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									Obviously I am pleased to endorse this report, and to feel that I have been able to contribute to it. It is
something when a prisoner is able to talk face to face with the people who have to set the limits of what
is acceptable for people’s behaviour as prisoners. And it is something better when one sees those
views given a wider audience.

I suppose I would not be true to myself or other prisoners with whom we have worked on this if I did
not say how frustrating it is to see how easily some things could be put right and yet the Prison Service
manages to destroy what it builds so easily, and apparently so carelessly.

So I hope people will read this now, and in years to come. I am serving life and drawing to the end of
the prison part of that sentence. I am thinking of those at the start, their staff, their families, their
victims. I would like them to read this, and to come back to it every five years or so, when I am sure it
will be just as relevant. Just to check ‘Are we making the best use of the time and people in prison for
their futures and the futures of those in the wider community to which they will return?’.

                                          A Lifer and Listener

                An exploration of the extent to which imprisonment
                      removes responsibility unnecessarily
                              an invitation to change

          Stephen Pryor, Governor                                               Autumn 2001

This is a valuable report on a fresh perspective of work with prisoners. It casts a wide net
over issues which might affect our perception of prisoners and offenders, and indeed
ourselves, which will be helpful in questioning our work .

Although Stephen Pryor asks that the faults be seen as his own, and any strengths as those of
others, he has taken trouble to check some of the main conclusions with practitioners and
others whom he describes as ‘friends of the Service’. And the contribution of prisoners makes
a particular claim on our attention.

In a world where the rights of the individual increasingly have the force of law it is useful to
have a report which sets them in a non-legal context. The simple notion that the Service
should not take away more responsibility than it has to is so obviously right that we have to
think what this means in practice. The Report is a significant contribution to that thinking.

Rod Morgan                          Anne Owers                                    Stephen Shaw
Chief Inspector of Probation        Chief Inspector of Prisons                Prisons and Probation
From Martin Narey, Director General

It is not often that an opportunity arises for a senior Prison Service
Governor to take time out to produce a really thoughtful and considered
piece of work- and I am glad that Stephen Pryor both had the vision
and saw his chance to do this. Much of the value of his project lies in
what it does not attempt- because in not being tied by deliverable and
manageable recommendations and targets the report has had the
freedom for originality.

The idea of the ‘responsible prisoner’ can cause misgivings, not least
because so many people find themselves in prison through
impulsiveness, irresponsibility and poor decision making. But Stephen
Pryor has produced this work to make us think, with a typically gentle
but lively challenge to long-held assumptions and questioning of
traditional wisdoms. For these reasons I am glad to endorse the project
and hope the report will be widely read and debated.


               Rod Morgan                       HM Chief Inspector of Probation
               Martin Narey                     Director General
               Anne Owers                       HM Chief Inspector of Prisons
               Stephen Shaw                     Prisons and Probation Ombudsman
               Josie Smith                      Lifer and Listener

PART 1 - Introduction

               The Responsible Prisoner - an Invitation to Change                 1
               The Structure of the Report and its Use                            2
               The Origin of the Project                                          3
               The Background to the Project                                      4
               Givens                                                             6
               Whose Sentence? Whose Time?                                        8
               Raw material                                                       9

PART 2 – The Questionnaires

               Introduction                                                       11
               The original                                                       12
               The Analysis                                                       16

PART 3 – Reflections

               Restoration                                                        63
               Rewards                                                            65
               Punishments                                                        66
               Private Responsibility                                             68
               Sentence Management                                                70
               Information and communication                                      72
               The Responsible Prisoner and the Officer                           74
               The Family                                                         78
               Diversity and uniformity – the test of intention                   80
               Encouraging responsible risk management                            82
               The ex-Prisoner, ex-offender. Title regained                       88
               Religion                                                           90
               Suicide                                                            92
               Surveys                                                            94

Attribution, appreciation and a look ahead                                        96


               Issues raised at the Highpoint Conferences                         98
PART 1 - Introduction

                        THE RESPONSIBLE PRISONER – an Invitation to Change

The project explores the extent to which prisons remove responsibility from prisoners unnecessarily.

There are several reasons at the heart of the project.

Imprisonment should not take away more freedom than is called for by the Courts, who direct only that a
person is ‘held’. In the case of the unconvicted ‘Held’ and returned to court as directed. In the case of
the sentenced, held until the expiry of the custodial part of the sentence ends.

Imprisonment is designed to take away choices, at least those choices which might endanger the public.
It is therefore necessarily de-humanising. But it may also take away other choices, so that prisons can be
run safely. There should be no need to take away yet further choices; doing so could weaken the
person’s ability to cope with responsibility on release. Indeed prisons depend for their safety on staff
having a close knowledge of prisoners which they can use to allow them to exercise a degree of

Prisons have to turn people into prisoners, and helping them to cope with custody is a first duty. But
prisoners have to become people again, and prisons fail in their duty to the public if they fail to help
them to do that. Indeed they may expose the community to greater risk if they fail to do that. Good
prisoners are in some cases worse than useless outside, particularly if prisons have confused prison
conformity with law-abiding behaviour on release. Prisons recognise that people change as their
circumstances and maturity change. Thus for example all life sentenced people will eventually go out
through an open prison. And the fact that there are few pensioner prisoners suggests that even persistent
offenders catch on eventually.

It goes against the grain to treat prisoners as responsible people. Arguably the Courts would not have
put them away if they were responsible. But that is to misunderstand the purpose of a custodial
sentence. A finite term of imprisonment is not set as a period after which it is thought likely they will
stop offending. Only the indeterminate sentence is aimed at that. Although Halliday recommends the
continuing involvement of the judiciary with the execution of the sentence, there will still have to be an
end to it, set at the outset.

Incapacitation is a natural consequence and intention of locking people up, but it is not likely that people
will learn a lot about a law-abiding or useful life inside, though prisons should do all they can to help
that. It is really hard work trying to help people to change in prison, and it takes a lot of time with some
people. And it takes skill to see that risk to the prison is different from risk to the community, and then
to manage that with the prisoner rather than avoid it at all costs.

Giving people responsibility, or allowing them to retain it while in prison, means accepting that they are
not wholly bad or wholly dangerous, or wholly irresponsible, though that is what the adversarial court
process may have shown when finding them wholly guilty. Having the aim of weaning them off prison
is a key to rebuilding people, and that demands a clear-headed understanding of what imprisonment
means and what it does. It also means that prison staff need to treat each prisoner individually, as bad
and as dangerous and as irresponsible as they may be, and as good, and reliable and responsible as they
might be. In the words of a prisoner ‘Being unable to take responsibility because it is denied to you is
not the same as being irresponsible’.

This is a project that grows on you. The more we see prisoners as people capable of behaving
responsibly, the more we come to expect them to do so, and the greater the demand on prison staff to set
new challenges to themselves and to those in their care. That can split the Service into those who will
not allow change and those who insist on it. That is why the sub-title of the project is ‘An Invitation to

PART 1 – Introduction

                                The Structure of the Report and its Use

The Report has three main Parts. The first sets out the context from the author’s point of view. The
second summarises responses from Governors and Directors of private prisons (collectively referred to
as governors), Staff, Prisoners and, for Part 2 only, those of a reference Group. The third offers some
reflections on how practice and policy might look if the prisoner were regarded as more responsible –
again from the author’s point of view.

The Project has a strength similar to its weakness. It is largely a personal view. It draws on a selective
appreciative enquiry. It makes no demands. It has no ratification nor any authority; the endorsements
suggest only that it is a useful addition. It has no commissioner. It is not written for a particular
audience, though it assumes knowledge of prison life. It takes note of what only a very small proportion
of prisoners and staff have said.

But quite a lot of people who have business with prisons and prisoners have said it is worth thinking of
the proposition that the prison service should not take away more responsibility than is necessary. Many
people have shown that the issues are not cut and dried, and that some conflict directly, particularly as to
rights and responsibilities.

It is sensible to take what is most thought-provoking and what works best and what stretches most,
rather than what is average or most safe or least provoking. It is sensible to ask what we want of our
staff and what we may reasonably expect of people while in custody, and to have some yardstick besides
(but not instead of) what ‘works’, what is measurable, or ‘the right time’ or ‘what value do we get for
how much money’ or ‘what is lawful’, or even ‘what is right’. The yardstick of ‘Does it take away more
responsibility than is necessary’ does show things in a different and useful light, and it is an interesting
exercise where illumination of one chamber tempts one to explore the next.

The arguments are not strengthened by the weight of opinion as measured by numbers. Some of the
most far-reaching proposals have been voiced by only one individual. Some of the strong consensuses
lead one only to question their basis more strongly. The views of prisoners have no merit or special
weight other than that they are those of prisoners. The contribution or omission by the good or the great
has no significance other than that we may miss or gain an insight which that experience alone might

The fact that the author was lodged by the Prisons Inspectorate has no significance other than access to a
wide range of experience at a time when a lot of important windows were open. Windows were open on
new Chief Inspectors, on emerging Human Rights, especially those to do with prisoners and victims, on
sentence management in partnership with the community if not specially with the prisoner, on Freedom
of Information, and on a technological revolution affecting a rapidly increasing proportion of people and
organisations. The perception was also important that the Prison Service is at a time of relative stability,
of stress on the ‘healthy prison’, on examination of what works and how (and by implication what does
not work) with very public and painful examination of its behaviour and corporate culture, welcomed by
its Director General in the sense of being entirely proper, however painful.

It is designed to be readable both as separate issues and as a story. The story structure usually follows
the progress of custody (as in Part 2 – the Questionnaires), sometimes following the development of an
argument (as in the sequence of papers in Part 3 – Reflections). Inevitably this design – of papers which
are to an extent free-standing, but which also hang together - means a certain amount of repetition.
Hopefully that can be seen as simply some indication of consistency and an aid to dovetailing.

It is written and road-tested to be intelligible to anyone who has some acquaintance with prisons, or who
knows someone who is. There are no References, very few names, and the report includes only a very
small proportion of the mass of material provided.

There is no recommended use, other than to read it and think about it.

PART 1 – Introduction

                                           The origin of the Project

The project has three main inspirations.

When planning the regimes for 12 new prisons which opened in the early ‘90s, six of them identical, it
became clear that the number of staff needed to supervise prisoners depended on the view of each
governor and management team as to how risky the prisoners were, and that turned out to be directly
related to their experience. Those from Dispersals felt they needed almost exactly ten times as many
staff to supervise association as did those from lower category prisons. The high security team was also
wary of letting prisoners do responsible work, barring them even from vegetable preparation, let alone
from cooking.

The second realisation came from asking a Geese Theatre-trained group of prisoners to write, produce
and put on a series of short playlets illustrating the way people lost power and responsibility as they
passed through stages of the criminal justice process. These sharply-observed cameos showed how
excessive was the loss at each stage. Anyone who doubts that they lose more than is necessary when
arrested, or when appearing in the dock as a defendant, or when passing through a prison reception,
lacks either honesty or imagination or both. The sentence review cameo showed the rewarding of
conformity to prison requirements, and the Discharge Board showed the artificiality of throughcare. All
were lightly presented, but those who attended have not forgotten the lessons, nor the fact that prisoners
were both able to show acute understanding of loss, and to portray it sympathetically to those who were
responsible for it.

The third came from contact with prisoner Listeners and the bereaved families of those who had died in
prison. Behind the guilt and anger it was often clear that there was a story of missed opportunities made
worse by imprisonment.

In addition it is a commonplace that prison staff run prisons through what Alison Liebling and David
Price call the ‘unexercise or under-use of power’, which they prefer to call peace-keeping - at its best
the diligent and skilled use of discretion. I see that as playing to the responsibility of the prisoner. Time
and again staff bring out qualities in prisoners which others have failed to spot or suspect. And this is
shared by prisoners, without whose humanity and good sense prisons would be much harder to run.
Prison people know that, far from prisoners being inherently irresponsible and dangerous, they are
people who, in the great majority of cases, behave decently as prisoners and grow up and go straight by
the time they reach 30.

There are other sound reasons for looking for opportunities for prisoner responsibility. They can save
money by helping to run the services. They can share their insights and skills in helping others to tackle
failure. They need to practice the exercise of responsibility while in custody in preparation for the real
challenge on release. And by behaving responsibly they can also ‘under-exercise and under-use’ their
own power to help staff keep the peace. Prisoners are as aware as staff of great inconsistency as
illustrated by the following quote from a prisoner:

    Inter-activity between staff and prisoners seems to be normal in some prisons and completely
    banned in others. Not only does it lower barriers, but it helps both groups to see each other as
    human beings. Without this you see the bad things a lot ‘louder’ than they really are.

Prison people also know the damage which is done to prisoners by gagging them and treating them as
irresponsible. Call a youngster a juvenile and you structure an expectation of juvenile behaviour. Bottle
up the prisoner by denial of access, association and activity, and you get a Strangeways. And people
who have become skilled, conforming, denying prisoners do not learn social skills which will stand them
in good stead on release. The public will have to understand that. By training people to be prisoners as
an end in itself the Prison Service exposes the public as well as prisoners and staff to even greater risk.

PART 1 – Introduction

                                               The background to the Project
                                                     (as issued in March 2001)

    The starting point                                                      we are confronted with some irresponsible behaviour, we are
                                                                            dealing with someone who is wholly irresponsible. That
    The basic premise is that people offend more easily the                 would be as misguided as to assume that prisons are full of
    worse the opinion they hold of themselves, and the agencies             successful criminals, frustrated enemies of society, who are
    which deal with them only make it worse if they then treat              always out for the main chance, and that the only reason there
    them badly. If you want people to behave irresponsibly,                 are not more elderly prisoners is because they have graduated
    don’t give them any responsibility, and take away what                  in the university of crime and no longer get caught.
    they have. The aim of the project is to promote the idea of
    the responsible prisoner as a person who, while needing to              If prisons are actually making weak people weaker turning
    go to prison, retains his or her responsibilities, or learns to         them into prisoners by rewarding conformity rather than
    take them on, so that he is damaged as little as possible and           initiative, then they are doing the public whom they profess to
    retains his usefulness and sense of responsibility while in             be protecting no favours. Sure, Prisons are about banishment,
    custody.                                                                about putting people away, about making an example of
                                                                            criminal behaviour, but that does not mean turning
    Out another way the first premise is that offending breeds              unsuccessful criminals into bitter enemies of society.
    offending. The more it happens the weaker the resolve to
    break the habit. The second premise is that irresponsibility
    breeds irresponsibility. If you are treated as unreliable, you          Some resulting conclusions
    may behave like that. The third is that the criminal justice
    process takes away responsibility, and imprisonment most                So prisons ought to examine themselves to see how far they
    of all. Prisoners have to earn trust, starting from an                  are actually encouraging irresponsibility, how far the caution
    assumption of untrustworthiness as a remand. The fourth is              they take - or risk as we call it - is really necessary either for
    that the Prison Service has wide discretion as to how                   the safety of the system or the protection of the public. To
    prisoners are treated. It needs to check if it is taking away           use some jargon, how far are we identifying risk so that we
    more responsibility than is necessary to keep people in                 can avoid it rather than manage it?
    custody, and if it could protect the public better by
    managing risk rather than avoiding it. The Project aims to              Are we saying that the prison service has got it all wrong, and
    focus on the fourth.                                                    that a changed view of the prisoner would stop all this bad
                                                                            publicity about bullying and prejudice? Would it follow that,
                                                                            if we gave prisoners responsibility, they would automatically
    Questioning some assumptions                                            behave more responsibly? Would it mean expecting the
                                                                            public to allow the Prison Service to take more risks, for
    There is a basic conflict between imprisonment, which is a              example by allowing more people to escape, or by relaxing
    necessarily de-humanising process, and the declared aim of              its duty of care to the young, the disabled, those in minority
    the prison service to treat prisoners with humanity. That               groups, or the suicidal.
    can be reduced by recognising that even prisoners can be
    treated as responsible people. The project suggests that this           Not so. Well, not quite so.
    is not just an option, but that, if the Service is to do all that
    it can to protect the public while it holds the person as a
    prisoner, then it has to do more than simply incapacitate. It           Shifting the balance
    should require responsible behaviour of the prisoner. This
    must be a requirement of the Prison Service as a whole.                 But Yes. We are saying ‘ if you can give more
                                                                            responsibility, then more responsible behaviour is likely to
    The whole criminal justice process can easily bring about               result. And if you deny responsibility to people you cannot
    the behaviour it seeks to avoid. Necessary though it may be             blame them for behaving irresponsibly’. And we are saying
    at times, a hostile approach from the police is likely to               that this is difficult and calls for professionalism from prison
    result in a hostile, defensive response from the member of              staff.
    the public. Necessary though it may be at times, the court’s
    adversarial approach and the demand that the accused                    Many staff join the Service to gain job security, and are then
    behaves as a defendant can make people feel angry and                   trained to identify risk so that it can be avoided. We know
    disowning towards the process. People can feel that it has              that public confidence depends on not letting prisoners
    become some sort of game of winners and losers rather than              escape, and anyone who thinks otherwise should find another
    trying to get to a just outcome. Necessary though it may                job. We know that we have to gain public confidence if we
    be, any assumption by the prison service that prisoners are             are to work in partnership, sharing with them the
    by nature ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’ is unlikely to               responsibility for managing offending behaviour and all that
    bring out a responsible attitude. And, necessary though it              goes with it - crime and its causes. And that work means
    may be, any assumption by the Probation Service that ex-                treating as an individual every offender, whether old, young,
    prisoners are simply released prisoners who must be                     man or woman, of whatever cultural, racial, economic or
    watched and breached the first time they step out of line is            social background, and whether disabled or not. And it
    unlikely to lead to a constructive approach to resettlement.            means being very careful not to disable people, reducing their
                                                                            humanity and removing their freedom unnecessarily. All of
    Of course it would be naive for each agency to assume a                 that will have to be restored one day, and society cannot
    thirst for responsibility on the part of the offender. But that         afford too long a time in custody at £27K per year.
    does not mean that we should not insist on it where we can.
    And it would be counter-productive to assume that, because
Sound foundations                                                      Service and laid before Parliament, which generally assumes
                                                                       that the Home Secretary knows best. The Prison Service
Luckily, the prison service has grown up a lot in recent               effectively says what being a prisoner means.
years. Accommodation more closely matches the number
of prisoners, and we don’t add more without providing a                So for example it is within the discretion of the Prison
matching regime. We are not ashamed of our job when in                 Service to say whether or not prisoners can wear their own
company. We now realise that you have to show that you                 clothes, to categorise and allocate the convicted (or the
spend money wisely, that even prisons have to be efficient,            unconvicted come to that), to allow visits whether open or
and that it simply is not good enough for tax payers to be             closed, to arrange drug-free areas, to hold the young with the
asked to take it on trust that we are careful on their behalf,         old, hold women and the very young far from home. And it is
or the public that they have to put up with lots of escapes.           now for the prison service to decide whether and how to
We are learning through ever more open procedures and                  release on HDC, and whether sentence planning is something
legislation that human rights apply even to people in prison,          we do to, or with, people.
that freedom of information can only be curtailed under
very special circumstances, and that we do not have to be              It is up to the Prison Service to decide what staff do and to
afraid of these advances.                                              what standard, how many grades there are, whether they
                                                                       wear uniform, how their behaviour is rewarded. The
We are recognising, particularly through the insights of the           standards programme belongs to the Prison Service. No one
Inspectorate, that we have a natural grain and tradition of            else has imposed it. Unless primary legislation is needed, the
staff treating prisoners as people, holding them responsible           Prison Service is expected to get on with the job of looking
and giving them responsibility as part of a give and take,             after prisoners. But if it stops short at that point, when it has
sometimes in spite of poor, even atrocious conditions and,             succeeded in turning the offender into a prisoner, and fails to
it has to be said, sometimes indifferent management.                   ensure that the prisoner can once again take up the
                                                                       responsibilities of free citizenship then it fails that person, it
Our staff have also established a culture of responsibility            fails the other agencies concerned, and it fails the public it is
among a highly mobile prisoner population. Drug                        paid to protect. And it cannot point the finger elsewhere.
programmes and drug-free units, Listener programmes,                   The Prison Service has to manage the risk with the prisoner as
self-help programmes, anti-bullying strategies, catering,              an active and responsible person as far as it can do so within
building and grounds maintenance, involvement with local               the wide discretion it has been given.
schools and a wide range of community involvement - all
these speak of an assumption of reciprocal responsibility
and trust. And we have lost some of what we had such as                The plan for the Project
PRES and Hostel schemes and trusted jobs in prisons.
Every establishment has examples of self-start initiatives             The plan has three stages.
from individual staff and prisoners. And there is
widespread recognition that we could do more to recognise              First we need to check that we have covered most of the
these.                                                                 relevant issues. We are sending this invitation to a selection
                                                                       from the many people, prisoners and others, who have said
                                                                       they want to help, asking whether they would be willing to
So how might the Responsible Prisoner project help?                    receive papers and comment on them, and whether some
                                                                       might in addition be willing to form a working group. We are
If we can let a little light into the prison world and listen to       also sending questionnaires to some governors and prisoners.
what prisoners and staff tell us, we may learn that we can
manage risk at less cost both to the prisoner and the                  Second, the Working Group will be asked to attend two 1-day
Service. If we can get the views of those who care about               conferences, almost certainly in Highpoint South in early July
our work we may learn how we can gain a better                         and late September to check the outline and then check the
understanding of what we do. If we ask what we can do to               draft report. Although we are sending this invitation to non-
encourage responsible behaviour, we may find that we can               Prison Service people as well, the key people are prisoners
give more responsibility, and do so from the outset.                   and Prison Service staff, so that we come up with practical
                                                                       proposals which might make a difference to how people
We need also to recognise that without the prisoner’s                  behave rather than unrealistic or irrelevant aspirations.
acceptance and understanding we are making it much
harder for ourselves as well as for the prisoner. In return            Third, we will re-shape the draft in the light of the second
we are also much more likely to get a prisoner to accept               conference.
responsibility for his or actions, past, present and future.

