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Thursday, 10 August 2017

Concerned with the current unsafe and worsening conditions in prisons.Final report from the National Offender .Failures to return from release on temporary licence.

Post by Rachel O’Brien  Director of the RSA prison reform Programme, who sets out the RSA’s proposal to the MoJ to support prison reform on the ground.. While everyone working and living in prisons is, naturally, mainly , Ms O’Brien argues strongly in an accompanying RSA blog that reform is not a distraction from improving prison safety, but integral to it.

RSA’s New Futures Network Proposal Submitted to Ministry of Justice
Prisons exist to keep society safer. But to fight crime as effectively as possible, prisons must do more than just incapacitate criminals for the length of their sentence; they must ensure that when they leave jail they do not offend again.
Working closely with practitioners and the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), the RSA has been working on developing the New Futures Network (NFN), a proposed new body that aims to work with prison leaders to support reform and ensure that when prisoners return to their communities, they have the right skills to get a job, access to employers and are able to build a better life. Ultimately achieving this goal will require prisons and the criminal justice system to overcome long-term challenges, including coping with a lack of prison capacity, the prevalence of drugs, and a rise in the number of assaults, suicides and incidents of self-harm.
Between January and May this year, the RSA has consulted with a wide range of stakeholders in developing our proposal, which was submitted to the MoJ in July. It concludes that the New Futures Network (NFN) should aim to support prison leaders in responding to these challenges with particular focus on education, employment and local leadership. The Network should aim to:

  • Drive partnerships and innovation to boost people’s chances of leaving crime behind.
  • Broker sustainable strategic effective cross-sector relationships to support rehabilitation and employment.
  • Champion good practice that supports rehabilitation through informing, engaging and persuading.
  • Provide a channel of communication between frontline services and central government.

The RSA has proposed key strands of work focused on:

  • Developing employer networks locally linked to wider justice services;
  • Supporting prisons to identify their local assets – social, economic and community – that can support rehabilitation;
  • Enabling staff and prisoners to home grow innovation; and
  • Providing a space for exchanging ideas and experience about how prison reform is being implemented locally and nationally.

Ministers at the Ministry of Justice asked for the design of NFN to be independent of Whitehall, to encourage broad and deep engagement, genuine innovation, and positively challenge to the ‘status quo’. Whilst the RSA recommends that the NFN be sponsored by MoJ in the short term at least, the NFN must be allowed to flourish under an independent chair and expert advisory group. This will enable the NFN to gain the credibility required to bring about cultural change across the prison service, including shifting to a focus on increasing employment in and around prisons.
The RSA’s New Futures Network proposal has been welcomed by Ministers as part of the government’s wider safety and reform strategy and, will be considered alongside the MoJ’s employment strategy due to be published later this year.
If you would like more information about the consultation process and case studies please visit the site above or contact Jack Robson on

Annual Report

Last week, I looked at some of the key issues in the Management Service. Today I highlight six things of interest from the Ministry of Justice Annual Report and Accounts for 2016/17 (published 2017).

1: The MoJ has four strategic priorities

  1. a prison and probation service that reforms offenders;
  2. a modern courts and justice system;
  3. a global Britain that promotes the rule of law; and
  4. a transformed Department that delivers efficiency, value for money and excellent public service.

2: The MoJ spent £9,540m last year

The majority of expenditure is on frontline services. Prisons, probation, youth justice, HMCTS and the Legal Aid Fund account for over 80% of the overall budget.

Staffing is, unsurprisingly the largest cost, accounting for 29% of spend.

