Monday 18 December 2017, Reform held a speech by the Rt Hon David Lidington MP, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice. His speech is below.
Thank you Andrew [Haldenby, Reform] for that introduction – and thank you all for being here today. It’s always slightly frightening to be reminded of how long you have known someone. It goes back to the days when we both had more hair, and perhaps slightly less grey around the gills, but Reform under your leadership goes from strength to strength in terms of generating policy ideas. I’ve always said that one of the biggest challenges for a party in Government is how to try to refresh it’s electoral energy and its exposure to ideas that require a bit of lateral thinking and I think it’s critically important for Theresa May and for the Government now that we have Think Tanks like Reform to help ministers and their teams to do that thinking and to engage in that way. I want to start, before I go on to the nitty gritty about prisons, just to start with a point of principle about the purpose of prison.
Approach to first six months
Because for me, the purpose of prisons is twofold: it’s first of all to keep safely and securely those people – mostly men but also smaller numbers of women and teenagers – who have been sent there by the courts, but at the same time, it’s purpose is to seek to rehabilitate prisoners, to use the time that they spend in custody to make it more likely that, after they’ve been released, they will live law-abiding lives, they will be able to accept their responsibilities as citizens and contribute positively to the community in which they live.
I want to get one thing very straight: as far as I’m concerned, it is being sent to prison that constitutes the punishment. Because that means the loss of liberty, the loss of the right to come and go as we please, to lead our lives in the way that we choose – something that probably after life itself is the most previous freedom that any one of us possesses.
And it should be a key principle that it is the deprivation of liberty that constitutes the punishment. And prison conditions themselves should be decent and humane, and organised in such a way as to encourage and contribute towards successful rehabilitation. That is why I am committed to continuing Liz Truss’s prison modernisation programme, which as Andrew said was announced here a year ago, creating thousands more modern prison places that are fit for the future – and which incidentally are much cheaper to operate, place for place, than places in our ancient Victorian prisons.
Prison should be a last resort.
That is what the law says after all. As a sad truth, there will always have to be people who have to be imprisoned, either because they would be a serious danger to public safety if freed or because the crime that they have committed is so serious that only a prison sentence will do to give the victim a sense that justice has been done and to mark society’s rejection of the crimes.
But I believe too that people don’t want to see our prison population forever rising. I certainly want to see numbers come down from their current record levels. And we need to look constantly at how to ensure that we have a range of tough community sentences, as alternative options, options in which both judges and the general public feel that they can have confidence.
We also need to remember in planning policy that all but a tiny handful of prisoners will one day be released. I think that the public is entitled to expect the state to do its utmost to ensure that an offender who leaves prison is less likely to return.
After all each and every time someone comes out of prison and reoffends, there is a victim at the receiving end of that offence. Only by tackling reoffending and the reasons behind it that will we make society safer in the long run and protect people from becoming future victims of crime.
Making a prisoner less likely to reoffend when he is released starts with having safer and more secure prisons. That has been my focus since the summer. Of course, knowing where and what the problems are, and having a plan to fix them, doesn’t make the task itself an easy or straightforward one. Change isn’t going to happen overnight. Results will take time.
But we are making some progress. Now I know that some, including some here, were disappointed that due to Parliamentary time, we were not able to carry forward the Prisons and Courts Bill in the form that it had reached Parliament ahead of this year’s General Election. I understand those concerns, but I am clear that we can – and we are – continuing to reform our prisons. And I’m keen in particular to take forward by administrative means as many as possible of those areas highlighted in the bill of which I’m able to take forward action.
If we look, for example, at my announcement this month on introducing an urgent notification process: that was something that the Chief Inspector challenged me directly to do by administrative means when the Bill could not be proceeded with. And that is a commitment that I was determined to deliver on and which I have now introduced.
It means that the Chief Inspector of Prisons can now go directly to me when there is an urgent and significant concern about a prison and, as Secretary of State, I will be required to respond within 28 days, and in public, with an action plan to turn the prison around.
And where reform does need legislation, we are active in seeking legislative vehicles, for example through Private Members Bills, such as Maria Caulfield’s that is the House at the moment. The key point is that we strive to deliver reform and change right now, and I reiterate today my determination to do just that.
The safety and security situation
Every day, my office receives a report detailing all the incidents from the prison service over the previous 24 hours. The most troubling updates often involve violent attacks on staff.
One recent report described how three prison officers had suffered injuries while breaking up a fight. One had a broken nose, another bruising to the head. They were all taken to hospital. Despite their injuries and their ordeal, having been checked out of hospital, all three of those prison officers wanted to return to work straight away and were back on duty that the same day to complete their shifts.