Any parent or educator will tell you that giving                       The Outcome
responsibility means some loss. Some loss of control.
Loss of dependence. Loss of relationship. And any child                The outcome will be a report which is part descriptive and
will tell you that, unless that giving takes place, the result         part specific, framed in terms of human rights and openness,
will be a forced taking of responsibility, often with a bitter         which offers a perspective of people in prison who are
challenge and rejection of offered standards whatever their            required to develop and retain responsibility according to
merit. The Prison Service is not a parent, but it has lots of          their needs and ability, in prisons which are required to
duties which are similar.                                              challenge behaviour and manage both prison and public risk
                                                                       through staff who are confident that that is their job.
The responsibility of the prison service to re-examine what
it does is lies with the Service alone. Prison Rules are not           And that is the end of the beginning. The report will also
created by parliament; they are proposed by the Prison                 suggest what should take priority in future work.

PART 1 – Introduction


This is a brief note of some assumptions which underlie the Project, and of some issues which
will not be explored in more depth for lack of time and space.

Prisons manage risk. They do this on behalf of the public first by assessing it, then by avoiding it
where necessary, and by managing it as far as possible while they have the prisoner in custody

Two types of risk. There is first the risk to the prison system. People in prison must take up the
role of prisoner for prisons to be safe and controlled. . Staff assess prisoners’ ability to take
responsibility so that they can help to run the prison. If prisons fail to achieve this they will lose
the confidence of the community as well as of staff and prisoners. The second risk is to the
community. A well-behaved prisoner can still be a grave danger to the community. Skilled
prison staff make sure they assess both risks and never lose sight of the second when achieving
the first. Thus a sex offender may be a very good prisoner while remaining unchallenged as an
offender. Similarly Lifers, who make the system their home, may grow into a responsible adult
in prison but have great difficulty in showing that they are now fully reliable outside.

Imprisonment assumes irresponsibility. It is easy to assume that the courts would not lock
people up if they could trust them to remain free and not offend. But in fact it is the adversarial
process of proving guilt beyond reasonable doubt that makes the Court seem to condemn the
whole person. The offender may be a highly responsible person in other respects, but the offence
carries a heavy tariff which requires a long sentence. Conversely the court may not have the
power or foreknowledge to give a sentence long enough to reflect its concern for public safety.
The skill of the Prison Service of determining the responsibility of the prisoner is the key
ingredient in planning the best use of the time in custody and on release. It calls for cooperation
from the prisoner and great awareness among prison staff of the damage which imprisonment
causes. At its best staff and prisoners work as a team, sharing the same goals inside and out,
showing mutual respect for their respective roles, with prisoners learning to combine care and
control from the example of staff. Perhaps surprisingly, much money may be wasted and damage
done by keeping people in prison for too long.

The mark of a professional member of the prison service is the extent to which he or she is able to
care for those who have forfeited their right to being treated as a human by their inhuman
behaviour. Giving such people responsibility, and expecting it in return, is the currency of
relationships in a healthy prison.

Determinate sentences are seldom determined by dangerousness. Other than when a judge sets a
tariff for a life sentence the courts cannot and do not attempt to predict how long it will take for
an offender to stop offending. Nor do they tell the prison service how to care for a prisoner
though they may express a view. The length of a determinate sentence will be determined largely
by a combination of tariff, individual considerations and the limits laid down by law and the Lord

The Service recruits risk avoiders. Many applicants seek job security, and favourable qualities
among those selected will include ‘a safe pair of hands’. That maturity is essential to manage a
prison population safely - to carry out the peacekeeping roles and use discretion wisely within
clear boundaries.

The Service reinforces risk avoidance. Anyone who thinks the public welcomes risk-taking with
prisoners will rapidly be disabused unless the senior manager has a secure reputation for common
sense with a dash of panache.

The key role in risk management is the Governor. Time and again staff and prisoners, outside
agencies and governors themselves tell of the danger of unplanned or frequent change. It does

not follow that long periods of stability are inherently good: they can produce stagnation and
allow pernicious brutality to become endemic. But in the business of risk conversion and
management the Governor is the keystone, and change has to be managed very carefully to keep
the edge on risk management.

Treating prisoners as responsible people does not require abandonment of control. Prison officers
give responsibility all the time in their peacekeeping role, using discretion (which some call
gaolcraft). The extent to which they will manage the risk depends critically on the clarity of their
leader, their confidence that the line will be consistent over time, and that they will be supported
if they have carried out a proper risk assessment.

The community will be best protected if risk management assumes responsibility for lack of
contrary evidence. Treat people as juveniles and you must expect them to behave as such. The
reverse is true. Maturity is helped by being given responsibility. Nothing new in that.

Great damage to an individual’s ability to act responsibility is done before reception, and then
compounded within minutes of reception. Common sense tells anyone this. But additionally
only prisoners can describe what actually happens.

Prisons are full of failed offenders. Successful ones don’t get caught. Failed offenders take some
convincing before they resume responsibility.

Offending is a mark of immaturity. Prisons are not full of the elderly. The elderly prisoner is
sometimes incapacitated by imprisonment. It is difficult and expensive to motivate prisoners
who are growing old without any clear reason for staying in prison.

Treating prisoners as irresponsible, or allowing them to be so, puts the community at risk when
their sentence ends. Prisoners point to the significance of small behaviour such as strip searching
without providing clean dressing gowns where staff often mean no harm but have simply got used
to de-humanising. All of these add up to a self-image of being less than human – of treating
people as things – which belies otherwise good staff.

Staff training is among the many issues not directly addressed here. This is partly because the
Project suggests doing things better not differently, and partly because those responsible for
particular training will see relevance better than the author. Prisoners have pointed out some
priority needs in terms of training in child abuse and the social background of offenders,
particularly of women.

In this Report people in prison are referred to as ‘prisoners’. Many call themselves ‘inmates’, but
the author feels that they sometimes do so because they feel helpless. Similarly the author often
refers to prisoners as women, to beg the question as to the right to deprive people of their rights –
a question people seem to ask more of women and children than of male adults.

‘Whatever else one may say about them, prisons are supposed to help people’. This concluding
comment from the Highpoint conference almost escapes attention.

PART 1 – Introduction

                                      Whose Sentence? Whose time?

This note simply raises the question ‘Whose time is it anyway?’ If it is the community’s time, the offender
having forfeited it by offending, then she has less say over how it should be spent, and the community (in
the case represented by its Prison Service) has the greater responsibility.

But if it is still the offender’s time, as a right which cannot be reduced by the community any more than is
strictly necessary to prevent further offending for a period, then both the community and the offender have
a shared duty to make the best use of that time, especially since the cost of humane custody, and the
damage of simple incarceration is so great.

Much has been made recently of the protection of the public resulting from the incapacitation of
imprisonment, countered by the argument that people continue to offend in prison, accessing drugs,
stealing, breaking statutory rules. And it is argued that the public is only protected for a period after which
the majority of offenders, particularly the young, carry on offending for several years.

Many people (all but 12 out of 420 law students or members of the judiciary whom the author asked when
they visited his prisons) believe that the job of the courts is to give a sentence which will protect the public,
from which the executive in some form will release them as and when it is safe to do so, taking account of
the victim’s views. The 12 realised that the Court knows exactly what time limit there is to the sentence it
hands down, exactly what discretion the Governor has for HDC and the Parole Board has for the longer
sentences, and that the only sentence which has no upper limit defined by the Court is Life. Life is the only
sentence where release is timed on the basis of public safety, and that can be over-ridden by other elements
such as what is tolerable.

So the Courts, though they may not be fully aware of it, regard the time on sentence as belonging to the
Court which has (at present) no say in how the time should be spent, but a complete say in the upper limit
of time to be served other than for Lifers and their young equivalents. After that limit, the Court, as even
Halliday recognises, has no say. The sentence is ended. Full stop. Any remand time is included. The span
and the tariff is measured in time alone. The Court does not say or intend that the span should be measured
in how long it is likely to take before the offender comes to her senses. It does not take a lot of thought to
realise that a 3 year sentence – of which only a fixed proportion can be spent in custody – will mean one
thing to a young mother trying to look after her children coming up to school age, and something quite
different to a hardened recidivist with no dependants. But a tariff is a tariff, and any major departure from
that will bring the credibility of the judiciary into question.

So Time is the basic currency, not behaviour or prospects or achievements. And now, what is the
community’s view as to what that should mean? Does Parliament intend that some prisoners, eg the
unconvicted or the young, or women, or any other of the diverse groups of people in prison, should have
some special treatment. The answer to that is probably Yes, if only it could forecast the likely outcome. If
only it could be confident that prison would ‘work’.

But that is not the issue of this note. The issue here is, would the community want imprisonment to make
or allow offenders to slip their responsibilities while inside, to have a free ride on the state? The answer to
that is clearly ‘No’. As far as possible prison should still allow people to continue to take responsibility as
citizens. More than that, it should provide every incentive to encourage that. More than that, it should
penalise people who use prison as an excuse for opting out.

Obviously there are bad people in prison, and people who become worse in prison. Obviously prison is not
the best place to make bad people good. But less obviously, the whole attitude towards prison and the
capacity and entitlement and expectation of prisoners will influence everything about imprisonment, from
what happens to prisoners and their families to how much money will be voted.

This note simply asks ‘Whose time is it anyway?’ If it is not the prisoner’s time, who is responsible for
how it is spent? Anything the Prison Service does to take responsibility away unnecessarily takes the
pressure off the prisoner, and reduces the choices and decisions we associate with humanity. Humanity is
not an option but a requirement, and one the few which allows us to make some sense of the otherwise
elusive currency of time.

PART 1 – Introduction

                                      Raw Material

There are several main sources of information for the Report.

   The author’s 37 years service as a governor grade in many types of establishment,
   many jobs in Headquarters largely to do with personnel and regimes, and a spell in
   Officer training.

   Several Prisoners Week conferences involving prisoners and often their families
   designed to look at various issues from unusual points of view including those of
   prisoners. These included the themes of :

       ‘The Just Prison’ (a Woolf theme) – designed to illustrate that what was just
       depended on who you were.

       ‘Who Cares’ – designed to show that caring was a responsibility shared with, and
       dependent on, the offender.

       ‘The Responsible Prisoner’ – designed to allow prisoners to say how the criminal
       justice process removed responsibility and rewarded conformity.

       ‘Human Rights and Humanity’ – designed to show that there were two separate
       agenda which needed to come together.

   The particular spell in HQ involved in regime design which showed clearly how
   different was the experience of knowledgeable prison staff, and how powerful that
   was in influencing everything from staffing levels to prisoner responses.

   Two spells in HQ in Industrial Relations which showed how powerful and distracting
   type-casting can be in determining the roles and relationships of prison staff,
   particularly with the POA.

   Work with the Grubb Institute. This had two forms.

       First the development training of middle managers in establishments and HQ in
       the ‘80s and ‘90s designed to encourage them to understand and value their
       experience as the basis for changing the culture of their part of the service from
       what they experienced to where it said it needed to be, particularly from a ‘Why
       bother if no one else does’ to a ‘Can do, but we must listen while we do’ culture.
       The ‘80s was set in the context of years of industrial strife and erosion of essential
       management systems, which culminated in Fresh Start. The ‘90s was set in the
       context of massive change following major escapes and public criticism of
       inefficiency. The training showed how far some people had moved from the core
       business of managing people during custody.

       Second, a sequence of informal meetings over many years with some senior
       people from different parts of the criminal justice system who reflected on the
       influence of budget competition, public accountability, Political imperatives, and
       the importance of belief systems and an understanding of organisational

Questionnaires and interviews with about 100 prisoners, men, women and children
(or at least juveniles).

Two full-day meetings / conferences at Carlford Unit for long-term youngsters, and at
Highpoint with men and women Lifers and Listeners designed to look at what they
could do for themselves, for others and what others could do for them.

Members of the Prisons Inspectorate who have shared their experience and criticised
draft material.

About 100 Governors / Directors who answered a 30-question questionnaire, often in
considerable depth, and nearly all of whom took further questioning without

Dozens of others either as individuals or representing their organisations. I attach
them as the Reference Group, most of whom received papers and commented on
them at some time or another. But they are not responsible for the report unless they
wish to say so. Some were too hard pressed. And some gave views which have not
been included other than to show lack of consensus.

Many members of Prison Service Headquarters who gave much time and thought to
points raised, and offered an endlessly tempting array of further lines of enquiry
which time and resources prevent, at least for the present.



The intention of the Project is to focus on the discretion which the Prison Service has
in the treatment of people while in prison. Within that the Project has a close focus
on the three key players – the Governor, the Officer and the Prisoner. Part 2 contains
fieldwork on these three.

There was not time or resource to mount a proper survey of staff or prisoners. Alison
Liebling and David Price’s book on the Prison Officer was in the offing, and the
questions to be explored with prisoners and staff needed to be put in small groups to
people who were briefed on the object of the exercise. As far as possible these
questions were administered uniformly, that is they followed the same overall
structures as those for the Governors / Directors.

The main work in this Part is therefore hung on a questionnaire which was sent to
Governors and Directors of private prisons. The shape of the questionnaire was
intended to follow two broad principles. The questions led from the basic to the more
analytical, and from the beginning of custody to release.

The response was almost overwhelming. Just over a hundred replied, many with
particular insights which required further exploration either by correspondence or
visits. The Research group and others in the Inspectorate were able to suggest further
lines. The overall quality of the responses showed how very seriously people took
the topic, and a summary was sent to a reference group of people who had said they
would like the opportunity to comment.

This combined response, from governors and the reference group, was then used as a
coat-hanger on which to hang many other responses – from staff, prisoners, special
interest groups and others in the service or working in prisons and headquarters. Part
2 therefore is the closest the project gets to field-work and research.

Although in the Introduction the approach was described as Selective Appreciative
Enquiry, the material in this part has not been edited to leave out conflicting views.
Indeed the conflict is highlighted, particularly where it shows the need for people to
make choices, underlining the sub-title of the Project – an Invitation to Change.

Each Question is dealt with under four headings: why the question was asked, a
summary of the responses, the views of the Reference Group, and some practical
implications suggested by the author and others. The weight of material has not
allowed anything like as much inclusion or expansion as it deserved, but the main
points are covered as far as is necessary to show the outline choices which might be

Martin Narey, in his endorsement, suggests that the project is the more valuable
because it is not tied to deliverable and manageable recommendations and targets.
The author hopes that readers will see that many of the recommendations call for very
clear and affordable targets, mainly in the need to change attitudes and behaviour or,
as with the responsible work given to prisoners, that prisons can run more effectively,
efficiently and economically with sentence plan targets based on real experience.

             ‘The Responsible Prisoner’ - Governors’ / Directors questionnaire

Name ……………………..

Establishment ………………….                               Type / Function …………………………….

If you have material worthy of wider consideration, please send me a copy.


1 Are there any privacy locks? Yes / No
If ‘Yes’ please describe provision – for whom. If ‘No’, are there plans?

2 Own clothing?
None / Some / All
Please describe who is allowed, whether it is part of IEP, whether there are
plans to change. Any comment would be useful – attach a paper if

3 Form of address
Is there any policy re the form of address, eg ‘up to each prisoner’, ‘Mr
…..’, ‘None’, ‘Surname only’.

Reception / Induction

4 Do unconvicted prisoners have choices over paid activity?                    Yes / No
5 Do prisoners have choices as to location within the prison?                  Yes / No
6 Do prisoners have a choice as to whether they share a cell?                  Yes / No

Categorisation / Allocation

7 Are prisoners always asked if they have any comment on                       Yes / No
categorisation / allocation?
8 If a prisoner wishes to challenge them is he or she able to discuss it       Yes / No
with the person who takes the decision? (i.e Are prisoners encouraged to
comment i.e. to make a commitment on them?)

Custody / Sentence Plans

9 Is there a meaningful ‘compact’ with the unconvicted? *                      Yes / No
10 Is there a meaningful ‘compact’ with the convicted?                         Yes / No
Do either include a significant
commitment by the prison, or some
compensation if the prison
* If ‘Yes’ please attach a copy

Release / Resettlement

11 Are there local published options for
prisoners to prepare for release (as
against national ones such as ROTL)?
Eg Application for transfer nearer home towards the end
of sentence; arrangements with a resettlement prison;
arrangements with community agency / hostel; work
placements with local firms; pre-release unit with self-help
employment / accommodation data bases etc
12 In-house Pre-release programmes.
Are they an option or a requirement? Are they bespoke to
fit individual needs? Are there sanctions for ‘failure’?

