying is that with the psychiatric In Reach
we are now getting we are better able to cope with people, many
of whom have psychiatric illnesses that are not the reason for
their offending and who are perfectly able top cope in the community
when they are outside and we can help them cope when they are
inside. For those we need to transfer we are managing to transfer
them. I would not want to go any further than that.
Q371 Mr Stinchcombe: I have just
a few questions about those inmates first who are drug dependent.
Can you tell me to what extent there are patient maintenance programmes
available to inmates in prison?
Mr Wheatley: If you want a definitive
list of the different treatments that are available and how many
people are on them I would have to write separately to you.
Q372 Mr Stinchcombe: Can I take you
up on that offer and put to you, so that we can deal with it quickly
and effectively, the particular issues I wish you to cover? If
you could break down the treatment programmes into maintenance,
detoxification and rehabilitation and identify which programmes
are available in prisons and the extent to which there have been
steps taken to improve those treatment programmes and the extent
to which they have been provided over the last three to five years,
that would be very helpful.
Mr Wheatley: We can produce those
figures for you and I can give you some information on what we
have done with them. In the main we are detoxing prisoners rather
than maintaining them on drugs, although there are some that we
do maintain on drugs, particularly those who have been on methadone
maintenance, particularly pregnant women who are on methadone
maintenance, and we are increasingly doing some methadone maintenance
in prison but the vast majority of prisoners we take off the drugs
they have been on and do that successfully with a variety of regimes
of drug support. We have recently been changing our drug support
arrangements so that we use more effective methods. Some of the
earlier ones were not detoxes I would wish to be associated with.
We have put out guidance which is DoH approved on what sort of
detox regimes doctors should use for prescribing but which are
designed to get people safely off opiate misuse in particular
rather than maintain them.
Q373 Mr Stinchcombe: May I ask you
a question about those you do successfully detoxify and if you
can address that in your written letter you can rather than telling
us today. Once you have got them off drugs to what extent does
the Prison Service offer naltrexone treatments, and especially
naltrexone implants which would block the effects of opiates thereafter
for a given period of time, so extending the window of opportunity
for somebody to stay off drugs?
Mr Wheatley: I will endeavour
to give an answer to that. It does depend upon those doctors'
prescribing. Doctors can prescribe in prison what they want. The
doctors have full clinical discretion to prescribe and I am not
sure whether I can get central data on that but we will endeavour
to produce it.
Q374 Mr Stinchcombe: You mentioned
before the provision of health services in prison being taken
over by the National Health Service. Clearly, the National Health
Service promote both transfer of needles and also free condoms
in order to cut the rate of AIDS infection. The rate of AIDS infection
in prison is higher than for the general public. To what extent
is the Prison Service going to be able to introduce those programmes
Mr Wheatley: On needle exchange
the evidence of our research and our intelligence is that needles
are very rarely used in prison. The method of taking opiates of
choice is normally smoking it, although many of our prisoners
would use needles outside. We do not want to get into a needle
exchange policy that appears to sanction the use of needles because
the highest risk of factor is the use of needles, full stop. The
risk that people, even with a needle exchange system, will share
needles at the point they are using them is too high. At the moment,
as long as our evidence indicates that the use of needles in prison
is very rare and that we are effective in preventing their use,
we will not want to go for needle exchange because I think it
will make the problem worse. That is based on analysis of what
is the best way of protecting prisoners from the consequences
of their actions. We need to keep that under review because that
could change. On condoms the policy is that doctors can prescribe
and health care professionals can also give condoms to people
if they think that is necessary in order to protect life, and
I do not want to intervene in that. That is something for doctors
and health care staff and I want them to use their judgment sensibly.
There is a balance to be struck because condoms have lots of uses,
not all of them the ones that you would imagine. They can be used
to conceal drugs and stuff them, so a policy that says that condoms
will be available each week carries all sorts of disadvantages.
A policy that says that those we think are at risk can be given
condoms seems sensible and that is the one we adopt.
Q375 Baroness Prashar: Following
a death in custody how do you ensure the lessons learnt are fed
into the Prison Service and the prison itself and how do you make
sure that the practice is adapted for future purposes?
Mr Wheatley: All the death in
custody investigations are seen by the policy group which Nigel
is in charge of to make sure we are looking carefully to see what
are the lessons that emerge from the investigations. All the investigations
are handled by the area managers who need to ensure that those
recommendations that have been accepted are implemented, so there
are methods of doing both and we have endeavoured to learn from
the investigations and use investigations not as a means of apportioning
blame, although that may occasionally be appropriate, but as a
means of learning what happened and what can we correct where
we will make a difference in the future.
Q376 Baroness Prashar: How will you
work with the Prisons Ombudsman in his new role?
Mr Wheatley: I am expecting that
the Prisons Ombudsman will bring a new rigour in investigations
because he, in the main, will be doing investigations with people
who are full-time investigators whereas I have had to deploy governors
from other work to do the job and also manage some of their remaining
day job. So, I think we will get more rigour, more expertise and
more resources going into themthe Ombudsman has an allocation
of money which will fund more staff than we were able to put into
it and I think that will improve quality. We work very closely
with the Ombudsman and are already working closely on the investigations
that he has done so far and I meet him regularly, he exchanges
information with us, he has involved prison staff working with
him and he has exchanged information with those who are responsible
for policy and suicide prevention. It is a very close and effective
relationship while he maintains obviously his independence.
Chairman: Mr Wheatley and Mr Hancock,
thank you both very much for coming before us today. Thank you
for agreeing at short notice to come at an earlier time than you
had anticipated and we look forward to hearing from you with the
further written submissions that you promised to send to us. Thank
you very much.