I think that demonstrates the level of dedication and determination that our prison staff have. It’s true that we as a country don’t thank them enough. So I want to take the record today, I want to take the opportunity to put on record my thanks for the work they do, day in and day out, in our prisons. It is tough work, but it is important work.
And no prison officer should go to work in fear of being attacked. This is something I’ve talked about with my colleagues the Home Secretary and with the Attorney General. We are all three of us, very clear indeed that an assault inside a prison should be investigated and where there is evidence, prosecuted with as much rigour and determination as if that assault had taken place outside the prison gates. Where a member of staff has been assaulted by a prisoner, then that prisoner should, if the evidence is there, face justice – meaning prosecution and an appropriate sentence. That’s what happened recently with a prisoner Martin Marland, who attacked an officer at HMP Liverpool by wrapping a ligature around his neck. He was charged with attempted murder in October and is now serving 11 years and 8 months.
The Government is also supporting Chris Bryant’s Private Member’s Bill to further protect our public service workers, including prison officers.
They are after all, at the sharp end, helping to create order and calm and we need to help them to improve safety. We have now surpassed the halfway point in our target to recruit 2,500 extra prison officers, something that Liz announced here last year, with a net increase of 1255 officers since last year.
Safety comes not just in numbers, safety comes in having the right tools and resources to keep yourself and prisoners safe. That’s why in the last six months, we have:
ensured every prison officer in England and Wales has access to body-worn cameras;
we’ve introduced new ‘police-style’ handcuffs and restraints;
and we are trialling the use of PAVA spray in situations where a prisoner is armed with a weapon.
These will make a significant difference in staff being able to manage violent incidents. But alongside that it’s important to look at the reasons why violence occurs. The overriding trigger for violence, harm and disorder in prisons is the availability of drugs and other contraband. And in particular, the game changing impact of spice and other New Psychoactive Substances in the last couple of years which is being actively promoted by organised gangs both inside and outside prison.
That’s why it is important we have been upgrading our detection measures across the prison estate.
But I want to show you an example of what we’re up against….
This will be familiar to many of the experts here. This is a fully functioning mobile phone, no bigger than a lighter, nearly 100% plastic and available to buy online from sites like Amazon, Ebay and Gumtree.
A quick google yesterday showed me you can buy a miniature phone, like this, for about £25 on the market. Get one inside a prison and it could fetch up to £500 – probably by way of a debt in which a prisoner who wants one, agrees to undertake, putting him in hock of the gang bosses both inside prison and after release as well. A huge mark-up. A huge financial incentive for the gangs. Again, there will be experts here that know only too well how these are smuggled into prison. For those that don’t – the size and shape would give a clue.
It is a constant challenge. Many of the advertisements are actually accompanied with the slogan: “Beat the BOSS”. And to most people, that might seem like the product gives you an opportunity to play a prank on your boss at work – to get one over on them. In fact, it is a reference to the ‘BOSS’ chair – a piece of equipment used by prisons to detect a hidden mobile phone that may be concealed about a prisoner’s person.
It’s pretty clear to me that these miniature phones are being manufactured and sold with the purpose of being smuggled into prisons. Why after all are they also advertised as being without any metal components.
That’s why today, I am calling on online retailers and trading websites to take down products on their platforms that are clearly intended to be used to evade detection measures in prison. I have written to Amazon, Ebay and Gumtree and I am keen to work with them to achieve this. Because we all, and in particular retailers, we all have an interest in seeking to limit and cut off the opportunities that are available to organised crime.
We now also have the technology to block a mobile phone from receiving a signal in prison. And we are going further. I mentioned that we were legislating where we need to. Maria Caulfield’s Private Member’s Bill – which has Government backing and which received its Second Reading in the House of Commons earlier this month – will enable mobile network operators to make use of their special technical knowledge and expertise to prevent, detect and investigate illicit mobiles.
These measures to target illegal phones, will I believe, help us to build on the success we saw last year in recovering record hauls – seizing 35 phones a day and uncovering 7,000 sim cards across the prison estate.
This year too, we have seen prisons delivering results….
Just last month, we saw a successful raid in HMP Hewell. This followed months of very careful painstaking intelligence work and planning involving prison staff from across the country, specialist security and search teams. They uncovered 79 mobile phones; 29 improvised weapons; and a large quantity of drugs.
We should recognise these as important successes yes, and are the result of much hard work and investment in intelligence and detection capability, but it also demonstrates the scale of the problem we face.
The fact is, our prisons are facing a clear and present danger from well organised individuals and criminal networks. These are networks that are every bit as professionally operated as a legitimate business, but they happen to be engaged in criminal activity. Over the past few years, these gangs have exploited opportunities to target and profit from what is literally a captive market in prisons.
Just as the gangs have taken advantage of miniature mobile phones, so too have they used technologies like drones to aid their criminal activity.