13 Would you favour greater
opportunities for prisoners to prepare for
(Attach paper with proposals if necessary)


14 Is there any form of ‘after-sales’
support / advice offered after release,
either to outside agencies or prisoners or
15 Are staff encouraged to seek
permission to keep contact with
individuals after release?

Prisoner consultation

16 What formal provision is
there for prisoner group
Eg Catering Committee, Wing Committee etc.
If available please attach a good Minute to
show the range of discussion.

17 What formal provision is
there for consultation with
individual prisoners when
significant choices or risk are
being considered?
Please describe how the prisoner is involved –
whether by invitation or requirement, in
person or not. Anything which shows the
prisoner as responsible and his or her view
valued will be of interest.

Limits to responsibility

18 What limits do you feel are appropriate to
consultation / negotiation with prisoners?
Eg Should prisoners be consulted about: regime balance;
routines; adjudications tariff; staffing levels; roles of staff; budget
distribution; allocation policy; requests and complaints procedure,
IEP; anti-bullying; staff conduct; rewards and sanctions; use of
the Seg; use of R45; family visits; HDC; ROTL; pay; sentence
review; canteen; confidential access - - other.

19 What limits do you feel are appropriate to
prisoners taking responsibility in prison?
eg as trained sports and games staff, trained remedial tutors,
prisoner escorts, trained maintenance staff, trained catering staff,
trained counsellors, hospital orderlies, IT or other teachers, prison
visitors ……

20. How is responsibility for sentence
management shared with / handed over to the
prisoner in preparation for release?
Could this system be improved?

                                                   Dues / Obligations

21 Are prisoners required to hold their own
medication? Yes / No
Are there sanctions if they do not?
22 Are prisoners expected / able to inform their
visitors about prison allowances and conditions?
Or is this done for them?
Are there self-help forms for them to send?
23 Are prisoners expected to get themselves from
one point to another during the day?
Is there a pass system? Do they report their arrival? Are routes
staffed / monitored by TV?

24 If own clothes are allowed are prisoners
expected to ensure they are cleaned and in good
repair themselves?
If you have a good system of exchange searching, please attach.

25 Are prisoners informed of the process of
recognition of meritorious conduct?
Have there been any instances recently?

26 Are prisoner achievements publicised? How?

27 Apart from Listeners are there other
circumstances where prisoners are expected to
hold information in confidence?

28 Are there any restorative arrangements for
prisoners to apologise, recompense, make good a
hurt in addition to or instead of being punished?

29 How many jobs are done by prisoners which
would otherwise have to be done by paid staff ?
(eg catering, portering, cleaning, maintenance,
teaching etc)

30 Are there any particular examples of prisoner
accountability which you would commend?

Please return to Stephen Pryor, Room 1017 Queen Anne’s Gate London SW1H 9AT, or e-mail to
QAG, or by fax to 020 7273 4087 marked for my attention. Many thanks. I will keep you posted.

The Governor Questionnaire analysis


1 Are there any privacy locks? Yes / No
If ‘Yes’ please describe provision – for whom. If ‘No’, are there plans?

1.     Why the question was put - the hypothesis

Prisoners, and some governors, have been asking for several years when they can have
these locks, particularly since they are standard in private prisons and in major
refurbishments. They do what they say - allow greater privacy, and prevent cell thieving.
They require less staffing to lock and unlock cells at times other than mass lock and
unlock. They are free to governors other than the cost of installation. Prisoners comment
that they feel safer, more in control and trusted with a key. As the Ombudsman says
‘Property matters a great deal in prison’.

2.     The answers and comments of governors and others

There is a random spread across the whole estate where there are doors strong enough for
them. A possible misunderstanding as to their use exists as shown by a High Security
comment that they are ‘not appropriate’ while others have experienced no problem nor
felt them to be inappropriate.

One Governor of a major Local has a problem with lost keys as a result of the high
turnover. This is not reported as a problem in other large Locals.

One governor reported that staff are apprehensive about issuing privacy keys to prisoners
in case they jam the locks and harm themselves, preventing staff access. There are no
instances of this known to the Safer Custody group. The problem of jammed locks is no
different with privacy locks.

Some comment that these locks are not installed in Healthcare Centres or Segregation

3.     Comment on these by the reference group, taking account of prisoners’ views
       given at the first Highpoint conference, identifying the farthest boundaries

The responses show random use across the whole estate, generally in the newer prisons
including the private prisons. There appear to be no counter-arguments other than the
cost of manufacture, and that the current design is suitable only for strong doors and that
the handles may be possible ligature points.

We can see no reason why they should not be installed in Healthcare Centres or
Segregation Units. If Juveniles at Portland can respect them, so can most patients. If
they help prisoners to feel better and there is no increased risk outside HCCs, the
argument is if anything stronger for them in HCCs.
Segregation does not of itself call for lack of privacy locks; the need for a risk assessment
to justify an over-ride would be similar for segregation as anywhere else.

There will be plenty of competing priorities such as installation of electricity in cells. But
they are not mutually exclusive.

The Ombudsman points to the large number of complaints of missing property.
Prisoners spoke highly of the increased sense of privacy and safety where they have
privacy locks

4.     Practical proposals arising.

To bring the public sector up to the standard of the private sector installation should
proceed on a national basis taking account of the refurbishment programme, risk
assessments and the ability of governors to free up staff to install them

A design should be considered for light frame doors

There should be a cost-benefit analysis to identify efficiency of staffing as a result of
installing privacy locks.

Where these locks are being considered a briefing should be available to tell staff and
prisoners of the advantages.

The practice of locking prisoners behind strong cell doors by day and by night should be
reviewed against the assessed risk of security and control in each case. Where there is no
justification, the over-ride should not be applied.

2 Own clothing?
None / Some / All
Please describe who is allowed, whether it is part of IEP,
whether there are plans to change. Any comment would be
useful – attach a paper if necessary

1.     Why the question was put - the hypothesis

It is assumed that prisoners feel better about themselves if they can
wear their own clothes, expressing their own individuality, feeling
less de-personalised, and retaining some responsibility for looking
after themselves. It has a cost however. Someone has to provide
the clothing and keep it repaired and clean. It has to be exchanged
and searched, which itself is difficult without damaging the article.

On the occasion when own clothes might be most important, eg on
visits, some establishments judge that the prisoner has to wear
some distinctive garment. And it can be stolen, when the loss is
more keenly felt than if it belonged to the state. There are practical
advantages. There are savings on the uniform budget. Prisoners
take more care of their own clothes and do not foul them or throw
them out of their windows.

2.     The answers and comments of governors and others

Hardly any say they allow no own clothing. Many allow it as part
of IEP. Several allow it for all prisoners. All women are allowed;
Holloway need to draw on the WRVS for foreign nationals.
Provision is dependent on wing or at least local laundries. Some
refer to a periodic (eg 6 months) exchange rate. There does not
appear to be any pattern eg that allowance is consistent with the
security category of the establishment, though one or two equate
non-allowance with the need for ‘supervision’.

3.     Comment on these by the reference group, taking account of prisoners’ views
       given at the first Highpoint conference, identifying the farthest boundaries

It is very clear that wearing own clothes is seen as a privilege which enhances self-
respect and is one worth paying for both by prisoners and prison management.

The responses indicate no problem from a security risk point of view: eg more High
Security establishments allow it than don’t. Where there is a trend, it is planned to
increase allowance not reduce it.

It is common that own clothes necessitates wing laundries preferably, and a reliable local
laundry if not.

No one mentioned problems of bullying, searching, attempts to escape in civilian clothes,
laundering, trafficking or processing as significant problems (though all of them
undoubtedly occur).

All women and girls appear to be allowed to wear own clothes. There seems to be no
reason why all men should not be allowed to do so.

The fact that wearing own clothes it is a key earnable privilege needs to be balanced
against the effect on self-image and sense of responsibility which comes from wearing
own clothes, and the administrative problems of change of entitlement according to
behaviour and inconsistency between prisons.

See also Q 24

4.     Practical proposals arising.

Because personal clothing is so clearly recognised as being linked to self-respect it
should be uncoupled from IEP.

All prisoners should be entitled to choose to wear own clothes regardless of gender.

Problems of laundry provision should be assessed and included in forward plans.

Systems of marking to prevent bullying need to be explored and made a condition of
possession if necessary (eg for more costly items or more vulnerable prisoners).

The practice of those prisons which allow own clothes even on visits should be examined
to stop the practice elsewhere of allowing own clothes at all other times. This is a
needlessly wasteful use of staff time and of uniform.

3 Form of address
Is there any policy re the form of address, eg ‘up to each prisoner’, ‘Mr …..’,
‘None’, ‘Surname only’.

1.     Why the question was put - the hypothesis

This is a very elastic hypothesis. How people prefer to be addressed and to address
others varies according to a wide range of variables. But there is a clear correlation in
people’s minds between the form of address and the underlying relationship assumed to
exist between people, with the use of surname only being no longer acceptable in use in
the public service.

2.     The answers and comments of governors and others

There are few surprises in the answers. Nearly all large public sector prisons which
answered use surname only, though there is no stated policy, nor is there any indication
that any harm is meant by that. All female establishments tend to use first names or some
prefix. All private prisons which answered use a prefix or first name for adults and
young, men and women.

3.     Comment on these by the reference group, taking account of prisoners’ views
       given at the first Highpoint conference, identifying the farthest boundaries,

Courtesy costs nothing, and will always show that respect is expected in return. Since all
prison staff should regard it as a mark of their profession that they show respect to
prisoners regardless of their behaviour, and all prisoners should know that it is expected
that they will repay that, all prisoners should be referred to with the appropriate prefix or
by their first name if they feel comfortable with that. Staff may insist on their own
prefix, which helps to denote their authority.

The symbolism of this is of equal importance to the wearing of identification by staff.
Use of the prefix ‘Mr’ does not denote weakness or collusion. It is the test of the prison
officer’s professionalism that he or she at all times deals with all prisoners without fear or
favour, and the form of address is the simplest means of showing that.

Several on the Reference Group were uneasy about a move away from ‘Surname only’,
suggesting that it might lower staff morale. There is no evidence to support that in those
prisons which use a prefix.

Prisoners commented that the staff culture could be very low, reflecting not only their
view of prisoners as non-human but also a poor view of each other. Simple things like
‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’ were missing in some establishments, or practice could be in
marked contrast between two parts of the same establishment. Staff acted as role models
for prisoners, for better and worse. How prisoners treated people, whether family, friends
or officials, could be influenced by how they were treated by staff. Staff ought to set the
highest standards and nothing less. To argue that you need to show discourtesy to
survive inside only reflects on the poor professionalism inside: not all establishments and
not all staff behave poorly, so none should.

There appeared to be no consensus among prisoners as to whether they preferred to be
called Prisoners or Inmates. Some said that they felt that ‘Inmates’ implied they were in
a mental institution, but they referred to each other as Inmates.

4.     Practical proposals arising.

Instruction should be given making it clear that prisoners will be treated with respect at
all times, and that they will be referred to by whatever name they prefer, or by the use of
the appropriate prefix if in doubt.

A simple name badge showing how they prefer to be known should be given to prisoners
as an option for them to show to staff: it will not be taken as an identity badge, nor will it
hold any other personal details.

A formal handshake may at times be the clearest indicator of the expectation of a
responsible and mature relationship between prisoner and staff.

                                       Reception / Induction

4 Do unconvicted prisoners have choices over paid activity?                       Yes / No

1.      Why the question was put - the hypothesis

Where the unconvicted are concerned it has long been the practice not to provide much in the
way of meaningful activity because they cannot be required to take part, and their future is
uncertain. Some modern prisons were designed for ‘remands’ with little or no such provision.
This enforces idleness and reinforces a sense of worthlessness. It denies them the opportunity to
earn. It wastes their time which is often no less predictable than that of the convicted.

2.      The answers and comments of governors and others

The question applies mainly to Locals, (some other establishments hold a small group of
remands). A significant number say they do have the option, though some say it is very limited
and/or part time. Several large prisons have no provision or no choice of provision.

3.      Comment on these by the reference group, taking account of prisoners’ views given
        at the first Highpoint conference, identifying the farthest boundaries, and

There is an obvious dilemma. It would be wasteful to make provision only to find no one wants
to do it. But it is not fair to restrict purposeful activity to the convicted.

This is covered in greater length in ‘Unjust Deserts’, HMCI’s thematic review on the treatment of
the unconvicted on which a response is awaited.

4.      Practical proposals arising.

All prisoners should be treated according to need, ability and preference within known limits of
likely time in custody, regardless of innocence or guilt or stage of legal process.

Their needs should be assessed as soon as is practicable and the time in custody planned with the
prisoner as an active participant.

Options should be allocated on this basis and planned levels of activity should be resourced
following analysis of potential and actual take-up against a Standard which sets out the type of
programme appropriate to particular types of establishment.

Population profiles should be drawn up showing the actual length of stay of the unconvicted, and
these should be matched against a survey to show how far prisoners are able to predict their time
before court disposal. The result should then be compared against the same profile for the
convicted / sentenced. Costly programmes should have ‘tasters’ and ability to top up where
possible to prevent waste, whether due to loss of convicted or unconvicted.

Where an unconvicted inmate contracts to an activity, the consequences of defaulting should be
made clear at the outset and confirmed as part of any compact.

5 Do prisoners have choices as to location within the prison?                 Yes / No

1.     Why the question was put - the hypothesis

A basic need of someone locked in a cell is to have some say as to where they are located
and with whom. That is a need both for basic safety and for companionship or privacy.

2.     The answers and comments of governors and others

The answers were limited to Yes / No, but there was nothing to stop a qualification such
as ‘They can ask’, but few did. Some did qualify ‘within the limits of IEP’. One
qualified as ‘ .. but staff have the final say’. That is taken as read.

3.     Comment on these by the reference group, taking account of prisoners’ views
       given at the first Highpoint conference, identifying the farthest boundaries

It is clear from the number who do allow choices in all sorts of establishment that for
many it is simply a matter of a decision in principle followed by implementation within
common sense precautions as to compatibility.

There are rules which prevent certain classes of prisoner sharing sleeping
accommodation. Where it is both practicable and both prisoners ask, there should be
flexibility in the rules which allows this. There is as much likelihood of abuse or danger
between two prisoners in the same group as between those in different groups. Even
vulnerable prisoners can be in danger from other vulnerable prisoners.

The separation of unconvicted and convicted has been fully explored in HMCI Thematic
Review ‘Unjust Desserts’ and its recommendations in this regard should be implemented
where practicable.

The discretion in allowing this should normally be at landing officer level for choices
within a landing, and at more senior level as appropriate where the choice is between two
different locations.

Decisions must of course always have regard to risks.

4.     Practical proposals arising.

Where choice is not allowed Governors should be directed to review their population
management against two assumptions. The more flexible the use of accommodation, the
better able staff will be to manage the population safely. Second, prisoners will be able
to move away from bullying without having to resort to formal protection if it is made
clear that they can ask their staff to facilitate this where practicable and where the risk is

6 Do prisoners have a choice as to whether they share a cell?               Yes / No

1.     Why the question was put - the hypothesis

The need is similar to that in the last question, but with greater intensity because of the
degree of intimacy. It applies only to those establishments which have shared cells. It is
NOT assumed that double or single cells are somehow best per se. And some governors
said that sharing or having a single cell was a privilege according to which was in
shortest supply.

2.     The answers and comments of governors and others

The spread was very similar to the last question, though no High Security prison
apparently allows it.

3.     Comment on these by the reference group, taking account of prisoners’ views
       given at the first Highpoint conference, identifying the farthest boundaries

It was not clear how many prisons did not have any shared cells.

High Security prisons have no monopoly of control risks, which is essentially the risk
area relevant to sharing. There would seem to be no objection in principle why all
prisons should not allow this where practicable.

All prisoners should ideally be located in single cells for their own safety, privacy and
decency. Where some companionship is necessary for short periods that might be met by
keeping the cell open or by provision of a very few double cells.

4.     Practical proposals arising

Where choice is not allowed Governors should be directed to review their population
management against an assumption in favour of allowing prisoner preferences where
practicable and where the risk is acceptable. Again the decision should be taken at the
lowest appropriate level by staff who know the prisoners, and should have regard to risks.

Design briefs should be altered to reduce shared cells to 5% at most, and accommodation
levels in existing accommodation should be similarly adjusted as opportunity and funding

Categorisation / Allocation

7 Are prisoners always asked if they have any comment on                        Yes / No
categorisation / allocation?

1.     Why the question was put - the hypothesis

This is where the first major decisions of the sentence plan, and the role which the
prisoner plays, start. If the prisoner is not involved at this stage or at some subsequent
stage it is very difficult to put right, or to engage the prisoner later. Whatever the length
or determinacy of sentence it is vital, and would meet a high standard of human rights,
not only to involve the prisoner but to require him or her to be involved and show
evidence of that involvement. Instead of being driven by the requirements of prisoners
these decisions may be driven by the vacancies in the estate or the needs of the holding
prison. Any sign of less than complete involvement could indicate at best an insular
establishment, at worst culpable lack of care.

2.     The answers and comments of governors and others

The majority answered ‘Yes. Several say that juveniles are allocated by ‘the YJB
Clearing House’.

Some pointed out that there cannot be choices for the unconvicted as things stand. Woolf
and a number of governors have agreed that it is theoretically possible to allocated
security categories to many of the unconvicted in addition to Cat As from known
background information and expected time on remand.

Some (other than open establishments) said ‘Not Applicable’. These included some
Locals, a First Stage Lifer, a High Security establishment and several training prisons,
some of whom either said ‘N/A’, or simply ‘No’. Some Cat C prisons also said ‘No’. A
number referred to Requests and Complaints as the means of ‘asking’.

A number of prisoners including youngsters seemed to accept that they would not be

Several female establishments realised that the question was broader than security
‘categories’ of which there are none for women.

3.     Comment on these by the reference group, taking account of prisoners’ views
       given at the first Highpoint conference, identifying the farthest boundaries

It is worrying that the ‘Nos’ or ‘N/As’ included prisons which play a vital role in
sentence planning.

PSO 0900 sets out the timescales for review of category. There is plenty of consideration
being given in headquarters to ensuring that instructions are workable.

A prisoner survey on this specific point might show that even the ‘Yes’ returns may not
tally with prisoner experience. From anecdotal feedback almost certainly the ‘Yes’

returns would not be supported by many prisoners, let alone show evidence of it, let alone
of the prisoner being given such evidence. Not only is such evidence essential to answer
requests for information and complaints of maladministration, but insisting on
involvement underlines the expectation of responsibility. Reviewing security categories
is notoriously seen as simply a response to population pressures.