3: MoJ performance is measured on seven headline indicators

These are:
  1. The number of escapes from prison and prison escorts;
  2. The number of escapes from contractor escorts;
  3. Assaults on prisoners and assaults on prison staff (rate per 1,000 prisoners);
  4. Rate of drug misuse in prisons as reflected by those testing positive in mandatory drug tests.
  5. One-year proven reoffending rate for adult offenders discharged from prison or commencing a court order;
  6. CRC % completion of community orders & suspended sentence orders; and
  7. NPS % completion of community orders & suspended sentence orders.
Performance on these indicators varied.
Escape numbers were low (7 in-house and 8 from contractors).
Assaults, as regular readers will know, reached their worst ever levels.
Positive MDT drug tests leapt up to 9.3% compared to 7.7%.
One year reoffending rates were down significantly from 35.2% to 33.2% (most recent year refers to July 2014- June 2015)
CRC completion rate was down to 78% from 78.7%.
NPS completion rate was up to 71.5% from 70.9%

4: Criminal court proceedings remain slow

In 2016 it took on average 194 days from original listing in Magistrates’ Court for a Crown Court case to be completed (down from 196 in 2015 year but up from 172 in 2014).

5: The MoJ and its agencies breached personal data legislation on seven occasions

There were other data protection failings but these seven incidents were serious enough to be reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office and related to the personal data of 125 individuals.

6: Seven MoJ staff were paid £150,000 or more

You will see I have taken the BBC benchmark, full table below:



Worst figures ever

The latest safety in Custody statistics bulletin published last Thursday (27 July 2017) confirm the dire picture of prison safety revealed by the Chief Inspector of Prisons in his annual report earlier in the month. The figures cover deaths in prison custody for the year to June 2017 and assaults and self-harm for the year to March 2017.
As you can see from the main points reproduced below, all the key indicators are at extremely worrying levels.
It is clear that staff recruitment is yet to have any impact. Even the small dip in prisoner on prisoner assaults recorded in the previous quarter has been reversed in the latest statistics. Serious assaults on staff have trebled  since 2013; increasing by 5% in the latest quarter to reach yet in another dispiriting record high.


Self-harm trends differ considerably by gender, with a rate of 409 incidents per 1,000 in male establishments (with incidents up 24% on the previous year) compared to a rate of 1,835 per 1,000 in female establishments (a reduction of 8% in number of incidents from the previous year). After five years of stability in the rate of self-harm among males, there has been an increase from 3.0 to 3.4 incidents per self-harming male in the most recent period.
In contrast, the self-harm rate among females has fallen from 6.7 to 6.2 incidents per self-harming female.
Self-harm incidents requiring hospital attendance increased from the previous year in male establishments by 14% to 2,616, while female establishments saw a decrease of 1% to 155 incidents. The proportion of self-harm incidents requiring hospital attendance remained relatively stable at 6.9% to March 2017, compared to 7.1% in the previous year. The slight decrease is due to the fact that the total number of self-harm incidents rose at a higher rate than the number of incidents requiring hospital attendance.
While self-harmers in female establishments were roughly twice as prolific as those in male establishments, self-harmers in male establishments had slightly less than four times the proportion of self-harm incidents that require hospitalisation (7.9% in male establishments compared to 2.2% in female establishments).

Serious assaults

Serious assaults are those which fall into one or more of the following categories: a sexual assault, requires detention in outside hospital as an in-patient; requires medical treatment for concussion or internal injuries; or incurs any of the following injuries: a fracture, scald or burn, stabbing, crushing, extensive or multiple bruising, black eye, broken nose, lost or broken tooth, cuts requiring suturing, bites, temporary or permanent blindness.

Report card

In the prison annual performance ratings published on the same day, 10 prisons were rated “overall performance is of serious concern”


It is hard not to repeat the Chief Inspector’s verdict that without a significant improvement in prison safety, reform seems all but impossible.


Trawling the latest MoJ publications

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve perused the last ever NOMS  annual report (the National Offender Management Service was replaced by Her Majesty’s Prisons and Probation Service on 1 April this year) and this year’s Ministry of Justice annual report and accounts for nuggets of information which otherwise might go under the radar.
Today it’s the turn of the last ever NOMS digest, published on 27 July 2017, to be exposed to the light of day.
Here are ten facts I found of interest:

1: Failures to return from release on temporary licence

In 2016/17 there were 267 temporary release failures, 42 of which (16%) were failures to return, resulting in prisoners being unlawfully at large. This is an increase of 65% in temporary release failure incidents when compared to 2015/16 and can be partly explained by the increased recording of ‘minor failures’ such as prisoners returning to the prison after the agreed time.
Failures to return increased by 75% from 24 incidents in 2015/16, but this is still the second lowest figure in the time series presented.