Smuggling has gone from the crude and opportunistic: a friend or family member chancing their luck, throwing a bag of drugs over a prison wall (but that still goes on at pace), to sophisticated and systematic: complex supply chains, overseen by professional criminal gangs, despatching and delivering contraband on a commercial scale.
So as well as responding to security problems, we must also get onto the front foot if we are to stay ahead of the criminals. In essence, we need to get more strategic in our approach to security.
Recognising that detection and seizure is our last line of defence. Our first line of defence is taking the fight to the criminal gangs themselves.
That is why we have been boosting our expenditure on intelligence-led operations: police officers are now working alongside prison officers to expose the criminal gangs, to stop them in their tracks and bring them to justice. I think it’s fair to say that HMPPS today is working more effectively in terms of intelligence sharing operation with the police and security intelligence agencies than at any time in its history.
We have now seen 28 convictions and combined sentences of more than 82 years for those involved in drone attacks against prisons. That includes 11 gang members convicted only last week to a total of 32 years between them for using drones to smuggle drugs, phones and weapons into prisons on a commercial scale.
These convictions will make prisons safer and more secure and send a clear message to those involved in these gangs: that we will track you down and that you will feel the full force of the law.
But there is at the end of the day no magic bullet, no single solution, no panacea to the problems our prisons face, but through this greater focus on intelligence-led work, through our use of technology in prisons and tackling the criminals’ exploitation of technology, I believe we can – and we are – bringing about a more calm and ordered environment that protects staff and prisoners alike – and trying therefore to create environments where offenders can turn their lives around – and turn their backs on crime.
Rehabilitation to reduce re-offending
Now, I know that is easier said than done – and that safe and secure prison environments are just the foundation for successful rehabilitation.
We know that nearly two-thirds of prisoners serving sentences less than 12 months reoffend within a year of release. When you are confronted by a statistic like that, it can feel like too big a challenge to turn around.
It’s also the case that the prison population presents us with virtually all of the social problems that we find in this country in their most acute and concentrated form. Many people here will already know the figures already – that a half of young offenders going into custody have a reading age of no greater than the average 7-11 year old. Truancy, exclusion from school, experience of local authority care, having been a victim of childhood abuse. These are features which in the prison population you find represented much more commonly than in the population as a whole. Perhaps most tragically, something like 2/3 of the sons of prisoners end up offending themselves.
But against that I just want to read to you three success stories that should give us the belief that things can change.
These are the words, not of politicians, prison governors, or even the chief inspector of prisons. They come from offenders themselves:
“Bernie made me feel supported — that I have a life to live after prison. I felt like giving up, she gave me the encouragement I needed to make positive changes to my life.”
“Anna has helped me to understand that violence isn’t the only option and helped me express my feelings in a controlled calm environment. She has always been there for me when I need her.”
“My life for me ended when I went to prison. Vicky helped me to look up and forward and not to stay in the past.”
The common strand in those three statements? Hope, yes. Self-reflection, yes. Encouragement, yes.
But what they also share is that were stories about a named person, a prison officer or another member of staff working in that prison, whom the offender felt was on their side, who was looking out for them, who listens and understands, who can help them to turn things around.
I want to see more Bernie’s, more Vicky’s and more Anna’s supporting offenders in both our prison and probation service – and, in turn, more changed outlooks and changed behaviours from offenders like those testimonies I just read out. And that is exactly why we are recruiting thousands more prison staff, and why we’re rolling out the new ‘offender management in custody model’, where each offender has a key worker to guide, support and coach them. And each prison officer, in his or her turn, will be responsible for half a dozen named offenders in the prison in which he or she works.
It is through our prison and probation officers working directly with offenders that we will help them to turn their lives around and make them less likely to reoffend. That’s why we are not only increasing numbers, but also seeking to bring people into the prison service from other sectors to bring fresh perspectives and different experiences.
It’s why we are recruiting and investing in the leaders of tomorrow, for example, through our Unlocked scheme, which is attracting graduates and those looking for a career change into to the prison service.
I met recently with a number of the first cohort of graduates who started in August as they undertook their cell searching training in one of the prisons in the Home Counties. I was very struck by their enthusiasm and their passion, and their diverse range of backgrounds. One was a banker, another had come straight from university looking for a first graduate job working as a prison officer. What struck me about all of them was that they were not applying for the Unlocked Scheme because they couldn’t think of anything else – they brought to their training, to their future work a real sense of vocation in seeing the job of a prison officer as giving that opportunity to make a difference for the better to the society in which they are a member.
In building a strong workforce that is focused on improving outcomes for prisoners, we do need to make sure that our staff are more reflective of the prison populations they oversee and in particular better understand the needs of Black and Minority Ethnic individuals. It’s a sad truth but we know that the quality of relationships with staff, it’s a generalisation, but it is poorer for ethnic minority prisoners than for others. And as the Lammy Review found, this group disproportionately feels they are treated unfairly and that the justice system is stacked against them.