Few people fully understand the critical work of the staff who manage this function,
calling as it does for the highest combination of skills and knowledge of any staff. They
have to marry sentence plans of whatever formality with vacancies, keeping their own
and receiving establishments topped up with the right criteria and matching input with
output, usually with little senior management interference (or support). There is
impressive evidence of the high standards of consultation and communication achieved
by some Sentence Management / OCA / Allocations staff, even in very busy Core Locals,
vouched for by prisoners and their staff.

The Ombudsman commends openness particularly where it reflects that a decision is ‘on
balance’. This is reinforced by PSO 0900 which requires the reasons for categorisation to
be explained clearly so that they can be challenged on well-informed grounds.

4.     Practical proposals arising

Risk assessment of the unconvicted should be researched to see what scope there is for
the Prison Service to avoid unnecessary use of security restraints by over-high
categorisation of all classes of prisoner, and lower costs for containment of lower risk

Prisoners should be surveyed to check perception of the processes.

Governors should be directed to review their procedures in the light of the prisoner

The process should provide clear evidence of prisoner involvement as a requirement of
this aspect of sentence management, to show that the Prison Service has put custody time
to good use.

8 If a prisoner wishes to challenge them is he or she able to discuss it with the    Yes / No
person who takes the decision? (i.e. Are prisoners encouraged to comment i.e.
to make a commitment on them?)

1.      Why the question was put - the hypothesis

There are two main hypotheses. First, that the prisoner may not have been party to the first
decisions on allocation or the security assessment. Second, that the opportunity to review such an
important decision may not be person-to-person. Either of these would undermine the ownership
and responsibility necessary for effective sentence management.

2.      The answers and comments of governors and others

Most say ‘Yes’ though a few in each category of male adult trainer say ‘No’ (one Cat B even says
‘Not Applicable’). A number say that such requests would be picked up at regular reviews, the
longest of which was ‘annual’. Some holding DTOs say that any such request would be
forwarded to the ‘YJB Clearing House’.

3.      Comment on these by the reference group, taking account of prisoners’ views given
        at the first Highpoint conference, identifying the farthest boundaries

It is clearly highly desirable that prisoners have access to the decision-maker, and very
encouraging that most governors facilitate this.

As with the previous question it remains to be seen if prisoners share this perception, and whether
there are systems to provide evidence to support this. It is very important to be able to establish
that prisoners have done all they reasonably can to use the time in custody constructively and to
put their views on how this can be achieved. The Prison too needs to be able to show that it has
involved the prisoner in risk management.

Prisoners should know that their involvement is part of the rebuilding for which they have shared

4.      Practical proposals arising

Prisoners should be surveyed to check perception of the processes. This is what will test if the
instructions are getting through to prisoners so that they are clearly located in the decision-
making process. Governors should be directed to review their procedures in the light of the
prisoner survey.

The baselines for much of this are being drafted. There is no reason why people should not have
access to the decision-maker: the categorisation documents are usually open documents and the
process should be transparent, encouraging prisoners to participate in this important element of
the management of their sentence.

In all key areas of sentence management there should be a requirement on the prisoner, who has
broken the social contract, to participate, and evidence that this has been done.

                                Custody / Sentence Plans

9 Is there a meaningful ‘compact’ with the unconvicted?                        Yes / No

1.     Why the question was put - the hypothesis

As stated in Q1 there are many examples which show that the Prison Service regards the
unconvicted as being uncontractable from the points of view of uncertainty about their
future, lack of knowledge of them and inability to compel participation. Given that
‘compacts’ are one-sided in setting out mutual commitments but are unilateral as to
liability, it is likely that a prison will make at best weak undertakings with the
unconvicted, if any. That said, the right of the state to take time out of the lives of the
unconvicted must be tempered by as strong an undertaking as possible to put that time to
good use. This question reverses the assumption of the next: it should lean towards a
definition of the commitment of the Service as against that of the prisoner.

2.     The answers and comments of governors and others

Claims that IEP amounted to a compact were discounted: the samples provided were a
statement of what was expected and of the ‘privileges’ available at each level. A
signature to that signified understanding and perhaps commitment by the prisoner and a
statement of consequences by the prison, but could not be construed as acceptance or
agreement. (In similar vein signing the Firearms Act or the Official Secrets Act simply
confirm awareness of fact rather than any undertaking).

Aside from this a small number, from establishments dealing with men, women and the
young said Yes. These included some of the most hard-pressed.

Several agreed that their ‘compacts’ did not admit to liability in case of default, though
most set out avenues of inquiry and complaint. Indeed most samples included a
statement that the compact had no legal status. Few showed an appreciation of the
special needs of the unconvicted.

All samples were couched in a reasonable tone inviting signature.

A number of prisoners said that they valued the idea.

One core Local used a common form for convicted and unconvicted.

3.     Comment on these by the reference group, taking account of prisoners’ views
       given at the first Highpoint conference, identifying the farthest boundaries

It was particularly encouraging that not only did several establishments say ‘Yes’, but
that these included some of the most hard-pressed Locals and remand facilities.

Can we be sure that the disclaimer of legal liability has any validity? It might be safer
and more helpful to call the ‘compact’ ‘Expectations’. In any case, in common with the
Ombudsman, we entirely agree with the statement in PSO 2000 that prisoners should

enjoy the regime appropriate to their behaviour regardless of whether they have signed a

Prisoners commented that more real responsibility could be included in IEP. Although
this might be seen as a greater demand, many prisoners welcome that if it is of real value.
It is the option to do it which matters. Prisoners also commented that there is little
benefit in being ‘enhanced’ if you do not want your family to visit very often or they
cannot afford it, or they cannot afford to send him the money to enjoy his ‘enhanced’

4.     Practical proposals arising

Though any engagement is better than none, it would be far better to pursue the idea of a
formal mutual commitment where a prisoner is required to state that he or she undertakes
to cooperate with an agreed custody plan, and the prison undertakes to fulfil its side of
such a plan. It should be designed on the basis that it will in practice be enforceable
should a Court have to consider the matter. Unlikely though that may be, the Prison
Service should hold itself fully accountable and answerable for the use made of the time
spent by people on remand in its custody, as it is for the health and safety and other
aspects of the care of such prisoners. Too often prisoners are not able to start to use the
time constructively until months or in some cases years after conviction and the appeal
process is completed.

In any review of IEP, the comments of prisoners (above) should be noted. Meantime
Governors should review their compacts / contracts with the unconvicted to check that
the commitment of the prison and its expectations of the prisoner are clear.

10 Is there a meaningful ‘compact’ with the convicted?                        Yes / No
Do either include a significant commitment by the prison, or some
compensation if the prison defaults?

1.     Why the question was put - the hypothesis

This is more potent than the last question on two counts. Failure to provide what has been
undertaken by the Prison Service and funded on that basis would be a serious failure to
account. And failure to meet an agreed obligation designed to reduce offending would
expose the community to needless harm.

The term ‘meaningful’ is amplified by the sub-question. Is the compact simply a
statement of expectations or does it have teeth in the event of success or failure? Are
there rewards and sanctions which make people pay attention.

As mentioned in the previous Question, the emphasis with the convicted is to establish
their commitment as the people who have broken the social contract. The Prison Service
have to ensure that the contract is realistic and that it will be taken seriously by them.

2.     The answers and comments of governors and others

Only 4 said ‘No’, and they may have simply been more scrupulous in saying if the
document is meaningful. Most claimed a significant commitment by the prison. None
admitted liability: many said the compact denied it.

Many attached excellent samples, some stretching to full induction booklets (which many
prisoners suggested were essential and grossly lacking).

Some have bespoke ‘compacts’ for separate functions (eg ‘Enhanced, Drug Therapy,
VDT). One core Local has a single document for all prisoners, reflecting a fully shared

Some staff and prisoners suggested that it would be valuable to have a model which
matched a similar set of mutual expectations on release.

One or two saw ‘compacts’ as symbolic of the notion of a hard copy of the social
contract damaged by offending, which continued in and after custody.

One establishment shows the prisoner a model sentence plan and tells the prison that if he
draw up his own and obtains the signatures of a Personal Officer an a Probation Officer,
the prison will honour it. Many prisoners and staff felt this to be an excellent basis
provided the advice given to the prisoner is sound, and the out-turns are monitored.

Other comments are similar to Q9.

3.     Comment on these by the reference group, taking account of prisoners’ views
       given at the first Highpoint conference, identifying the farthest boundaries

A woman prisoner said that, while she was happy to do what was expected of her as a
prisoner, she expected staff and the prison to fulfil its obligations as well – she is still a
human being, a mother, daughter, sister who needs to be able to carry out her
responsibilities to these people as well.

Prisoners commented that the whole framework of obligations needs to be linked with
consistency and reliability, and with the confidence which staff and prisoners feel they
can have in management continuity. Likewise they will not place trust in staff if the
prison is in the habit of sudden, unexplained transfers out

The Ombudsman stressed that the Prison Service’s own instruction mandates that
prisoners are not sanctioned within the IEP system for failing to sign a compact as
privilege levels should be determined by actual behaviour, not the signing of a contract

4.      Practical proposals arising

Model compacts should be reviewed to see if they can spell out the prisoner’s need to
repair the damage of his or her offence and stop offending in future.

They should also try for as firm a commitment as possible to meeting sentence plan

They should be written on an assumption of accountability.

They should cast the prisoner as an active and accountable participant along the lines of
the scheme of prisoner-initiation referred to above.

They should be vastly simplified and reduced, and accessible to the prisoner on demand,
to ensure maximum ownership and understanding, and ease of transfer form agency to

OASys should suit the requirements of the participants in sentence management
including the offender. Not the other way round.

                                 Release / Resettlement.

11 Are there local published options for prisoners to prepare for release (as against
national ones such as ROTL)?
Eg Application for transfer nearer home towards the end of sentence;
arrangements with a resettlement prison; arrangements with community agency
/ hostel; work placements with local firms; pre-release unit with self-help
employment / accommodation data bases etc

12 In-house Pre-release programmes.
Are they an option or a requirement? Are they bespoke to fit individual needs?
Are there sanctions for ‘failure’?

1.     Why the questions were put - the hypotheses

A main concern would be if there are no published options as a starting point for a
responsible prisoner wanting to prepare. If there are none it would indicate to a prisoner
that the prison does not see itself (nor the prisoner) as responsible for this. If that is
combined with no message as to the importance of participation in resettlement planning
that would indicate clearly that the Service is concerned at best only to turn people into
prisoners, or that resettlement planning is irrelevant until much later (which some
actually add as a comment).

Anything that indicates that the Service sees preparation for offence-free resettlement as
an option rather than an expectation, or a requirement in the case of an indeterminate
sentence, shows that the Service is not taking risk management for public protection

For some small groups of prisoners (women, girls, handicapped, ‘juveniles’, foreign
nationals) who are often held far from home it is almost as if the Prison Service puts its
own priorities first, or even gives their resettlement no priority.

2.     The answers and comments of governors and others

There was no detectable overall pattern of provision. This echoed the comments of
prisoners of all ages and both sexes. Some small Locals and some very large ones, some
Cat B and Cat C Trainers, even some YOIs had no published provision, no actual
provision and no plans for them. Some Core Locals did not see it as appropriate. On the
other hand some went well beyond the gate in making provision, including some in the
Private sector who were not funded for it.

There was a detectable pattern of views as to the need for resettlement participation. A
number of long-term prisons said that it was ‘Not Applicable’ or ‘Not Appropriate’
(while answering ‘Yes’ to the next question). These included some High Security
establishments, some of which even said ‘Not appropriate to Cat As’. One Cat A
Governor thought there was nothing strange in a prisoner reaching his discharge as a Cat
A: he felt he had protected the Prison Service.

Several mentioned that they had stopped pre-release courses, or been told to do so
because they were not accredited.
Where there was published provision very few saw it as a requirement for prisoners to
take part (see also Q 17), though some linked attendance with IEP. Some saw
compulsion as in conflict with the ethos. Others recognised the need for prisoners to take
responsibility for their lives as being a proper expectation of the Service. Some spoke of
flexibility where prisoners could opt out where they saw no need.

The range was very wide from prisons working with near-neighbours and local agencies
in setting up hostels to some major players saying ‘None’ or Not Applicable’ to both

There were many excellent examples of resettlement planning with the prisoner as the
active driver of the plan. Only two prisons actually put the ball squarely in the prisoner’s
court to propose a sentence plan to the Governor. One, referred to earlier, told inductions
what a sentence plan looked like, told them to produce their plan and get a Personal
Officer and a Probation Officer to sign it, following which the prison would honour it.
One YOI in the same area adopted a similar practice.

3.     Comment on these by the reference group, taking account of prisoners’ views
       given at the first Highpoint conference, identifying the farthest boundaries

Within the lack of any clear pattern the plethora of initiatives was most encouraging.

There seems to be a split between governors who see long-termers in groups or
individually as responsible prisoners, involving them in a high level of consultation on
any matter raised by them or by prisoners, and those who see them as unfit for anything
outside management of the suicidal, food and wing amenities. The contrast with the high
level of trust shown to some ‘juveniles’ could not be more stark.

There seems to be no pattern as to finance. Some places have linked with near-
neighbours and some with local agencies, and some with national or European funding,
and some with local volunteers (some of whom have commented on what seems to be the
whimsy of the Governor or Area Manager who can build or destroy in days years of
painstaking bridge-building). Some have seen the need having to be met entirely from
outside the establishment. This reflects the lack of a centrally articulated and funded
strategy for resettlement provision. It is currently left to the discretion of individual
governors how they achieve the second half of their mission statement.

Advice was given that, in terms of the numbers completing accredited programmes, these
are about reducing offending and should not therefore be expected to reach more than the
average 50% of prisoners who constitute the target group who re-offend after release. The
current programmes target those at high risk of harmful re-offending rather than re-
offending per se. 100% coverage is therefore not intended, though further programmes
are in development, and a less rigorous standard of ‘approved activities’ is proposed for
those activities which promise to be effective with less risky prisoners.

‘Resettlement’ is seen in a few cases as almost something of which we should be
ashamed or keep well hidden. ‘If others tried to do it, we would all suffer if it went
wrong’. Similarly, as one Governor put it ‘500 Resettlement places for a population of
over 60,000 - not exactly high profile work!!’. Comment was made by a non-prisoner at
the Highpoint conference that the Prison Service should not be as ashamed of the

occasional ROTL failure as it should be of sending out hundreds of prisoners each week
without resettlement help.

Only one establishment referred to joint planning with a near-neighbour establishment
and other community agencies in setting up bridging facilities for resettlement (the other
establishment did not mention it).

Most long-term prisons clearly saw resettlement as something wholly connected with
imminent release, and quite separate from people’s lives in their prisons until it was

‘Resettlement’ should never be used as a term indicating that the function is limited to a
small number of prisoners or prisons. Nor should it be a function from which any prison
or prisoner is excluded. There is no obvious term for the final run-up to release other
than ‘the Pre-release phase’; otherwise prisons are mainly distinguished by their security

Regarding the basis for pre-release planning the Inspectorate discovered that, in terms of
sentence planning and the prisoners’ involvement, only half of ACR prisoners and three
quarters of DCR prisoners knew they had a sentence plan and what their targets were.
‘What on earth use is a plan which is unknown to the prisoner? There is clearly a large
disparity at the moment in terms of how prisoner-centred sentence planning is perceived’.
A prisoner commented ‘You cannot be surprised if, after having no responsibility inside,
and suddenly having it all as you walk through the gate, you mess up’.

Several spoke with regret of the erosion of opportunities for prisoners to develop
cognitive awareness and good relations with staff such as come from Inmate
Development and Pre-release courses, when no alternative existed. Their value in helping
prisoners to cope with custody should not be under-estimated.

Reference was made to the Halliday review recommendation that Judges receive reports
on the progress of an offender through the system. If this clogs up the system too much,
at least judges might be better informed as to the function and performance of particular

4.     Practical proposals arising If, re Halliday, it is decided to involve the judiciary
       more in the execution of the sentence , this should be done with the prisoner as
       the active respondent as well as the Prison Service.

To make the risk management job of the Prison Service clear, all prisons should be
required to have and to publish for staff and prisoners and the community their
resettlement provision, and its record of achievement including planned progressive
transfers as well as placements on release. This should sit with any move towards
regional and local resettlement agency work between Prison, Probation and other relevant

The notion of the prisoner being seen as responsible, and hence an active participant in
sentence management should be signalled by the use of the term ‘Participant’ for all key
players including the prisoner and, where appropriate, others whom the prisoner believes
should be involved.

Sentence planning documentation should make it clear, and be designed to make it clear,
that active and responsible resettlement planning is an expectation of all convicted
prisoners (and a requirement for those serving indeterminate sentences), and an offer to
all unconvicted. Clearly this is a tall order, but some achieve more than others, eg by the
imaginative use of existing facilities such as Visitor Centres, and by taking a longer view
of short-term encounters with the system. For some of the unconvicted, custody can do
great harm, and for some it provides an opportunity to sort out external problems beyond
the immediate ones connected with the charge.

Consideration should be given to abolishing the term ‘Resettlement Prison’ since it is a
function of all prisons. The title ‘Hostel Prison’ is suggested to indicate its bridging
function clearly, and give some reassurance that it is still a prison. Advantage should be
taken of such an investment by flexible use according to need rather than age or other
label, and they should be adapted and adopted on a Regional basis.

A major publicity campaign should be mounted to promote the resettlement function of
the Prison Service, and of the key role expected of prisoners and their families working
with the Prison Service and other agencies. In an Inspectorate questionnaire this was
supported by a third of prisoners themselves. The practical implications of this work are
well known, and the need for community understanding and support is critical and highly
dependent on the sensitivity of the promoting agencies.

Programmes designed to help prisoners cope with custody should be linked with
accredited programmes to ensure they are as complementary as possible, particularly in
cognitive awareness and communications modules. Though coping with custody is
different from coping in the community, the core elements of self-awareness, self-
projection and communication skills are among several which are common to both. Staff
and prisoners need to make the link between prison risk and community risk in order to
see that difference and help prisoners to prepare for release with as few illusions as
possible that might suggest that a successful prisoner makes a successful citizen. Here
perhaps we need look no further than Scotland and their rigorously assessed ‘Approved
Activities’ of shorter courses tailored to deal with lifestyle issues.

In order to show the value which the Prison Service attaches to resettlement targets, those
which are regarded as key to an individual’s resettlement and which require temporary
licence and/or early release as an option where there is the likelihood of further risk
reduction on release, should be identified early on so that they can become a focus for
other work

Near-neighbour establishments should be required to compare funded resettlement
provision to seek economy and efficiency. Included in this should be the facility for
prisons to offer return to them for resettlement in the prisoner’s home area where that is
judged to be important.

13 Would you favour greater opportunities for prisoners to prepare for release?

1. Why the question was put - the hypothesis

This need not be the ‘motherhood and apple pie’ question it might at first appear to be. If
people say Yes, that argues there is room for improvement; and some said what was
available was sufficient. The question was not posed as Yes/No, and few said simply
Yes or No. The point of the question was to get ideas as to what form the greater
opportunities might take. But it would be correct to think that the first hypothesis was
that few people had got beyond simply saying Yes. The second hypothesis was that most
people would assume that the reason for any current limit was lack of money. The third
hypothesis was that few would recognise the potential for prisoners to increase their
opportunities for release: the wording invited that - what prisoners could do, not what
others could do.