2: Highest number of prisoners released in error ever

In 2016/17, 71 prisoners were released in error. This is an increase of 7 (11%) from 2015/16, and is the highest in any financial year since the time series began in 2006/07.


3: One quarter of prisoners held in overcrowded conditions

Crowding is measured as the number of prisoners who, at unlock on the last day of the month, are held in a cell, cubicle or room where the number of occupants exceeds the uncrowded capacity of the cell, cubicle or room. This includes the number of prisoners held two to a single cell, three prisoners in a cell designed for one or two and any prisoners held crowded in larger cells or dormitories. 24.5% of prisoners were held in crowded conditions in 2016/17. Unsurprisingly, crowding is worst in male local prisons where the rate is almost 50%.

4: Working in prisons

Last year an average of 11,200 prisoners worked 16 million hours in  prisons and Immigration Removal Centres; (surprisingly) identical figures to the previous year.

5: Working outside prisons

There were a total of 1,675 active prisoners, on average 368 prisoners per month, working out of the prison on licence.  These prisoners had average net earnings of around £937 a month from which on average £256 was raised from the Prisoners Earning Act levy to reduce the average net earnings to £681 per month. The levy raised £1.1 million for Victim Support.

6: Accredited programmes in custody fall

In the last 12 months, there was a 1% fall in the number of completions of accredited programmes in custody – from 7,057 in 2015/16 to 6,960 in 2016/17. This is in contrast with the previous year (2014/15 to 2015/16), where the decrease in programme completions was 7%. The overall fall in completions has not been seen for all programme types. Between 2015/16 and 2016/17, there was a 2% rise in (the now discredited) sexual offending treatment programme completions.

7: Accredited programmes in the community plummet

In the last seven years, there has been a 69% fall in accredited programme completions in the community, from 17,545 in 2009/10 to 5,473 in 2016/17. This was driven by a:
  • 82% drop in offender behaviour programme completions (offender behaviour programmes in a community setting defined as General offending, Substance Misuse and Violence programmes);
  • 25% drop in sexual offending treatment programme completions;
  • 38% drop in domestic violence programme completions.
In the last 12 months, the drop in completions was 22%, from 7,056 in 2015/16 to 5,473 in 2016/17. This was due to a:
  • 28% drop in offender behaviour programme completions;
  • 24% drop in domestic violence programme completions;
  • 5% drop in sexual offending treatment programme completions.
Much of this fall is attributed to the growth of Rehabilitation Activity Requirements, the quality of which has been criticised by the Probation Inspectorate.

8: 51 babies were in prison last year

There are currently five Mother and Baby Units in operation across the women’s prison estate in England and Wales which provide an overall total capacity of 52 places for mothers. However, there are a total of 57 places for babies to allow for twins. 61 women and 51 babies were received into a MBU in the 2016/17 financial year. This compares with 64 women and 57 babies in 2015/16 and is a continuation of the fall seen since 2010/11. There were 38 mothers and 40 babies in a MBU at the end of the financial year 2016/17.

9: Fewer offenders are tagged

At 31 March 2017, the total number of subjects actively monitored with an Electronic Monitoring device was 11,493, a fall of 9% compared to the same point in the previous year, continuing a downward trend which is linked to a decrease in the court caseload (court ordered tagging — as a bail condition and sentence — make up 76% of the total tagging caseload). The number of offenders subject to tagging on release from prison has increased.

10: More demand for Bail Accommodation and Support

Bail Accommodation and Support Services (BASS) provide accommodation to offenders from courts, offenders from custody and Home Detention Curfew requirement offenders. These offenders are placed in BASS-owned properties when they do not have a permanent place to live. In the financial year 2016/17, there was 1,957 referrals, an increase of 11% on the 1,770 made in 2015/16.


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