It is a fundamental principle of our justice system that everyone is treated equally before the law and no matter what your background, everyone should be treated equally and have the same opportunity to turn their lives around. That will be at the heart of our response to the Lammy review, which I shall be publishing tomorrow.
Delivering secure, reforming prisons will depend upon us continuing to invest in our workforce. This includes nurturing strong, local prison leadership. That’s why we are giving new powers to prison governors so that they have greater freedom to decide how to run their prisons and design the support and services that will meet the needs of the prisoners in their care. I want to pay tribute to the pioneering work that my predecessor Michael Gove initiated – to give greater autonomy to prison governors.
Since April this year, all governors have had a greater say over the provision of healthcare within their prisons and the programmes run there to help change offender behaviour. They’ve also had greater freedom to determine how they organise their staff and spend their budgets.
In October, we devolved the budgets for family services so governors can now choose how to spend money on services like visitors’ centres and parenting skills classes. And over the coming year, we will give them more powers, in education and training so they can commission services like libraries and workshops.
Looking forward as existing national contracts come to an end I want to find ways in which to enhance further autonomy that governors have. There is obviously a judgment to be made about the balance between economies of scale, by doing things on a national level and the benefits of being able to tailor a service to local or regional requirements. I am keen to explore the contracts for things like procurement of food, for repairs and maintenance. Whether these are functions that could be better exercised either by individual governors or by a cluster of governors in a group of regional prisons working together.
Over the last six months, it has been inspiring to meet governors as they pursue innovative local initiatives that work for their prison, and to talk to prison officers who are passionate about the positive change they can make. It’s also been an experience to listen to prisoners who have taken up opportunities as they look towards life beyond the prison gates. So, while I can’t pretend that there aren’t serious problems and challenges facing our prison system, I have also seen the evidence of what can be, what is being, achieved. And that enables me to feel both optimistic and ambitious for what it is possible to achieve.
But I want to conclude by also saying this: the challenge of turning around the lives of offenders and reducing our stubbornly high reoffending rate can’t just be borne on the shoulders of our justice system. I believe that if we are to successfully rise to this challenge we need to mobilise more of government; we need a concerted effort across the public sector.
Take employment: we know that finding a job shortly after someone is released means they are less likely to reoffend, yet only 17% report being in employment a year after release. That is why we are introducing the New Futures Network, to build links between prisons and local employers and to promote to employers the benefits of hiring ex-offenders. And is why I am seeking to encourage other Government departments to join the Ministry of Justice in stepping up our efforts to ban the box and give offenders who apply for a job in the public sector the chance to compete on a level with other applicants.
Take accommodation: we know having the right accommodation on release is vital in ensuring they get back on their own two feet. You need an address to apply for a job, you need an address to apply for benefits, yet 30% of those released from prison didn’t have suitable accommodation on their first night of release.
For someone coming out of prison, having a job, a roof over your head and access to the right health treatments is vital if that ex-prisoner is going to have a chance of not falling back into crime and creating more victims.
So I want us to get much better at putting prisoners at the heart of the wider work of government. I am working with Cabinet colleagues to look at how their departments can target prisoners and ex-offenders with the support they need to find a job, a home, to get help with debt, or to get treatment for a drug addiction. If we can achieve that and bring the reoffending rate down, we are sparing thousands of potential victims of the trauma of being burgled, or assaulted, or robbed in the future.
To give you just one example, I have agreed with Sajid Javid that my department will work with the Department for Communities and Local Government to develop a pilot project focussed on enabling offenders to access and sustain tenancies following release from prison, building on existing government support for those at risk of homelessness. And we will be saying more about this in the New Year.
Prisons can be magnifying glasses for wider problems and inequalities in society. By ensuring prisoners have the right services and support, we can reduce the chances of them ending up committing more crime, ending up back in prison and starting the cycle of crime all over again.
So, I believe we are, more slowly than I would wish, making our prisons safer and more secure. Whether that is as a result of more prison officers who are better equipped with the right tools to deal with and reduce violence, whether it’s by improving our use of technology, or from tracking down the criminal gangs that are destabilising our prisons and bringing them to justice. Each of those initiatives contributes to that central objective.
I think those efforts are starting to make a difference on the ground. But safety and security are only the foundation. Real rehabilitation will come from supporting the day to day hard work of our prison and probation staff who can build those positive and constructive relationships with offenders. It will come by empowering prisons, led by their governors, to design the support and services that will work for them. It will come when we stop seeing the prospects our prisoners face on release as a problem solely for the justice system, but rather as a call to action for all of government, voluntary organisations, for the wider public sector, and for employers as well.