2. The answers and comments of governors and others

There was a strong and mainly realistic response, perhaps understandably including many
Locals and nearly all High Security respondents, with some surprising ones apparently
satisfied including one for women.

Among the most common were for stronger ties with community agencies, more
opportunities for prison staff to work with those agencies and share training with them,
the establishment of (jointly run) hostel arrangements especially for those returning to
conurbations; more dedicated prison accommodation for pre-release location of those
prisoners who need it (proposed by several Locals); more ‘working out schemes’ (some
suggested they would need more unspecified funding); more unaccredited programmes
designed simply to access work and employment, with more role play opportunities;
simple accreditation of those who have achieved vital targets in their sentence plan;
down-grading at the earliest opportunity rather than when the population or vacancies

Among the most far-reaching were more IT access for prisoners and staff; more use of
prisoners (and ex-prisoners) to advise other prisoners in housing, employment, numeracy
and literacy, mentoring, drug and alcohol abuse; better communication between prisons;
more dedicated bridging arrangements, especially with the Employment Agency for
dangerous (scheduled) offenders; expansion of Headstart principles; use of European as
well as government funding; national proposals for DTOs; facilities being given for the
unconvicted (examples of actual practice given); ‘relapse’ opportunities for ex-prisoners
in difficulty.

Some ‘Juvenile’ governors pointed out that proposals had to go through the YJB and

Some High Security governors argued, as one actually said, that greater opportunities for
prisoners to prepare for release were not justified in their establishments because ‘the few
who are released are high risk’.

Several pointed out the difficulties of tele-resettlement (i.e. of those far from home as
being amenable to clearer recognition in central policy).

3. Comment on these by the reference group, taking account of prisoners’ views
   given at the first Highpoint conference, identifying the farthest boundaries

The fact that some made no comment is worrying, as is the fact that some of those who
said ‘Yes’ also said that they had no published information about opportunities or
requirements whether in their own or other establishments or in the community

The views of families as well as those of prisoners should, where the prisoner agrees or
asks, inform release planning.

The difficult issue of IT should be grasped more firmly to reflect the changing world
outside. If prisoners need computer skills to tackle literacy and numeracy, they should be
given much wider access to them in prison

The remaining comments are included below.

4. Practical proposals arising

For lack of space in this complex and vital area, suffice to say that the creation of the
Resettlement Directorate is very timely, and the material produced here should be ‘best
practiced’ through the service.

ROTL and other resettlement elements should be revised to take account of remoteness
from release area eg in allowing consideration of longer or more frequent periods, backed
by commitments from prisoners.

Where possible prisoners should travel to the agencies rather than the agencies to them.

A new assessment should be introduced to assess the potential for prisoners and ex-
prisoners to contribute to others’ resettlement, drawing on the most progressive
experience not the most negative.

The points above re family involvement and extension of IT should be addressed.

The good practice demonstrated in the Buckley Hall Prisoners’ Advice Centre should be
adopted nationally. This shows that prisoners working alongside staff can provide an
enhanced service with regard to housing and debt management than professional staff can
provide alone. There are great benefits to both the prisoners delivering the service and
those receiving it, and they are a great boost to prisoners’ sense of responsibility.

There are many similar initiatives, the latest of which is a proposal from the Oxford
Citizen’s Advice Bureau, suggested by Lady Stephanie North who is Chair of the Central
Probation Council as well as of the friends of that CAB, to train prisoners to become fully
qualified Advisers based in prison. This might build on the Call Centre work pioneered
at Low Newton.


14 Is there any form of ‘after-sales’ support / advice offered after release, either to
outside agencies or prisoners or both?

15 Are staff encouraged to seek permission to keep contact with individuals after

1.     Why the question was put - the hypothesis

The main supposition was that there was little or no support offered partly because of the
rule which discourages this and partly because of the impracticality and expense of
providing it.

2.     The answers and comments of governors and others

Many mentioned CARATS for drug problems. We did not encounter ex-prisoners who
had been released onto such a programme.

A number simply say contact by Prison Staff after release ‘is discouraged’. One refers to
Rule 81.

There was a very large number of programmes identified across the estate which
provided support after release. A few were supplied in whole or in part by the Prison
Service. Where they were shared, as with YOTs, Governors spoke of the impracticality
of long distances, and of insufficient staff for this.

Among the more original initiatives were: planning employment options against targeted
HDC; linked support between near-neighbour establishments; bespoke support from
Resettlement Unit staff as part of the sentence plan; many NACRO-PLU trained staff;
several New Bridge links in conjunction with the Probation Service; wider use of Visitor
Centre facilities and information for ex-prisoners as well as families and friends; an
advice call number for ex-prisoners as well as for families of serving prisoners; SOVA
mentor support for 3 months; NACRO on-site mentors for youngsters; several are
involved in the pilot OASys project which offers this; a project specifically aimed at
dangerous offenders; several spoke of emerging mentor arrangements with home areas;
some arrangements were limited to longer-sentences. Nearly all of these were optional to
governors rather than a requirement as with YOT contracts.

Some were aware of ETS follow up, but were not sure if this was simply a check or
continued support.

Some spoke of PE and Education support after release. No one specifically referred to
providing references, though a number said on enquiry that in practice they sometimes
did so and they would be happy to do so for the right people if they were asked.

One or two Locals spoke of more support (one with an Outreach programme including
mentoring) than did many Training prisons, while other Locals argued that it was
impractical because they were Locals.

There was no reference to such support for minority groups, those with health problems
or the disabled or those for whom an unsatisfactory release plan had been made - either to
community agencies or to individuals.

3.     Comment on these by the reference group, taking account of prisoners’ views
       given at the first Highpoint conference, identifying the farthest boundaries

Clearly there are limits to the possible extent of support after release. Equally clearly it is
better for ex-prisoners to avail themselves of what is available outside prisons. But the
replies indicated that, with few exceptions people who want to offer it are pulling against
a tide of discouragement of any continuing support.

The acknowledgment by many governors that in practice there is such contact, which
they do not discourage, and that some staff go much further in supplying references,
indicates that people recognise that support should be offered.

One danger of not recognising and supporting this is that of inappropriate relationships
forming or continuing after release. Prisoners and others agreed that there should be a
strong level of protection afforded by a formal role which defines the relationship,
however strong the friendship might become. Volunteers who work through
organisations linked with the Prison Service such as the National Association of Prison
Visitors and Prison Fellowship value the guidance given on this.

Offering targeted support, perhaps to specific people as part of their sentence plan, need
not be costly, but would best be done against a knowledge of community resources such
as is held by Seconded Probation staff.

Several community agencies and some Board of Visitor members have pointed out the
vulnerability of such agencies to the whim of Governors. The arrival of an
unsympathetic governor can undo months or even years of painstaking bridging in a
moment. Such bridging often involves investment and staffing commitments. Damage
to such relationships not only disables prisoners but also dries up community support for
the work of the prison. This also emerged strongly from recent consultation with outside
agencies on the thematic review of Resettlement by the Inspectorate .

4.     Practical proposals arising

Guidance should be drawn up on the formal handing over of the reins of agency contacts
and contracts from one governor to the next, recognising the business plans of those
agencies. This should not be left to the whim of individual governors but should be
formalised within the business plan in accordance with formal resettlement
responsibilities. Where appropriate the guidance should be road-tested with ex-prisoners.

Rule [81], which forbids contact with ex-prisoners without the knowledge of the
governor, should be altered to encourage contact with the governors approval where that
is appropriate to the successful resettlement of prisoners. The rule should be expanded to
include the involvement of appropriate former prisoners in resettlement with the
governors approval.

                                   Prisoner consultation

16 What formal provision is there for prisoner group consultation?
Eg Catering Committee, Wing Committee etc. If available please attach a good
Minute to show the range of discussion.

1.     Why the question was put - the hypothesis

Prisoners are more likely to feel more responsible and behave more responsibly if they
believe their opinions are taken seriously. Failure to encourage this and to suppress
openness will lead to mistrust and irresponsible behaviour. Denial of accountability to
prisoners will be resented as it would be by anyone who is dependent on the provision of
a service. It will also prove problematic when tested against the requirements of
Freedom of Information and Human Rights legislation.

2.     The answers and comments of governors and others

Most Governors were clearly keen to show here how far they consulted prisoners, in
marked contrast to the conflicting and confusing spread of answers to the later questions
(18 and 19) as to the appropriate limits to consultation. Group consultation was
something of which staff were proud, and of which a lack was to be regretted. It also had
the effect of increasing the number of applications, particularly to the Board of Visitors.
Only later, when the question was posed in terms of limits, did some people back off and
speak of consultation as a threat to staff control, and the ‘bigger’ the prisoner the bigger
the threat. Many examples of excellent minutes were presented.

There were nevertheless some who said ‘None’, including some flagship prisons with a
past history of ground-breaking work in giving prisoners responsibility, and one or two
who had actually withdrawn consultation because ‘they became gripe sessions’. Indeed a
member of the Board of Visitors who welcomed prisoner consultation no longer
contributed in person to induction programmes because of the tendency for ‘griping’ to
take over. Two governors said they welcomed criticism both in groups and from
individuals as a sign of a healthy openness and an opportunity to answer which in turn
shared responsibility with the prisoners who had voiced the concern.

Most recorded prisoner participation on Race Relations, Suicide Management, Anti-
bullying, and Catering. Others included: the regime, resettlement opportunities,
privileges. Nearly all who were followed up agreed that in practice Wing, or
representative meetings could raise any subject. One prison spoke of a dedicated
fortnightly consultation with Foreign Nationals, chaired by a prisoner.

Several described meetings which came close to those in Therapeutic Communities in
that behaviour was discussed constructively to improve life.

None spoke of family involvement.

3.     Comment on these by the reference group, taking account of prisoners’ views given at the
       first Highpoint conference, identifying the farthest boundaries

It was refreshing that so many clearly saw consultation with prisoner groups as
appropriate and that only two had found them negative. Although clearly there are
difficulties with ‘recognising’ prisoner combinations, Woolf and others have pointed out

the dangers of closing the door on group consultation. Properly managed, and managed
at the lowest as well as the highest level, group consultation is the basis for a responsible

Some held the view that the level of consultation was a matter which must be left to
individual governors, and that we should be aiming to reduce the number of standards
rather than increase them.

Prisoners spoke of group consultation in both wide and narrow senses. On Induction
groups they had been told to keep their heads down and their mouths shut as being what
was required of the model prisoner. Many prisoners referred to the lack of clear
information and guidance on a range of issues during induction, and of the fear of asking
other than in a group. These ranged from simple information about the layout of the
establishment, expectations on routines etc to some cases where for example staff did not
know crucial information or how to get it or refer the prisoner to get it. One Lifer said he
did not learn what a tariff meant for 3 years, and only then from a Lifer Liaison Officer.
Several said that lack of information about help in planning resettlement raises stress
levels prior to release: much of it could be made available to prisoners, and prisoners
could be trained in simple referral systems.

Prisoners also spoke of the inconsistency between prisons on such everyday matters as
consultation over food, stock in the canteen and entertainment. Others reflected the
variety of which Governors spoke in answer to the Questionnaire.

4.     Practical proposals arising

There should be a standard whereby all prisoners are satisfied that their views can be
represented and discussed openly with management. There may well be too many and
too detailed a structure of Standards which can become both impractical and destroy
initiative, but there is little point in freedom of speech if no one is required to listen, and
show evidence that they have done so. That is particularly important where people’s civil
rights are necessarily restricted.

The need for group access as well as individual access should not need to be spelt out, but
since it is challenged by many in this exercise (one member of a Board of Visitors said
that it would need a change in the whole ethos of the Service) it is enough to say that
people have a right to freedom to associate, that many prison governors and Directors
take this very seriously, and that a refusal not only offends but can appear as a wish to
cover up and breed unnecessary suspicion. Regrettably it cannot be left to the whim of
each Governor. Denial of group consultation is precisely what leads to intimidation and

See also Part 3 – Surveys particularly as to the importance of the manner of consultation.

17 What formal provision is there for consultation with individual prisoners when
significant choices or risk are being considered?
Please describe how the prisoner is involved – whether by invitation or requirement, in person or not.
Anything which shows the prisoner as responsible and his or her view valued will be of interest.

1.       Why the question was put - the hypothesis

The main difference between this question and the last is the need for the prisoner to be
actively involved in, and share accountability for, her or his risk assessment. That
assessment divides into the risk to the system and the risk to the community. The
Invitation to Change applies most strongly to the clarity with which the Prison Service
sees its job as having the twin duties of running safe prisons and returning safe people to
the community. Failure to keep this balance will endanger the neglected interest.

The first hypothesis is that this most critical function of the prison system, the
management of these risks rather than their avoidance, is one which is usually done to,
rather than with, or even by, the prisoner. The second is that the need to preserve the
prison system, and of the prisoner to cope with custody (to take up the role of prisoner),
will prove more important than the risk to the community (when the person shrugs off the
role of prisoner). This process of institutionalisation applies to staff and prisoners.
Conformity and prison achievement are rewarded and mask the danger of individuals.
The third is that prisoners are willing to face their risk to the community though such
encouragement and understanding from prison people is uncommon. The fourth is that
prison people are not recruited for their ability to manage risk, and are then trained to
avoid it, - to turn people into prisoners as an end in itself by rewarding conformity rather
than achievement of significant personal targets. These four hypotheses lie at the heart of
this and the next 3 questions.

2.       The answers and comments of governors and others

There was a comprehensive response showing the diversity of perceptions as to what was
and was not appropriate in the involvement of prisoners, with the great majority
accepting the principle of some involvement in person where possible. ‘Where possible’
meant that attendance in some cases was not achieved. Answers also disclosed the a
strong view that the onus for risk assessment lies with the prison authority, and unease
with the practical application of the principle that the prisoner should play a major part in
the management of risk. Those who held the opposite view, that is was dangerous NOT
to consult with individuals who might thereby try to escape their responsibility to handle
their risk, were equally vociferous.

In nearly every case the involvement was by invitation. A few recognised the intention
behind the question - to place the onus of repairing the social contract on the prisoner
with the Service as facilitator - and argued that duress was not appropriate to
involvement. One prison clearly placed the onus for initiating the sentence plan, which
had to address risk, on the prisoner.

3.       Comment on these by the reference group, taking account of prisoners’ views given at the
         first Highpoint conference, identifying the farthest boundaries

It is clear from this and subsequent answers that, while governors accept and welcome
the principle of involvement, the Service falls far short of a consensus as to how far the
prisoner is able, let alone is expected to be an active participant in balanced risk
assessment and risk management.

Involvement of the prisoner is difficult only insofar as the risk assessors have lost the
balance. Those governors who insist on the involvement of the prisoner make no
reference to prisoner resistance, or the undermining of staff. Rather the reverse.

Many prisoners of all ages and both sexes themselves welcome this realism in coming to
terms with the risk they have to handle on release, and the responsibility they can
maintain while in custody.

4.       Practical proposals arising

This omnibus proposal is necessary for shortage of space. All risk assessment processes should
demonstrate involvement of the prisoner, preferably in person for those parts which do not put the safety of
others or the security of the establishment at risk.

Staff recruitment and training should emphasise the twin duties of the service of managing the risks to the
service and the community, and the skills needed to reconcile any conflict between the two.

Simply making access to the Ombudsman or any other adjudicator above establishment
easier does not encourage local management to ensure local accessibility. The standard
can be linked to requests and applications very simply, and is usually checked by
residential managers on a daily basis

Limits to responsibility

18 What limits do you feel are appropriate to consultation / negotiation with
eg Should prisoners be consulted about: regime balance; routines; adjudications
tariff; staffing levels; roles of staff; budget distribution; allocation policy; requests and
complaints procedure, IEP; anti-bullying; staff conduct; rewards and sanctions; use of
the Seg; use of R45; family visits; HDC; ROTL; pay; sentence review; canteen;
confidential access - - other.

1.      Why the question was put - the hypothesis

The hypothesis is that some will see clear limits and others will recognise that in practice
prisoners can raise anything by one means or another, though they cannot negotiate on
equal terms with their gaoler whose first duty is to the Courts and the community. The
question was deliberately designed to introduce some subjects which are very unlikely to
be raised by prisoners as such, but which were raised by implication in some of the
consultative meetings we attended or of which we were given minutes.

2.      The answers and comments of governors and others

The question was answered very fully by many governors, showing the acceptance of a
wide range of issues for consultation largely regardless of the function of the
establishment. Many pointed out the inappropriateness of negotiation on issues affecting
security, control and confidentiality and ‘operating standards’, though some also included
these as being inappropriate even for discussion (one or two providing minutes which
showed that they had nevertheless been discussed). ‘Prisoners need a meaningful stake in
the running of the institution but pretence or reality of joint management is legally and
operationally wrong and endangers safety and control’.

Several commented that tolerance of discussion led to more responsible reactions from
prisoners: none said that it undermined authority as others feared it might. Several said
that they looked for prisoner initiative in questioning and discussing as a healthy sign of
acceptance of shared responsibility, particularly in areas of prisoner behaviour, regime
balance, health and safety and appropriate staff roles and behaviour. One said ‘I do not
believe in consultation as a matter of course’. A High Security Governor said ‘As a core
Local, it is inappropriate to have consultation’. Others argued the opposite, adding that it
was dangerous not to consult.

Among the more unusual areas were: prisoner nominations of staff for the Butler Trust;
adjudications and rewards and sanctions including restorative options; healthcare
management especially the regime; child protection; and allocation. Several spoke of
limited surveys to establish user views on healthcare, education, canteen and ROTL.

3.      Comment on these by the reference group, taking account of prisoners’ views
        given at the first Highpoint conference, identifying the farthest boundaries

It is very clear that limits are determined by the confidence and skill of management in
establishing a proper respect for prisoner views and vice versa rather than by any list of

We witnessed formal consultation with ‘juveniles’ on health and safety, regime balance
and staff deployment, their own security, family ties and other issues without any
apparent limit, dealt with at least as seriously and competently as were those we
witnessed with adults in a therapeutic community. We witnessed weekly consultation
between representatives in a High Security prison and the full senior management team,
where all parties felt that full consultation without negotiation was regularly achieved
(despite reasoned refusal of some requests), and the credibility of the head of the
establishment was enhanced and his lead followed at every level.

There was consistency in consultation across all private prisons.

Prisoners asked that, where a prison can provide no further information it should say so
rather than let them find out for themselves through silence.

4.     Practical proposals arising

As for Q16.there should be a standard across the service which, in this case, governs the
extent to which prisoners should be consulted on their risk assessments. The standard
should cover the supply of information to the prisoner, the extent to which he or she
should be involved and have the opportunity to listen to and discuss any assessments.

The Prison Service should adopt the habit of recording openly when it can say nothing
more, giving as much reason as it can where that will allay undue suspicion, and leaving
open a means of accessing information to allow an investigator to satisfy him- or herself
that the withholding was justified.