Our prison system has faced tough times, but with a determination to stabilise the situation on the ground and a concerted effort to support prisoners on release, I believe we have an opportunity to break that cycle of crime, to reduce reoffending and ultimately to create a safer, fairer society, for all the people in this country.
BodenIf only he meant what he said ... “….. The common strand in those three statements? Hope, yes. Self-reflection, yes. Encouragement, yes. …. But what they also share is that were stories about a named person, a prison officer or another member of staff working in that prison, whom the offender felt was on their side, who was looking out for them, who listens and understands, who can help them to turn things around. ….. It is a fundamental principle of our justice system that everyone is treated equally before the law and no matter what your background, everyone should be treated equally and have the same opportunity to turn their lives around.” Hmmm!
OwenI must say he does talk alot of dribble. I am amazed that someone who comes from a private education doesn't understand how supply and demand works for example. He mentions the small mobile and wants suppliers like Amazon to stop supply. Yet he fails to understand that by making such a statement he is likely to cause a spike in their sudden demand. It will also encourage more into the supply chain, a buyer abroad will then sell and supply at an increased price. He also failed to mention that the vast majority of phones recovered in prisons are not the small ones he refers too. They are the cheap £10 ones supplied by staff for about £200. The small ones by the way will not beat the Boss chair. But as staff levels are still low receptions are rushed and Boss is not always used. It has been government polices that has created the need for mobiles. Unlock time is short. Phone queues are long. You cannot guarantee you will get to the end of the queue before bang up is called. Mobiles are an illicit item now needed if you want to keep in regular touch with family. He goes on about his recruitment drive. There are still less officers in the job now then there was in 2010 and the prison population was lower then too. He wants to support ban the box. Brilliant but I still see the box on their Job vacancy applications for public sector jobs. There is no spare capacity in the current prison estate to close aging prisons. His budget only accommodates the building of new ones if he can close down a few old ones first. He provides no credible solutions in curbing drugs because he knows that the American model we are following has seen a soaring rise on drug addiction in prisons because they band tobacco as well. Over 60% in the US come out with a drug dependency and we are inheriting that. If he instead increased prison phones to help with demand and the short regimes. Subsidised phone calls, permitted E cigarettes he would reduced demand for phones and drugs. AvalonI was a prison officer for 10 years . I saw the whole system go down till rapidly. Phone rooms why banks of phones rather phones on a noisy wing would be a better step
BodenHe talks of prisoners needing to have hope!!?? Hmmm.
Miltonit all sounds good positive helpful surpportive nuturing !! reality check load of crap just an exercise in saying the right thing but actually doing sod all but the fantasy if any of it were real is a nice thought
BodenWhere does Nick Hardwick
get his information from ? there is still a long waiting list !!!!!!!!!
An interview with Nick Hardwick, Chair of the Parole Board and former Chief Inspector of Prisons
“How you treat people who are in prison is a test of the state of your nation. And I think the way things are now in prisons reflect very badly on us as a country. It does say something about the sort of society that we are.”
As Chief Inspector of Prisons, Nick Hardwick was an outspoken critic of the conditions he found inside our homes for the incarcerated. When he finished his six-year stint last year, he said he was afraid he was becoming desensitised, that “you shouldn’t do this job for too long because you get used to things you shouldn’t get used to”.
Now, as Chair of the Parole Board – which decides whether prisoners can be safely released back into the community – Mr Hardwick is still willing to vocalise his concerns.
He seemed overwhelmed by the first question I asked him when we met at the Parole Board’s offices inside the Ministry of Justice. What’s going wrong?
“The answer to that question would be what perspective you look at it from,” he told me after a minute of deliberating.“A common concern raised by people interested in prison reform is that the prison population is rising, that leads to overcrowding, actual conditions are very poor, rising levels of violence, suicide and self-harm.
“But, there would be a very large part of the population who would say ‘well, good, that’s what’s supposed to be happening - it’s good that more people are in prison because it acts as a deterrent’, that people shouldn’t have a good time in prison, that if they have a horrible time they’re less likely to want to come back and, in any case, they should pay for what they’ve done. Probably more people think like that than think there’s something badly going wrong.
“The test I would apply is: is this a good use of taxpayers’ money? What about the recidivism rates which are stubbornly high? But also, more importantly, how you treat people who are in prison is a test of the state of your nation. And I think the way things are now in prisons reflect very badly on us as a country. It does say something about the sort of society we are. So for all those practical, economic and ethical reasons, I would argue there are things going wrong that need to be fixed.
” The primary cause of the deterioration he identifies is rooted in a question of resources and common sense.“We have more people in prison than we have resources available to work with them properly so you either have to put money in or take people out,
” he said.While staff reductions, restricted regimes, violence, drugs and self-harm have all been ingredients chucked into the simmering cauldron, Mr Hardwick stressed that it is an increase in the length of longer-term prison sentences which has led to it bubbling over. According to figures from the Ministry of Justice, at the end of September, 44% of prisoners were serving a sentence of more than four years - the most common sentence being served.“That’s what’s driven the rise in population and the pressure on resources,” he said.
“The issue isn’t short-term sentences.
It’s about those middle-ranking sentences where people a couple of decades ago might have done four years, now they’re doing six. So, if on average, for the longer-term sentences, which is most people in prison, they’re now doing six years instead of four, that turns out at a 50% rise in the population. But do you think that doing six years instead of four has that much impact as an additional deterrent?”
***When he took over as Chair of the Parole Board last March, Mr Hardwick was faced with a big backlog of unheard parole hearings and just over 4,000 offenders who were still serving the indeterminate IPP (Imprisonment for Public Protection) sentence, which was abolished in 2012.He told me things have now improved. Waiting lists for hearings have disappeared, meaning people are not getting held up in the system and contributing to the existing pressures for longer than necessary, with 66% of prisoners eligible for parole either being released or moved to open prisons in preparation for release.
“The issue is not what’s happening within the Parole Board itself, it’s what happens to people before they get to us,” he added. “Are they properly prepared for their parole hearing, have they done the courses and work and had the environment that will give them the best possible chance of changing and being able to demonstrate they’ve changed? Are those systems in place - which is about what’s happening in prisons and probation.”The number of offenders being recalled to prison has been increasing in recent years – something Mr Hardwick puts down to creaking probation services, which are charged with supervising prisoners on release, and a general lack of support for these individuals in the community.
“The support services are wider than just probation,” he said. “It’s about the other social welfare services doing enough to divert people from the criminal justice system in the first place.“One of the things about parole which is really striking is the number of cases we receive where you have someone with a low-level mental health type problem. They have trouble coping, their behaviour is chaotic, sometimes inappropriate.
The point is not that they’re going to commit a serious further offence, they’re just a nuisance. You don’t particularly want them living next door to you, you don’t want them coming up to you in the street and they find it really hard to keep licence conditions. "So, you put them in approved premises and they keep going out and getting drunk and they don’t come back. So, they’ve broken their licence conditions. It doesn’t mean that they’re going to go off and commit an offence, probably, but it means that they’re very difficult to manage and you need the resources in the community that are available to supervise and support them.
”Released IPP prisoners have also been adding to the recalls, with 760 of them returning to prison in the past year – a 22% increase from the year before.The Parole Board’s ‘release and progression rate’ for IPP prisoners is now 75%, Mr Hardwick said, with those remaining “a stain on our justice system”.
“I don’t think the IPP sentence has been a success.
Some people have gotten worse while they’ve been inside.” But, he added: “A lot of the cases that are left are the ones that are very complex. It’s complicated to deal with because there aren’t any circumstances in which it is ethically right to release onto the streets people where there is evidence that they are dangerous. These aren’t people where it’s a bit marginal.“Our serious further offence rate [for released offenders] as a whole is less than 1% which you might think is pretty good and might even indicate that we’re being a bit risk averse. But, what it amounts to is about 20 people a year who have been murdered or raped. If you’re one of the 20 people or their family then that feels like a lot. It is a lot. It’s really important that we are honest about the risk that some of these people pose.”He said recall rates are high among released IPP prisoners as “a lot of them have very chaotic behaviour”, which can be difficult to assess to determine the risk they pose.
“We’ve got to be really careful that we don’t make facile judgements about probation. What actually might be relatively minor behaviour might nevertheless be a very real indicator of future risk. On the other hand, it might be something more substantial and potentially criminal - you’ve nicked some food from the supermarket, but that’s not an indicator of your future risk. It requires very careful judgement. It’s called risk because it’s not certain. "Then you have a set of wider issues around how society looks at professionals in all sorts of cases that are taking judgements about risk and other people’s behaviour. W
here people have taken a decision properly but they just happen to be wrong then we have to be much less judgemental about it.“There’s a real problem with the idea that the state can keep you safe and if it hasn’t it means somebody’s guilty of something. The state can’t keep you completely safe without actually taking away your liberties and freedoms to a certain extent that life would be intolerable.“It’s really important that probation has experienced, skilled, stable staff with the time and back-up they need to do their job because they’re making these incredibly difficult decisions about recall. I wouldn’t blame individual probation officers who are under pressure in terms of time and workload.
”***So, what are the solutions?