The difficulty is often not so much about a lack of instruction or written guidance but
about what actually happens, which is why regular surveys are recommended – see Part 3
– Surveys.

19 What limits do you feel are appropriate to prisoners taking responsibility in
eg as trained sports and games staff, trained remedial tutors, prisoner escorts, trained
maintenance staff, trained catering staff, trained counsellors, hospital orderlies, IT or
other teachers, prison visitors ……

1.     Why the question was put - the hypothesis

There were two main hypotheses. First, that people would not realise the extent to which
prisoners already took responsibility (at one extreme control and safety depend on
prisoners accepting their role as prisoners in supporting safe and healthy prisons).
Second, that there would be little correspondence between responsibility and the function
of the establishment: the correspondence would be between staff confidence and clarity
as to the boundaries set for risk management and their knowledge of prisoners.

2.     The answers and comments of governors and others

This question was answered more comprehensively than any other. The answers showed
clearly the degree to which individual governor’s views differed and influenced practice.

Most referred to the limits of security and control, though seldom specifying how those
might apply in practice. There was much caution against allowing bullying by giving
prisoners too much or unlicensed authority.

Several made clear the danger of prisoners undertaking staff responsibility and duties of
care, a few also accepting that in practice prisoners worked all the time with confidences
and responsibilities for their own safety and health. .

There was widespread recognition along the lines of ‘We do not utilize prisoner skills
enough - I favour the use of prisoners in therapy as in USA - We don’t tend to assess
prisoners as individuals but as prisoners - risks can easily be assessed and minimised’.

There were plenty of illustrations of well-managed responsibility, Listeners and
equivalents being cited frequently. The more unusual included: peer-counsellors and
mentors drawn from those who have completed programmes for alcohol and drugs, and
bullying (one team of YOs produced a CD on anti-bullying); mentors for new receptions;
teachers and peer-counsellors for those with learning difficulties and the illiterate and
innumerate (including YOs); wing laundry managers; housing and employment advisers;
industrial cleaning; running sports and games under supervision; working with the
disabled in the community; foreign national mentors and interpreters and translators of
local notices; the beneficial influence of the adult on the young.

One governor spoke of the need to ‘establish vicarious liability prior to formally
engaging prisoners in responsible tasks’.

3.     Comment on these by the reference group, taking account of prisoners’ views
       given at the first Highpoint conference, identifying the farthest boundaries

As with the previous question the limits are set more by the imagination, confidence and
skill of the Governor than by a list of topics

The clearest illustration of the confusion between risk avoidance and risk management
was the contrast between governors of high security prisons some of whom saw openness
and use of responsibility as incompatible with security while others saw it as
complementary to it. There were similar contrasts in the YO and juvenile estate.

There were many instances of acceptance of realistic limits - of liability and
accountability and legal responsibility. A ‘Juvenile’ said ‘Don’t forget we are very
young and need some training to handle responsibility’. Several staff, particularly those
operating on the margins of risk management, said they would be exposed if the
parameters of risk management were changed, as often they were when the governor
changed. This was also commented on by a woman prisoner: ‘Responsibility
sometimes needs to be taught – people may need to learn responsibility eg as parents’.

Staff and prisoners commented that the more responsibility you can handle the greater
your self-esteem. Prisoners also commented on the waste of resources. Many examples
were quoted of outside competence which was completely ignored inside. ‘This waste is
compounded when you thought of the value of prisoners being able to keep their hand

4.     Practical proposals arising

Governors should be reminded of the need to ensure that prisoners handling responsible
jobs or other responsibilities are clear as to the value for sentence planning targets, and
the limitations of their trust, with reference points for their accountability.

Examples of good practice should be gleaned and circulated.

See also Q29

20. How is responsibility for sentence management shared with / handed over to the prisoner in
preparation for release?
Could this system be improved?

1.       Why the question was put - the hypothesis

This is the ultimate test of the Prison Service’s commitment to protecting the public. It calls for the
greatest skill in transforming prison risk to community risk, and prison service accountability to prisoner
accountability. It is the return of the undertaking to the ex-offender which was removed by the Court for
the offence. The more the Prison Service has been able to encourage responsibility in a prisoner the better
able will the prisoner be to lead a law-abiding and useful life..

2.       The answers and comments of governors and others

Many replied that sharing and handover is not considered relevant until release is imminent, though most
spoke of prisoner involvement in reviews as the means for doing so. Several commented on the failure of
early establishments to look forward to release from the outset, sometimes making short-term decisions
which blighted essential opportunities later. ‘A major area where prisoners must learn to be ex-prisoners’.

Some spoke of Vulnerable Prisoners, High Risk prisoners and those in Locals as being impossible to plan
with or for because their options were so limited.

Many referred to emerging mentor initiatives of various kinds, with the main problems caused by distance
from home area. That was confirmed by many of the prisoners we met, some commenting that IT could
shorten that for video conferencing with family and home Probation Officer.

A few adult and young prisons say they are able to encourage the family to attend sentence review boards.
A governor comments that it might be more useful to ask outside significant people to attend the final
review in the prison rather than try to get inside people to attend the first review outside (if one cannot do

One long-term prison and some shorter-term ones speak of the key being with sentence plan targets which
must relate to outside challenges as well as those inside. One Local spoke of the involvement of all short-
termers in planning their resettlement, commenting at the same time that ‘as in all Locals, Lifers have a
long period in the wrong setting with few of the right facilities for them’.

One prison spoke of ‘No shocks’ as the principle for final resettlement boards where any special conditions
were discussed with the prisoner 6 weeks before release. One High Security prison described the key role
played by the prisoner in which he is invited to lead the discussion on targets and then to make applications
to meet them. Two establishments which put the whole onus of sentence planning on the prisoner from the
outset speak of the natural take-up of responsibility as release approaches.

Several ‘Juvenile’ governors spoke of the value of YOTs (and the resources needed to sustain the work
with them). Another places the up-to-date targets inside the front of the record.

3.       Comment on these by the reference group, taking account of prisoners’ views given at the
         first Highpoint conference, identifying the farthest boundaries

VPs and High Risk prisoners are among the most vulnerable and dangerous people in the system. The fact
that the options are very limited for them applies mainly to their location. VPs are absorbed into the
general population in some prisons, and the means of achieving this should be studied and replicated to
allow proper sentence management and risk conversion.

For a large number of prisoners simply learning to cope with custody is the first essential stage in handling
responsibility in prison. Though such courses are not accredited because they are not intended to reduce
offending, they are nevertheless vital.

It seems very clear that most governors and prisoners see it as sensible to bear the outside world in mind
throughout the sentence, and for those involved at the beginning to take a long-term view to make sure that
sentence plan options are sketched early and no pre-emptive decisions are taken which make them

The fact that a few Locals are able to plan with short-termers should warn the rest that this is possible. The
key may lie in giving the prisoners themselves more of the work and initiative. Though few mentioned the
paperwork involved, no prisoner we met was able to say how s/he could get hold of the sentence plan, or
what it might look like.

The wish of youngsters for family involvement in release planning applies also to adults. Families are
often the greatest untapped asset in release planning

Many mentioned the valuable work of agencies in bridging the gap between custody and community.
Some used ex-prisoners to help with this.

There seems to be great variation between prisoners who have had little if any discussion of their offence,
and others who are never allowed to forget it and for whom endless repetition strips the discussion of

4.       Practical proposals arising

If prisoners are expected to know, and even take the initiative in sentence management, there must be a
simple and prisoner-accessible document setting out the plan and the targets, and an expectation that any
prisoner who sees him- or herself as able to take responsibility knows what these are.

The ability of prisoners and ex-prisoners to help prisoners (over housing, employment, addiction and many
other cited examples) should be explored as a relevant and cost-effective resource available to prison

Sentence plans must apply to all sentence lengths, however simple they may be, and should be sufficiently
concise and accessible for it to be possible to achieve continuity between community and custody so that
the prisoner does not have to start de novo each time a significant decision has to be taken each time s/he
returns to custody..

Any programme designed to help prisoners to cope with custody should be evaluated against the
Inspectorate criteria of a healthy prison.

With the introduction of OASys the priority needs to be considered carefully. Which comes first: the
understanding and acceptance of a seamless sentence plan by the offender or the facility to track
accountability for everyone other than the offender. Of course those should not be mutually exclusive, but
there is much evidence that sentence management is something done to, not with, let alone by the offender.
Current instructions and revisions on the stocks will cover much of this ground. The test lies with the
ownership felt by prisoners which is why regular surveys are recommended, and reliable feedback after

Particular care needs to be taken in training staff in handling and recording discussion of offences with
prisoners to avoid needless repetition on sensitive issues, but to balance that by ensuring that they have
been covered.

Prisoners should be invited to involve their families in release planning, allowing time for that where

                                             Dues / Obligations

The final questions are intended to test a number of possible areas where prisoners might exercise some
responsibility, all of which had been suggested by prisoners in the scoping of the Project as being feasible,
potentially saving on staff and likely to be appreciated by prisoners.

21 Are prisoners required to hold their own medication? Yes / No
Are there sanctions if they do not?

1.       Why the question was put - the hypothesis

The assumption was that prisoners should be allowed to hold their own unless their medication might be
dangerous in the wrong hands or had a trading value or the prisoner was known to be vulnerable. Holding
a certain allowance in possession would save staff time. The fear of stocking up for self-harm or suicide
was not mentioned.

2.       The answers and comments of governors and others

The answers were largely as predicted. One prison issued personal alarms to prisoners who might be
vulnerable to having their medication stolen from them, but did not say if these had ever been used. One
medium-sized Local prison which gave many examples of opportunities for prisoners to take responsibility
said that they used no sanctions and had no abuse of their IP policy.

3.       Comment on these by the reference group, taking account of prisoners’ views given at the
         first Highpoint conference, identifying the farthest boundaries

It was perhaps surprising that a few did not allow at least some medication to be held in possession.

If prisoners can routinely be trusted to hold their own medication, they might be encouraged to take a more
responsible view of their own health generally.

Several women commented on quite unnecessary restrictions on even minor medication allowed in
possession in some prisons. That also prevents them from learning how to handle the full range of
medication responsibly outside with their families.

4.       Practical proposals arising

Prisoners should be reminded on induction that they are entitled to see their medical record, and that the
medical staff are responsible for helping them to look after themselves inside as much as they would be

22 Are prisoners expected / able to inform their visitors about prison allowances and
conditions? Or is this done for them?
Are there self-help forms for them to send?

1.     Why the question was put - the hypothesis

The underlying concern was that governors might see family ties as something which the
prison arranged rather than leaving it to the prisoner. Some prisoners had pointed out that
enhanced status could prove an unwarranted interference in what was essentially a very
personal choice both for the visitor and the visited. A further concern, evident in early
scoping, is that, though some of the information leaflets are excellent, prisoners and
others speak repeatedly of the poor and inaccurate information which prisons provide,
including the whereabouts of prisoners.

2.     The answers and comments of governors and others

Less than half said the onus lay wholly with the prisoner to let the visitor know (eg
through leaflets for enclosing in letters).

No one argued that prisoners would waste or abuse such leaflets.

No one saw it as odd that prisons should actively involve themselves in visits when it
would not be done in other total or partial institutions.

3.     Comment on these by the reference group, taking account of prisoners’ views
       given at the first Highpoint conference, identifying the farthest boundaries

It seems obvious that prisoners should be responsible for enclosing relevant information
to their visitors and be expected to find out and answer their questions themselves. But
prisoners can hardly take responsibility if the information supplied by the prison is
inaccurate, out-of-date or non-existent – all of which have frequently been alleged.

The prisoner would be in the best position to say when it was necessary to enclose such
information, and hence avoid wasteful duplication. Booked Visits clerks say that often
the information on leaflets is insufficient, and they have to spend much time on the phone
giving information which the prisoner could better have given or which might have been
included in leaflet form.

Clearly some prisoners will need help with visits (eg the depressed, those who would
value an intermediary, those with reading or language difficulties and those who are
unaware of support systems for their visitors. Help should be given on induction, and
such information passed if the prisoner wishes.

It would be easy for someone such as Library orderly to keep information up to date and
to arrange for translation into commonly spoken languages.

There was much comment by prisoners on the huge inconsistencies between what was
allowed from one prison to another, particularly as to laptops, playstations and other
costly items.

There was much and bitter prisoner comment on the ‘bureaucratic interference by prisons
in their family relationships, eg lack of phone access at appropriate times, long delays in
incoming and outgoing mail which staff seem to think perfectly acceptable though it
breaks the law outside.’ These make it very difficult for prisoners to take responsibility
in this critical area’.

There was well-authenticated widespread evidence of poor and out-of-date information
being made available for prisoners to send to visitors, and rare identified phone access
points for enquiries. There were many accounts of turning up to find the prisoner has
been transferred.

4.     Practical proposals arising

See comments above.

This is a particular area where information about the prison, entitlements and visiting
arrangements should be available in appropriate languages, and where the needs of the
illiterate must be met.

Regular checks should be made with Visitor Centre staff , booking staff and switchboards
to see what information is regularly requested.

The problem of poor information about prisons and prisoners appears to be so widespread
that best practice should sought from prisoners and families on a national basis, including
the private sector Locals which are widely praised by prisoners. There appear to be
simple systems which give Visits Centre staff responsibility for producing draft
information leaflets for the Residential Head to check and produce for prisoners to put in
their letters.

23 Are prisoners expected to get themselves from one point to another during the day?
Is there a pass system? Do they report their arrival? Are routes staffed / monitored by TV?

1.       Why the question was put - the hypothesis

The assumption was that movement control would vary not as a result of assessed risk but because of
custom and practice. As a costly and demeaning task other practical options should be considered.

2.       The answers and comments of governors and others

There were few common factors
Some High security prisons supervised all movement; some said they supervised that of Cat As alone.
Some said there was limited supervised movement to activities which breached the inner cordon. One Core
Local said that it did not need to supervise movement to and from Visits which had tight controls in that
area, and had no reported incidents of misbehaviour on the walkways.

Locals appeared about evenly split as did Cat B.

Rather more Cat Cs had no supervision than did. Some Cat Cs commented on having fewer than average
zone fences and gates

All male YOIs supervised movement.

Some referred to a pass system or a reporting in system. In one VP unit all movement
was escorted as well as every prisoner carrying his own ID.

The few who felt it necessary to explain why they had supervision attributed it to the ‘high number of Cat
C Score 3s’, ‘layout of the prison’ or ‘horseplay and taxing (robbing) among this (‘juvenile’) age group’.

One medium-sized Local comments that, where the main programme is clearly timetabled, prisoners are
expected to know the time and to arrive where expected.

3.       Comment on these by the reference group, taking account of prisoners’ views given at the
         first Highpoint conference, identifying the farthest boundaries

It seems clear that there is much unnecessary supervision of non-high risk adults, and that much could be
achieved if it was made clear to prisoners everywhere that they are expected to get themselves from A to B.

Some ‘Juveniles’ said they felt that the unit staff knew them well enough to trust them similarly, though
they recognised the dangers of ‘taxing’, saying that this applied as much to older prisoners.

Prison staff commented on the illogicality whereby some prisoners who were allowed town visits
unescorted still needed to be escorted within the prison.

Several prisoners commented on the undue frequency of strip searches before and after movement, adding
that it was easy to forget how degrading each strip search was, even though you might get used to it. ‘You
can get used to being treated as an animal, but you never forget’

4.       Practical proposals arising

Area Managers should be invited to compare notes to establish good practice and challenge apparently
excessive supervision in the light of it.

24 If own clothes are allowed are prisoners expected to ensure they are cleaned and in good
repair themselves?
If you have a good system of exchange searching, please attach.

1.      Why the question was put - the hypothesis

This is a good example of governors simply thinking this is the decent thing to do and pressing
ahead despite some major practical control and security issues, and of prisoners and their families
being willing to put up with expense and inconvenience to facilitate it. It started that way and
was built in to IEP as an option. Women have long been allowed it, and were even paid a
clothing allowance to recognise the saving on uniform.

2.      The answers and comments of governors and others

There were as many who allowed it as did not, and there was no part of the estate barred, though
for a number the entitlement was only for trainers or underwear.

There were no reasons given by those who barred own clothes, some of which were at the low
security, near-discharge end of the spectrum.

The infrastructure needed is very significant, involving wing laundries (usually prisoner-
supervised, some paid for from GP), repairs in the Tailors shop, careful exchange intervals and
searching procedures (some limit replacement to buying from a catalogue). Some Women’s
prisons have to use local charities to supply spare clothing for prisoners who cannot afford or
obtain it (eg foreign nationals).

Some comment on the resulting cleanliness and evident self-respect prisoners feel.

Some appear to have very few people on Basic, and speak of the problems of separating them for
the purpose being so great that they allow all to exercise the choice.

3.      Comment on these by the reference group, taking account of prisoners’ views given
        at the first Highpoint conference, identifying the farthest boundaries

Curiously no one referred to the problems of searching, bullying or administration having been
insuperable, let alone to having abandoned the responsible option because of such problems. It
seems to be a classic example of people doing the right thing and all respecting the principle of
how, not if, we achieve it.

The cost to families, the increasing insistence on purchase from a catalogue, and the failure of
state benefits to recognise the support of an additional person in prison means that families can
suffer through what is increasingly become the otherwise welcome norm.

4.      Practical proposals arising

Prison uniform should no longer be regarded as a punishment. All prisoners should be
encouraged to wear their own clothes and be encouraged to give good discards to the prison for
those unable to supply their own.

An allowance (possibly means-tested) should be paid which recognises the supply of clothing by
the prisoner rather than the Service.

25 Are prisoners informed of the process of recognition of meritorious conduct?
Have there been any instances recently?

1.       Why the question was put - the hypothesis

Questions 25 to 29 are intended to test how far governors un-demonise prisoners by acknowledging their
courage, their achievements, their humanity and trustworthiness and their value. The term ‘meritorious
conduct’ is taken from instructions which include the facility to give time back for acts of bravery or which
might ‘incur the odium’ of other prisoners.

2.       The answers and comments of governors and others

Several governors referred to recognition of people, often Listeners, who had helped to save lives. There
was no specific mention of help given to staff or prisoners in danger.

One is sending a prisoner to the Perrie Lectures. Another gives financial rewards. Some tie in with IEP.
Several mentioned use of the Prison Service News to publicise such behaviour.

Some made no distinction between meritorious conduct and achievement.

Many who answered Yes referred to in-house magazines or Newsletters (providing some brilliant

One or two said that publicising rewards for meritorious conduct could encourage attempts at manipulation.

Many commented that this is not publicised except when, rarely, such a strong case comes up that some
special recognition is demanded. That usually gives publicity to the fact that recognition is possible.

3.       Comment on these by the reference group, taking account of prisoners’ views given at the
         first Highpoint conference, identifying the farthest boundaries

The recognition of meritorious conduct is either a rare event or it is rare that prisoners behave
meritoriously, or both. It is not of sufficient significance to attract a mention in the list of policy
responsibilities in the current Headquarters Staff Directory.