“You have to confront the issue that’s true of all public services – you get what you pay for. Be realistic about that. There is obviously a resources question,” Mr Hardwick said.“The more open and transparent we can make the system, the more we can help people understand it. One of the things Michael Gove did as justice secretary is he opened the system up. He let television crews in to see stuff, some of which was stuff going wrong, but at least it gave people a realistic view of what the issues were.“Most people aren’t going to want to think about prisons and the criminal justice system, but at least try to get to a point where, if you do want to think about it and are interested, then you can get the information you need.
”And if things continue as they are?
“If you were to take a long-term view, over the last 50 years, prisons have improved. We don’t have slopping out anymore, the NHS run the medical services, there is certainly less gratuitous violence from staff, visiting arrangements are much better.”He believes the 2,500 extra prison officers pledged by the Government by 2020 will make a difference, and that the Justice Secretary’s stated aim, to reduce the prison population, “could start to reverse the trend”.But:“An alternative scenario is that, in fact, the economy gets worse, there’s even less money for prisons than there is now, there’s a more punitive atmosphere and so the pressures get even greater.
Because what happens in prisons is largely out of sight, things can get a lot worse before anyone actually cares very much about what’s happening."“One of the things that’s quite significant now, regardless of popular feeling, if you look right across the political spectrum there is a view that prisons are in a poor state and they need to change," he added.“I’m not completely despairing about the future – I think there is a prospect of improvement, but I certainly don’t think that’s a done deal.”(Read Part 2 of my interview with Mr Hardwick here)
Part 2: An interview with Nick Hardwick, Chair of the Parole Board and former Chief Inspector of Prisons
“It would be a mistake for people interested in prison reform to simply see the opposition to that as ‘politicians are only interested in The Sun and Daily Mail headlines’. That dismisses people’s genuine concerns about crime and, actually, the way to win the argument is to say ‘we have other ideas and strategies here that would be more effective in reducing the numbers of future victims than having a system that turns out people worse than when they went in’.”
I was asking Nick Hardwick to what extent the media portrayal and public perception of criminal justice effects how offenders are treated. (Read Part 1 of my interview with Mr Hardwick here)For the Chair of the Parole Board and former Chief Inspector of Prisons, it’s clear that those advocating prison reform must be willing to confront difficult truths.“Traditional red top media has far less influence now than used to be the case," he told me, with some politicians being more wary of this than they need to be.But, it's not just about the media.“We should not dismiss people’s concerns," Mr Hardwick said.
"For a lot of politicians, the reason they will be concerned is they have constituents coming to their surgeries saying ‘the local kids are making our lives a misery on the estate, old people are afraid to come out’ or ‘my daughter was killed and the justice system doesn’t seem to provide me with justice’.“Part of the answer for those people who talk about prison reform is to talk about those things as well. Part of the reason prison reform and improving prisons is a good thing is because they make those sorts of situations less likely. If we make prisons work better than you’ll have less of that and we have other ways to keep people out of the criminal justice system and we have less victims. “It’s a real mistake to somehow have two completely separate conversations about victims’ rights and prison reform. I think those things come together and unless you have a narrative that addresses the whole thing, then you’re out of step.
” Mr Hardwick believes people should never be sent to prison purely as a means of rehabilitation as it is not designed for this. “There are only two reasons why you should send people to prison - for punishment or for safety,” he said. “Because their offence is so serious, in my view, that we’re going to take something away from you, or because you’re too dangerous to be managed in the community. “What I think is a mistake is ‘well, we’ll send this young person into custody because once we’ve got them in there we can make them better – control them, look after them and fix them’. I don’t think that works.
“Once you’ve sent people to prison or youth custody, that’s the punishment. At that point, you should be doing all you can in that environment to rehabilitate. “If all you’re talking about is rehabilitation, you would do better to do that in the community than in prison.”***This week, Parliament's Public Accounts Committee warned the Government to "raise its game" in a report examining prisoner mental health. The "record high numbers of self-inflicted deaths and incidents of self-harm in prisons are a damning indictment of the current state of the mental health of those in prison and the prison environment overall," it found.Although official data on offender mental health in prisons has not been collected since 1997, it is widely accepted that people in prison are more likely to suffer from mental health problems compared to those in the community – whether requiring treatment in a specialist institution or in the form of conditions such as anxiety, depression or bipolar, which can be contributory factors in their criminality.
How can an environment like prison ever help these people?“There are some people who are clearly so ill that they can’t be properly looked after in prison and do need to be in a secure mental health institution,” Mr Hardwick said.“The more difficult issue is the ones with more moderate problems. Of course, they shouldn’t be in prison, but if they weren’t in prison, where would they be then? For a lot of these people – who are very chaotic, with very difficult behaviours – there’s not that support available in the community to look after them there either.”A policy of deinstitutionalisation in the 1980s saw the old 'asylums' for the mentally and physically disabled close, with an emphasis placed on ‘care in the community’. But, many of these most vital of support services have been eroded as the years have gone by.