Experience would suggest that well-developed information systems would owe much to the cooperation of
prisoners, sometimes amounting to meritorious behaviour, but that is not mentioned.

It should be possible to demonstrate more openly that the Prison Service, with or without the sentencer,
can give significant recognition including a reduced sentence, for highly responsible acts by prisoners.

There was wholehearted support for the idea of the use of in-house magazines or newsletters, though some
felt that PSN should restrict itself to staff matters.

IEP is under review: this might be the place to take this up.

4.       Practical proposals arising

Prison Service News should run a regular feature on ‘super-achievements’ by prisoners.

26. Recognition of meritorious conduct as well as achievements should form part of the Restorative
Justice agenda.26 Are prisoner achievements publicised? How?

1.      Why the question was put - the hypothesis

Questions 25 to 29 are intended to test how far governors un-demonise prisoners by
acknowledging their courage, their achievements, their humanity and trustworthiness and their
value. This question divides into: are they recognised, and how?

2.      The answers and comments of governors and others

Less than half said Yes. Many said ‘Not as much as we should’.

Several referred to PSN’s good work. Many referred to recognition through the prison /
Company magazine.

Prisoners and staff spoke of their appreciation of top-level recognition. Some achievements were
routinely recognised by the Governor / Director and in one case mentioned the Area Manager in
person, typically in educational, Listener certificates, completion of accredited courses, NVQs
and CSLA.

One ‘Juvenile’ establishment recognised achievement jointly with the YOT. One establishment
referred to ‘special prize-giving days’, another to a Day of Achievement jointly with the Princes
Trust. One establishment referred to a day-long celebration of their multi-cultural population,
organised by a Butler Trust winner, greatly appreciated by prisoners, staff and visitors.

3.      Comment on these by the reference group, taking account of prisoners’ views given
        at the first Highpoint conference, identifying the farthest boundaries.

Recognition of achievements is too important to be left to local discretion. At best they can be
evidence of a real change, and many examples are quoted of even small ‘certificates’ being the
first occasion when someone has ‘won’ anything. The fact that they can be open to abuse should
not deter recognition or reward through a properly managed process. Better to recognise the
occasional dubiety than not to recognise at all.

A number of prisoners confirmed governors/ experience saying that local awards and recognition
mean a great deal to them, in many cases quoting examples where it was the first time they had
achieved anything of the kind.

4.      Practical proposals arising

There should be a Standard which ensures that key achievements, including sentence plan targets,
are formally recognised, recorded and rewarded. If a Standard is thought to be unnecessary,
Governors should encourage staff to recognise these, setting a personal example.

Sponsors should be sought for an equivalent to the Butler Trust for prisoners who do an ordinary
job extraordinarily well.

As with the previous question, recognition of achievement this might be addressed in the review
of IEP.

27 Apart from Listeners are there other circumstances where prisoners are expected
to hold information in confidence?

1.     Why the question was put - the hypothesis

Questions 25 to 29 are intended to test how far governors un-demonise prisoners by
acknowledging their courage, their achievements, their humanity and trustworthiness, and
their value. This question has a sub-hypothesis, that governors are unlikely to recognise
the extent to which prisoners routinely hold information in confidence, and indeed live in
a culture of confidences and confidence, held both by staff and other prisoners, such that
the question is not if but how to manage that culture.

2.     The answers and comments of governors and others

Few said there were circumstances other than Listeners where prisoners were expected to
hold information in confidence.

Several of those who did commented on the thought-provoking nature of the question,
marking the limits of legitimacy as being when prisoners replaced staff or when
information was confidential.

A few recognised the likelihood when prisoners were allowed or asked to help other
prisoners. The range of this extended from many roles as carers, counsellors in subjects
ranging from literacy to substance abuse to (NACRO-trained) housing and employment,
mentors, peer support groups including bereavement, anti-bullying, fellow students, race
relations groups, fellow course members, some Orderly jobs eg Visits, Healthcare,
Segregation and Education simply by observation, (though these were mainly mentioned
as being excluded), magazine editors, interpreters, members of SOTPs and VPUs.
Several YOI governors spoke of young peer groups and counsellors. One or two spoke
of ‘juveniles’ being able to handle some level of confidentiality responsibly, though one
said at a conference ‘You must remember that some of us really are juveniles, and even
those who are not need some training’.

The great majority either simply said No or went on to caution about extending beyond
Listeners. Two referred to ‘Informants system’, presumably referring to security

3.     Comment on these by the reference group, taking account of prisoners’ views
       given at the first Highpoint conference, identifying the farthest boundaries

This is not the place to comment on security information systems other than to recognise
that they are likely often to include prisoners who make highly responsible choices which
help to avoid or tackle dangerous staff or prisoners, usually neither expecting nor
receiving any reward.
There is no reference in the Prisoner Induction PSO to encouraging the use of trained and
supervised prisoners to help with induction.

The sub-hypothesis seems to be amply proven. Even those who do recognise or
encourage fail to mention proper safeguards such as training in the particular or more
general counselling or whatever roles.

Prisoners pointed out that they sometimes will hear more than anyone else about
particular problems, and some prisoners (eg Chapel an Reception Orderlies)will do so
more than others, often encouraged by staff who trust them..

Prisoners commented on poor access to their records, particularly where when something
good which they had done was misconstrued by staff as being devious or attention-
seeking. They suggested that they should be given regular access to their files.

A number of people on the Reference Group and elsewhere commented on the need for
an equivalent ‘black’ entry to balance ‘red’ ones.

4.     Practical proposals arising

Prisoner-Prisoner support should be recognised as a reality on induction programmes. In
the more sensitive or skilled roles it should have modular training to deal with
communication, confidentiality and accreditation, using existing good practice from
NACRO, the Samaritans, IDPR and accredited programmes.

Significant Achievements should be recorded in a distinct colour.

28 Are there any restorative arrangements for prisoners to apologise, recompense, make good a hurt in
addition to or instead of being punished?

1.      Why the question was put - the hypothesis

This is a potentially complex area of restorative justice with all the difficulties of mis-placing the
victim, if there is one, in the punishment spectrum. At its simplest the hypothesis is that people
should be able to right wrongs and for that to be recognised in mitigation before, during or instead
of formal process. A sub-hypothesis is that prisons are too wedded to over-weighty processes to
deal with misbehaviour based on unsubstantiated views about the inherent badness of prisoners
and/or the disciplinary nature of imprisonment.

2.      The answers and comments of governors and others

None of the High Security prisons which replied spoke of restorative options.

Of those others who spoke of such options, all spoke in favour of them, often saying that Officers
encouraged such action by and between prisoners. Some added that where it was possible that
staff action or bureaucracy had contributed to the wrong, they either apologised themselves or
encouraged suitable apology from staff as well as prisoners.

Some referred to suitable mediators including the Probation Department (presumably for
approaches to the victim of the sentence offence). One prison works with Victim Support, the
Social Services and Probation service carefully to approach victims.

Many referred to activities which allowed prisoners generally to contribute to the community
such as charitable work, talks by prisoners to potentially vulnerable groups, services to the

One prison referred to a ‘de-merit’ system whereby ‘a warning may be issued in lieu if a prisoner
attempts to recompense / make good’.

3.      Comment on these by the reference group, taking account of prisoners’ views given
        at the first Highpoint conference, identifying the farthest boundaries

It is clear that many are thinking of restorative options and will welcome ideas and guidance in
this sensitive area. The ground which might be affected extends potentially from pre-sentence to
post-release, with the prison agenda and the community agenda along the way, and touching on
major moral, ethical and safety issues connected with parole and admission-dependent decisions.

For a responsible person, facing up to a wrong done to someone else must include facing that
person, apologising and doing whatever possible to make reparation. However, it is important
that prisoners are not made repeatedly to relive their offence when they are attempting to move

4.      Practical proposals arising

There are no practical proposals at this stage. Tim Newell will be leaving Grendon to extend his
work on this area in the Autumn. See also ‘Restoration’ in Part 3.

29 How many jobs are done by prisoners which would otherwise have to be done by paid staff ? (eg
catering, portering, cleaning, maintenance, teaching etc)

1.       Why the question was put - the hypothesis

The main hypothesis was that governors would not think of responsible prisoners and responsible jobs as
complementary, let alone that this provides scope for savings and real opportunities for prisoners to show
reliability. That hypothesis was supported by the almost complete absence of realisation among trusted
prisoners or their supervisors or those responsible for work allocation of the significance of the job or the
cost of alternative provision of purposeful activity.

2.       The answers and comments of governors and others

Many governors commented on this as food for thought.

While cautioning over using prisoners as staff, and of ignoring health and safety legislation and making
prisoners responsible for other prisoners, and cautioning as to the reduced number of cleaners who would
be paid if prisoners did not do it, there were many examples of high levels of responsibility and massive
staff savings. One Core local which is careful in all its answers mentions 80. One ‘Juvenile’ governor
mentions 28. The highest lists each one of 281 jobs. A small remand prison lists 52. A resettlement
prison for women lists 97. There are many within the range 50-100.

Some Governors say ‘None’. One resettlement prison mentions only cleaning.

None put a price on the work or on alternative provision.

3.       Comment on these by the reference group, taking account of prisoners’ views given at the
         first Highpoint conference, identifying the farthest boundaries

If each job would cost £10K if done by a paid person and each prisoner activity place runs at £5k a year,
then each such job done by prisoners represents a saving of £15K per annum, and both figures are
conservative. One direct comparison between 2 core locals showed a saving in one of close on £1m by this
formula, comparing jobs in one prison which were done by paid staff in the other. The main differences
were in catering, industrial cleaning and maintenance.

It is clear that many in the Service simply do not recognise the potential for responsibility, realistic risk
assessment, savings and improved staff-prisoner relationships which exist in all establishments.

We are mindful of the comment of a prisoner ‘It is amazing how much talent prisoners have when they are
allowed to show it. Officers’ jobs would be much less stressful if they learned how to make use of us
scumbags: there are so many things we could do for ourselves, and for them’. Prisoners gave many
examples of work they could (and in some prisons did) do which would free up staff. They commented on
the stimulation and feeling of self-worth even of mundane jobs, if they were obviously important.

4.       Practical proposals arising

Governors should be asked to include prisoner work and vocational opportunities in their business plans,
including savings, the cost of alternative occupation, value as targets in sentence planning in relation to
other training, and quotas of lower security prisoners needed to fill the posts.

ROWD and service contracts should specify the work opportunities for prisoners in maintenance.

Where possible increased prisoner work opportunities should be linked to NVQs.

30 Are there any particular examples of prisoner accountability which you would

1.     Why the question was put - the hypothesis

The expectation was that one Governor’s norm would be another’s exception.

2.     The answers and comments of governors and others

Most who answered other questions had some good news here. This included a very
wide range of opportunities. In addition to those mentioned elsewhere (especially at 19
and 29) people mentioned a wide range of charity work, driving lessons, opening bank
accounts, possessing own car, staffing a prison shop, magazine production, SOTP
graduates as peer counsellors, Library management, a Braille unit, Alcohol and Narcotics
‘Listener’ equivalents, Laundry supervision (particularly sub-laundries on wings), the
mutual accountability in therapeutic regimes, input to staff induction and familiarisation,
Prisoner Consultative Committees, and opportunities for prisoners to give and receive
criticism from each other as part of a culture which encourages constructive openness.

Several staff and prisoners and voluntary agencies and Board of Visitor members have
commented on the vulnerability of any initiative to changes of governor and Area
Manager. The most important appear to be the most vulnerable. There has been frequent
reference to establishments which seem to combine lack of initiative, lack of
opportunities for prisoners or staff to work with them, and a high turnover or sudden
change of governor, and an apparent disregard for undertakings given.

3.     Comment on these by the reference group, taking account of prisoners’ views
       given at the first Highpoint conference, identifying the farthest boundaries

There was so wide a list of opportunities for prisoners to demonstrate or be given
responsibility that it was impossible to think of many exceptions outside the professions
which were not available in one prison or another.

The comments about management turnover show an obvious link in people’s minds
between risk management and investment in opportunities for prisoner responsibility.

Generally the private sector is consistent in providing high quality opportunities
including some for which they are not contracted.

Prisoners commented on the direct relationship between being given high responsibility
such as they had on family days and the support they gave to the staff who provided the
trust, whom they would not let down.

The tendency to erode expectations downwards in opportunities for work, education and
training due to budgetary restraints etc means that the more able prisoners cannot fulfil
their potential. This is a difficult balance to strike but, above the basic entry levels of
numeracy and literacy any under-fulfilment will be a loss to the prison and outside

There was widespread comment that the extent to which risk was managed confidently
and responsibility tested out depended critically on people’s knowledge of the
Governor’s views and future in the establishment.

4.     Practical proposals arising

It has proved hard to read across from one good practice establishment to another to
establish greater consistency of good practice. Clearly many governors believe that there
should be improved opportunities for prisoners to find, make and take responsibility.
Clearly many governors are proud of opportunities which they and their staff provide.
What is perhaps missing is a practical outcome of successful risk management for
governors, staff and prisoners within a culture which proclaims this as the priority of

Custody planning targets should reflect the potential of all prisoners and opportunities

Changes of senior managers should be set in a more formal context of handover
requirements to protect and promote responsible risk management.

PART 3 – Reflections


This reflection is one of the clearest illustrations of the implications of allowing responsibility to people in
prison. Restoration here is used to describe taking up a full place in society, restoring the social contract
damaged by offending and probably made worse by imprisonment. It carries the implication that the
offender makes good the damage, and pays his or her debt to a community which has at some stage to come
to terms with the fact that the time has come to get on with life with the ex-offender if not completely let
bygones be bygones. It carries with it the notion that sentences end: something we seldom consider, let
alone face the community with. The Courts say what should happen, and when it should stop. They are
not allowed, except in special severe circumstances, to allow indeterminacy. And although the custodial
sentence does not mean exactly what it says, the Court knows what it means and so does the Prison Service.
And Parliament says that part will be served inside and part outside, but it does not give carte blanche to the
executive or the victim to carry on worrying at the offender. When the sentence ends, the former offender
has to take responsibility. Full responsibility, alongside everyone else.

Restoration is not a religious or humane or forgiving act so much as a sensible wish to acknowledge that
further interference in the offender’s life is likely to be counter-productive given the changes that time and
actions have brought about. You cannot sensibly go on holding people responsible for ever. For most
offenders, their immaturity is a phase they will grow out of, unpleasant thought they are while they go
through it. And the Courts make that clear. And Human Rights makes it doubly clear that we must not
take people’s freedom lightly. We have to show that we are using the citizen’s finite time constructively
for the best protection of the community and the maximum development potential of the prisoner.

Restoration does not depend on a starry-eyed view of offenders as people who repent of their wicked ways.
It calls for frail human judgement as to whether you believe people have changed sufficiently to give them
increasing trust. That has to be weighed against the various heavy costs of keeping an eye on them,
supervising them, and hounding them if necessary.

In prisons we call it risk assessment, and experience tells us that people do change, but that prison is a very
unreliable place to judge that. Prison people will also tell you that prisons do not always make people
better. Seeing prisoners as people who should take responsibility, and prisons as places where that should
be expected and provided for, is the job of the Prison Service in helping them to prepare for release. Doing
so ‘with humanity’ simply means treating prisoners as people as far as we can.

Restorative Justice is part of this. It clearly makes sense to encourage and allow people who have hurt
others to repair and heal and restore where they can, and to mitigate and avoid unnecessary punishment to
reflect that. As we can see in the following two Reflections, these have major practical implications in the
execution of the sentence and the management of prisoner behaviour.

But the concept of Restorative Justice has some limitations which can weaken or actually conflict with
responsibility in prison. We need to recognise and deal with these while giving every opportunity to
encourage restoration. Often the opportunity for restoration is lost at the outset, as instanced by the
prisoner comment ‘When there is a barricade, it is far more likely to lead to a positive outcome when the
first response of staff is ‘What is the problem’ rather than to break the door down.

For restorative justice to work the offender accepts guilt and enters into the contact expecting to give an
account of themselves and their behaviour, and with the risk that they will hear uncomfortable results of
their behaviour from their victim. They also expect that the victim may have something to say about what
should now happen to put things right between them. Thus, for Restorative Justice to work, there is
normally a victim, which is not always the case with offences. The victim may not be alive, although the
relatives may be. The victim seeks some contact for their own purposes, and may have an open mind about
whether anything can be restored. The victim and offender will have worked with a third party or
facilitator to prepare for the process – not all are willing to do this. The victim should feel free from
pressures that the process is for the benefit of the offender, and that there may be an expectation of
accepting or forgiving the behaviour. This can be difficult to achieve but calls for real focus for those
working with the process.

The victim’s role is kept in proportion in the deciding of the outcome of the process – theirs is but one
voice – there may be many other considerations as well. The outcome may not be a punishment but may
just be greater understanding between the two significant parties.

The experience of those working in this sphere is that perhaps one in five cases actually reaches a
restorative conference. The other four may benefit from the communication, and may be satisfied with that
in reaching an understanding of the other’s position. Despite all these uncertainties restorative justice
processes can have transformative effects upon victims and offenders.

How can Restorative Justice actually reduce responsibility? An obvious example is the predicament of the
Parole Board and the Prisoner who denies guilt. It is unfair if the Parole Board refuses release on those
grounds alone, where the tariff has been served and the risk is as low as it is ever likely to be. But there are
prisoners who are still inside only because they do not admit their guilt: sometimes they refuse
consideration because they do not want to pretend remorse. It is tempting for the prisoner to accept
responsibility dishonestly just to get over the threshold of consideration. It is possible to say ‘Well, I have
said I am sorry. What more do you want?’ as if to say ‘I have behaved as responsibly as I think is called
for. Now it is down to X to do their part’. Which is not far from saying ‘I’m sorry, but ……’, meaning ‘I
am not sorry at all, but I have said the words you want to hear’.

Prison staff are familiar with the question as to whether an admission is real, and whether the prisoner is
just going through the motions to get time off. How do you prove you accept responsibility in prison
without over-egging it? And if you are a victim, how do you cope with a settlement which is wholly
inappropriate to the injury you suffered? A parallel can be seen with Inquests. How can a Coroner deal
with the accusation that the jury came in with an unfair verdict, when their job was so different from that of
a jury in a criminal court? If staff are shown to have acted responsibly, that is of little help to the bereaved
who believe someone must have been responsible. This question of impartial assessment is common both
to restorative justice and to holding prisoners responsible. While a verdict may be ‘true’ meaning accurate
according to the evidence, it may not satisfy. Accepting responsibility does not necessarily mean you are
able to give satisfaction.

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of Restorative Justice is that it may compound the problem, started by the
adversarial court process, of finding either total innocence or guilt beyond reasonable doubt, with no half
measures or ‘unprovens’. It is seldom true that the blame is wholly one-sided, and often the explanation for
the offence shows a wider picture of victimisation which may even include the offender. Restorative
justice does not involve adding up points on each side, but likewise the offender’s side of the story must be
taken into account as well as the fact that the debt to society has been paid through the sentence. An
offender may well wish to admit responsibility, but may not be happy to be portrayed as the only person
who needs to make amends or as the wholly irresponsible person he was made to appear in court and in the
following day’s papers..