“It would be very interesting to look at and compare the [numbers for the] total incarcerated population as we reduced the numbers of people that were held in the old lunatic asylums,” Mr Hardwick said. “I think there would be a real cross-over in those populations.“Whereas, say in my parents’ time, they would have put you in an asylum and locked you up there, I think what we do with a lot of those people now is we put them in prison. Years ago, for some of those people, there would have been more community support. Now that’s much less likely to be the case. Parents and partners will struggle and so people are more likely to end up in custody. “It’s not a problem prisons can solve. We’ve got to make the resources available outside and maybe one of the aims we should be thinking about is if we stop spending so much money on prisons, some of that money should be diverted into providing better community support for people who would find it very difficult to manage on their own.
”***Mr Hardwick agrees that we need to have a more fundamental conversation in society about the purpose of criminal justice, but believes it is a difficult one to instigate – not least because we live in a “divided nation”.“Opinion polling seems to suggest that people think the system is not punitive enough, but when you give them actual case studies and say ‘what sentence would you give in this case?’, they give a less severe sentence than the courts actually impose,” he said. “People certainly don’t understand what happens in prisons and what prisons are like. How could they?“There is a wider issue about a divided nation where people don’t understand how other people really live in lots of ways. A large part of the population are in circumstances where they have very limited contact with the justice system. They are unlucky if they’re a victim of a crime, it would certainly be unusual for them to end up in custody.
“There’s other parts of the population who are much more likely to be involved in the criminal justice system, in some cases, because of disproportionately. If you’re black you’re going to have a very different experience of the criminal justice than if you’re white regardless of your actual behaviour and what you’ve done. If you live on a deprived estate, you’re going to have a different experience of the criminal justice system than if you live in a leafy suburb and it’s very difficult for those different groups to understand the other’s experience and I think that’s unhealthy.“The issues of justice go to the heart of a democratic society.
Democracy works because you think there is a system of laws that will be applied fairly and proportionately which means you don’t need to take stuff into your own hands. There’s rules that most people most of the time play by. The more that system becomes undermined, the more dangerous the situation becomes for everybody.”But, can our criminal justice system, with its black and white adversarial process, deal effectively with the greyness of human life? “All of [the] decisions are made by people so they are not these abstract decisions that are made by a machine somewhere, it’s human beings and that’s why it can deal with some of the ambiguities,” Mr Hardwick told me.“If you have a very narrow segment of the population making those decisions then they are going to come out in a certain way that would be different if you had a wider, more diverse decision-making structure.
If you don’t have that, I think you can have an unjust system. “Of course, there are drawbacks to an adversarial system, but I think it is a good thing.”Stopping short of calling for a public inquiry into the state of our prisons, Mr Hardwick does believe that the time has come for politicians to take a long, hard look at the system’s failings.“At various times in the past, the prison system has got to a point of crisis where there has been a rethink. We may be at a point where we do need to have a fundamental rethink about what it’s for. Maybe this will be a good time to do it, because the debate isn’t so polarised. Everyone accepts there’s a problem, but what we can do about it is more complicated. “As a society, we need to find a mechanism that enables us to think carefully about what prison is for because you can’t decide on the structures and resources unless you’re clear about the purpose.
The seven men, who worked at Medomsley Consett, County Durham, have been summonsed to appear before Newton Aycliffe magistrates this month. Durham police launched Operation Seabrook more than four years ago into alleged abuse at the centre.
A spokesman for the police force said the seven men, who are aged from 61 to 73, will appear on 19 December to answer charges of misconduct in a public office and alleged physical abuse offences. Some will also answer sexual abuse charges.
Allegations from 1,500 former prisoners
Accusations of sexual and physical mistreatment
Claims dating back to 1960s
More than 1,480 men have contacted the inquiry team to report allegations of either sexual or physical assaults while detained at Medomsley, with some claims dating back to the 1960s. The police said there could yet be further charges.
Teenage prisoners at the DC typically spent six to eight weeks at the Home Office-run facility before being released. These days such offending would be dealt with by community punishment. DCS Adrian Green said that the announcement, “Marks a significant step forward in what has been, and continues to be, a long and complex investigation. Enquiries do not stop here – the Operation Seabrook team and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) remain committed in continuing to move the investigation forward. In February this year, we submitted 32 files to the CPS for charging decisions. A number of people are still under investigation so we do not rule out further charges in the future
2.Will this current investigation charge and prosecute the managers, the manager’s managers and those in Prison HQ and the Ministers?
They were the ones that allowed this to happen under their watch.
And why 4 years before being taken to the Magistrates court? Any longer and some of the currently charged officers will die of old age denying justice to those prisoners abused. 1500 allegations!! This is a national scandal! What state is this country