These are familiar issues for any parent, teacher or any mediator. That does not make it any easier to deal
with injury, but it does remind us that the process is a human one where the object is to heal and restore,
but not necessarily to ‘satisfy’, let alone to do so beyond reasonable doubt.

The fact that it can be difficult, and that it calls for decency and a sense of responsibility as a basic currency
must not deter people. Restorative Justice is a most important leaven in the lump of penal policy. It can be
seen as a selfless giving by the offender with no expectations of any reward – accepting responsibility as a
citizen. The work being done on it by Tim Newell and others in this country shows the developing role
which our Prison Service is playing with criminal justice and other social agencies here and internationally.

PART 3 – Reflections


A number of Governors have pointed out that we do not do enough to recognise prisoner achievements,
though many use house magazines and try to make an appropriate fuss over truly meritorious acts as long
as it does not put the prisoner in a difficult position. Some have pointed out that the real achievements can
only be assessed after release. Many point to Incentives and Earned Privileges (IEP) as having provided a
very effective system of rewards which have restored staff confidence in their ability to control and run safe
prisons, and which appears to be acceptable to prisoners.

There is a balance to be struck between making much of little, or little that matters, and not showing
appreciation or recognition of real achievement. At one level those who deal directly with prisoners on
landings or as activity supervisors know prisoners well enough to understand what will be meaningful to
each individual, and will use this all the time, possibly unconsciously. But at another level, the failure to
use rewards appropriately can show an underlying attitude to prisoners which seems to assume that
prisoners are somehow less than human, basically incapable of decency or responsibility. Prisoners have
commented on this, particularly in the early stages of custody or when newly transferred. The evidence is
usually put in terms of poor information, poor treatment of families and friends, failure to bother to read
past records or correct them if they are wrong, and low tolerance of questioning. This is summed up as
‘You quickly learn to keep your head down, and not rock the boat, particularly if the new Governor’s views
have not been established yet. You get used to not asking’. In other words do not try to show that you are
a responsible individual in a responsible prison.

Of course that is not the whole story, and many prisoners talk of the efforts and decency of staff, and of
their encouragement of responsible behaviour. But the picture at present seem to be that the latter is less
common than it should be, and that those staff who work on an expectation of responsible behaviour
achieve what they want as often as not, while those who cut prisoners down to size cause problems for
themselves, their colleagues and for prisoners who want incentives to behave.

On a wholly different level, we are having to get used to a new agenda where prisoners can work to get
released early if they can show that the risk is acceptable. The new agenda is that the decision to let people
out now rests with the Governor through HDC. Several prisoners and staff have suggested that more use
should be made of this by incorporating the option in sentence plans with some effective means of quick
and reliable feedback which could result in altered conditions or breach proceedings if necessary. That
would call for more skill in assessing risk and closer and targeted supervision for some individuals. As
with all ‘early’ release, it runs the risk of abuse and deterioration in the aim over time so that it becomes
more of a right than an incentive. But it remains a real incentive to responsible planning by both the prison
and the prisoner.

Many had reservations about IEP as being likely to reward only institutional conformity, and to encourage
denial among some of the most serious offenders. The evidence seems to be however that the advantages
of greater stability and staff confidence provide a better environment in which to assess and to manage risk.
The next aim should be to build on what has been achieved to see how soon people can safely be tested
outside prison both as a reward but also as a challenge, so that the young mother, for example, who has a
major drug problem and a long sentence, can continue to take responsibility for her children through
carefully planned temporary release at an early stage, before she becomes a stranger in her own home.

At the other extreme, where release is too distant a prospect, or no prospect at all, the Prison Service has
shown great understanding and compassion in dealing with prisoners whose only reward system is
contained within the prison. It is difficult for those outside the Lifer system, and its young equivalent, to
understand, let alone accept, the reality of a Life sentence. This has itself become less clear with the
relatively very short tariffs which go with ‘2-strikes’ offences.

For the very long sentenced prisoner responsible behaviour comes more naturally, and they can usually be
relied on to be a steadying influence on the young tearaways who have shorter perspectives. For these men
and women, responsibility may be its own reward, but it can never be taken for granted. It is less painful
and easier in terms of sheer existence to forget about the outside world and non-institutional standards, but
it degrades and dehumanises insidiously as soon as we forget that prison is not the natural state of the
human being, whether prisoner or staff. Rewards in these circumstances may be more subtle but no less
necessary. It should not be assumed that Lifers want to live in privileged ghettos. Many have spoken of
the constant refreshment of living as part of the community, albeit a prison one, and of their fear of
preservation on some institutional aspic where no one is thinking of tunnels let alone lights at the end.
PART 3 – Reflections


Much of this note will focus on formal adjudications, but it is worth pausing for a moment to
reflect on the aphorism that prison is itself the punishment, not the setting for punishment. It
seems odd to do some of the very positive things we do if they are part of the punishment.
Certainly prison is supposed to be austere and is not meant to be enjoyed overmuch, but that goes
for many other institutions. It would be hard to make a strong distinction between a private
nursing home or university and a modern prison in terms of creature comforts, and many prisons
have gyms and education facilities which put those others to shame.

I mention this only to dispel the myth that we build and run prison on the assumption that
prisoners are somehow innately irresponsible, bad, dangerous, un-capable, criminal – all in all
worse that people outside. Certainly there are some for whom escape must be made very
difficult, and certainly there are some who are less able to cope than others. And there are some
reasonable assumptions we can make about some prisoners that they are likely to repeat outside
behaviour inside. But the proportion who cause control problems in a well-ordered prison is very
small. Staff usually know the names, and they can usually be counted on one hand. True, when
you take some out, others follow, but there seems somehow to be room in the system for only a
very few at any one time.

That is not to deny that drugs can be a widespread problem, and bullying has to be carefully
handled, but the generality of prison behaviour is good, as it should be with a confident and
competent staff, and a reasonable regime.

Before turning to adjudications, it is worth considering which are the most potent and dreaded
sanctions for prisoners. The reason why prisons have to be very careful and clear about
punishment is that we are dealing with people who have had most of their rights removed, who
are very vulnerable to abuse and with whom staff can easily find that they have gone over the top
without realising it. Informal punishment, punishment without process, measures designed
simply for control such as segregation – these can easily become highly punitive and dangerous,
and have to be subject to detailed regulation to protect both prisoners and staff, and need close
audit by an independent body as well as by the managers who may have authorised it.

Some examples. Unpredictability makes life hell. To live in an overcrowded prison might be
tolerable if it were not for the risk that you might be next to go on an overcrowding draft. The
times of highest risk of suicide are the first few days after receptions and the same after transfer.
That suggests that losing one’s bearings is the most frightening thing that can happen to one.
‘Ghosting’ is fearful for many reasons. It is a deliberate message that you are unwelcome, and
that your own opinion doesn’t matter. It involves explanations to friends and family, often from a
position of ignorance as to the real cause. The converse is also true. Having some say in
location is very important. Not having to move cells when one’s status changes, but only when
one wants alternative company serves both staff and prisoners well as it preserves knowledge of
people, and knowledge is safety.

There are many other powerful sanctions, often referred to as ‘administrative’ as distinct from
‘punishment’. Change of location, change of activity, change of regime status, ‘red entries’ in
one’s record – all can make a big difference; in some cases eg Lifers, they can add years to a

Now to adjudications. If we were to assume responsibility for lack of evidence to the contrary, it
is questionable whether we need such a massive formal procedure as adjudications. Most
offences are trivial in the sense of having no lasting effect. Most are ‘either way’ if the system
allowed the equivalent of minor reports to be dealt with at wing level. Most are almost
mechanical in their outcome, with the range of tariffs well understood across the prison, with

mechanisms to try for some consistency between similar prisons. The process has to balance
summary speed with a proper hearing of the issues. The process also has to combine the
inquisitorial with the adversarial. The adjudicator is responsible for ensuring that the case and the
explanation are both fully put, that mitigation is brought out (often much more than the prisoner
herself will realise), and that justice is balanced with peace.

From the perspective of the responsible prisoner, there can be three main criticisms.

They are far too heavy-handed. One has only to see a prisoner in a Core Local reporting himself
across the prison to the Seg for adjudication, and then returning without escort to his location, to
realise that the system needs to be only as simple and as low-key as control requires.

They are far to dangerous. Governors have powers which put them into the Magistrates Courts
league. That is not to say there will not be occasions when they should have to be given such
power, but we have long recognised that the process of the CPS needs to be inserted as cartilage
before charges are laid let alone hearings initiated. If all prisoners were demons, if prisons could
only be managed by repression, if staff were unable to insist on responsible behaviour, then the
evil would be beyond the reach of an adjudicator. It is not easy to demonstrate the need for
heavy sanctions, and it always takes courage to reduce the powers of authority, but the test of an
assumption of responsibility rules out the vast majority of adjudications.

Worse, adjudications encourage irresponsibility, and the sanctions can be unintentionally severe.
The use of Segregation is a commonplace, though isolation of a prisoner is sanctioned only on
one condition – by the use of a special cell for only as long as is necessary for the prisoner to
calm down, and never as a punishment. The check by the doctor as to fitness for adjudication and
CC is a dangerous charade, where the doctor will seldom have time to assess the prisoner let
alone consult case notes, and where the responsibility still lies with the governor to take account
of suicidal ideation before isolation. Even CC does not mean isolation. It means what it says –
‘Confined to cell’. Anyone who has encountered a suicide on CC knows how fragile the rationale
can be, and what other options would have made mores sense.

They are far too adversarial. That stems partly from the severity of the punishments, which
require a very high standard of proof if people are going to be punished as in a criminal court.
And it stems partly from a love of ceremonial, or a failure to question its necessity. The occasion
is one where the No 1 Governor is seen for what he or she is: tough or soft, pro-staff or pro-
prisoner, fearless or chicken with prisoners and with staff. It is great fun, with lots of
opportunities to show off and play the advocate or Solomon. But in truth most offences do not
merit any formal hearing at all, not any punishment worthy of the name. Drug tests are
mechanical, needing only a procedural appeal process to allow miscarriages to be put right. Most
behavioural ‘offences’ could be sorted (and often are) by a Principal Officer, with some points
system which could lead to formal sanction and/or referral up.

Restorative options make sense. They require people to look ahead. They require those who
have done the damage to answer for it. And they make proper use of the management skills of
staff. They also assume responsibility.

PART 3 – Reflections

                                     Private Responsibility

This is a paper of observations with few conclusions. It starts from the paradox that people
behave in the private sector the opposite way to what was expected and feared. People
imprisoned in the private sector are not warehoused. They are treated decently. People say
Please and Thank you naturally. Everybody agrees.

It is not a policy of appeasement: they are expected to obey the rules and to take hard knocks the
same way as in public sector prisons.

Everywhere we went prisoners were treated as responsible. That is, they were expected to behave
and were treated as being answerable. In the high security estate as in the rest they were trusted
according to their behaviour. They were consulted and free to comment on any issue. They had
representatives who met senior management regularly and were encouraged to feed back to those
they represented. Prisoners said so, youngsters as much as adults. It was not that staff were more
friendly, simply that they did not punish or look down on them.

Here are some of the factors which may account for this. There was no sophisticated research.
The comments were however consistent wherever we went and whatever we read. It is not that
the good practice doesn’t happen in public sector prisons, but it was consistent as far as we and
the Inspectorate could tell across the private estate.

Most private prisons have short lines of communication between the top and the bottom. At
Altcourse there are three grades plus the Director, with those staff who have direct contact with
prisoners paid more.

Most private prisons have formal meetings between management and prisoner representatives.
At Doncaster wing reps meet with all senior management weekly, chaired by the Director, for
half an hour. The meetings are minuted, and most action is taken by the following week. When
the Inspectorate asked to brief the management on a forthcoming inspection, they did so at this
meeting. No subject is ruled out of order. Senior managers looked forward to each meeting.
Prisoners spoke of their feeling that they were treated with respect as responsible people, and they
took their role seriously.

The fact that adjudications are conducted by Controllers does not signify in prisoner or staff
minds as meaning that the private companies don’t have to do the dirty work of punishing
prisoners. Several senior managers would welcome undertaking this role, and prisoners seemed
indifferent at worse, or welcoming it as being more likely to be fair in private prisons.

There were many examples of private prisons creating jobs beyond their contract which impinged
directly on prisoner welfare.

The staff in private prisons spoke of their loyalty to, and pride in, their particular prison, more
than to the Company or to the Prison Service. This despite far more fragile conditions of service
than in the public sector. This may have been connected with their feeling that the contract was
very much their personal concern. They were mystified and hurt by derogatory references to
them by the senior management of the Service, and by the constant reference to market testing as
the sin bin, as though the private sector was a leper colony. Prisoners were very much aware of
this and made direct links to how they thought public prisons viewed prisoners adversely by

Prisoners were well aware of their rights in terms of making complaints to the Controller, which
could then have a direct bearing on the performance of the Company. This did not produce a
fear-based relationship: rather the reverse in that prisoners seemed to want to work with staff to
overcome any difficulty.

All staff seemed to know the Director well, and vice versa. First name terms were commonplace
without the least over-familiarity, simply as the most direct way of communicating. We never
heard reference to the Controller from staff or prisoner.

Failure of delivery was not on the agenda. Altcourse had delivered every hour of every aspect of
the regime without a single cancellation of evening or daytime association since they opened.
Adult and young prisoners we met elsewhere spoke of this as the yardstick by which all prisons
should be measured. It made them feel they mattered as a simple matter of professionalism, and
increased their respect for the jailers.

Staff trained with, and were trained by, their managers, or by competent colleagues they knew.
There was no credibility gap.

Directors appeared to be familiar with all parts of the prison and with many prisoners. All
prisoners seemed to know who the Director was, and how far he or she would be prepared to
manage risk. Because most Directors had been in post for some time it was difficult to say if this
was a confidence in the Company as against the individual Director.

Families were treated with respect on visits. At Doncaster the Visits Centre had expanded its role
(unfunded) to meet the needs of ex-prisoners as a drop-in centre because they shared the same
information needs as families.

The sheer size of some of the private companies made one realise that prisons were a small but
significant part of their operation. The total company culture pervaded the private prison rather
than the other way round. Prisoners mattered because that was their business as part of public
protection. They took their security and control as seriously as did the public sector, knowing the
consequences of failure as keenly, but that did not seem to influence their underlying attitude to
prisoners. That they did not see prisoners as prone to sickness was instanced by the single in-
patient we saw at Altcourse, and the delivery of healthcare by health service grades to the wings.
That they did not see those charged with offences as being more dangerous than others was
instanced by the expectation that they would get themselves to and from adjudication. That they
saw their staff as important was instanced by their strong informal lines of communication and
the ease with which individuals could see the Director.

The culture of a private prison was seen by prisoners in stark contrast to that of public (or ‘POA’)
prisons, mainly as one where they were regarded in a more level relationship as being responsible
both as people and as prisoners.

The notion of the offender as being someone who has damaged the social contract, and who is
expected to repair it in partnership with society, seemed more clear in a contracted prison.

PART 3 – Reflections

                                      Sentence Management

The notion of custody as a sentence is about 200 years old, deriving in part from the
drying up of transportation as an option, and the resort to killing criminals as uncivilised.
The notion of a sentence which is part-custody and part-community under licensed
supervision is relatively new, and has a major sub-structure dealing with indeterminacy
(including Life Sentences and those with Dangerous and Severe Personality Disorders).
The notion of the management of the sentence as being a community responsibility is
very new, with the implications of the YOT pilot still being worked out. The notion of
the sentencer following through the sentence, as against being consulted only at the
parole stage, casts the judiciary in a wholly new light, blurring the edge between the
judiciary and the executive as never before. The emergence of the victim as one who
needs to influence, and be satisfied by, the sentence is likewise new, or very old
depending on your understanding of the history of penology and civil law. The
emergence of human rights as a factor applying to criminals as much as any other person
who might be at risk of state oppression is also something which the authors of the
Convention may not have had uppermost in their minds in the new dawn following the
last War.

It is not perhaps surprising therefore that sentence management might become more a
concern for getting the principles straight than of consulting with the offender. The
paperwork involved in sentence management reflects this concern for agency
coordination, chains of accountability, evidence of a return on investment in costly
prison- and community-based programmes, especially for the more dangerous offenders.
The prisoner seems almost incidental, and many of those to whom we spoke felt this,
both for themselves and for their families. Far from being seen as responsible, they felt
they were people to whom, or about whom, decisions were taken, rather than with whom.
Not surprisingly they did not feel a sense of ownership in their sentence.

Another way of looking at this is to ask ‘Whose time is it anyway?’ Does the community
take responsibility for the lives of those it locks away because by their behaviour they
have forfeited the right to determine it? Or does the community wash its hands of those
whose behaviour seems to defy every effort to deal with the behaviour without resort to
custody, which is after all largely unproductive and extremely expensive. You could
build and run 6 schools for every new prison.

Paradoxically perhaps, the prison which says to the prisoner, ‘Here is what a sentence
plan looks like. Make yours out and, if you can get approval from an Officer and a
Probation Officer, we are in business. Until then, you can forget about risk
management’ may be doing the community and the prisoner a service in clarifying the
understanding of what a sentence is and how it should be managed. The prisoner must
win back the right to be regarded as responsible. If he or she does so, the community
must respond. That does not address the problem of the prisoner who will not do so, but
it makes it clear that the community is then entitled to put pressure on to dig such an
offender out. Put another way, the offender should participate in his or her sentence
management: if he or she will not or cannot, then the sentence will be managed for him or
her. The assumption must be that the initiative should always lie with the offender who
not only breached the social contract in the first place but who also as to take it up again
on the expiry of the sentence.

Which brings us to the difficulty of ending the sentence. Not so long ago the mind-set
followed the warrant of the court. A governor was to hold the prisoner and either return
them to court if unconvicted or unsentenced, or release them at the end of the sentence.
The warrant made no direction as to how the executive was to execute the sentence, but it
did give the time when the sentence was to end. It was assumed that the debt had been
paid when the sentence was served. There were however difficulties in defining when a
sentence was ‘spent’. And there is an increasing agenda of state interference on the
behalf of the community beyond the end of the sentence, which feeds back into the
management of the sentence. Paedophiles, those with severe and dangerous personality
disorders, the very young are among those for whom there is continuing concern.

Human rights should include the right to be free of interference by the state after due
process, but the edges between the judiciary, the executive and the individual are
becoming very blurred. The personal officer sitting down with the Lifer to discuss the
sentence plan has to take account of what the community is entitled to do after the end of
the sentence, not just what it might do. The prisoner in these circumstances is likely to
feel less, rather than more, able to take responsibility for her or his life. And that is what
the community may want him or her to feel. The conflict between the individual and the
community’s rights are no more clearly seen than in sentence management.

As we move into OASys and ever-higher expectations as to what prisons can achieve it
will be increasingly important to remember to keep the prisoner centre stage in terms of
sentence management during and after release. The recognition that the state has a wider
interest in, and responsibility for, offenders and their families, than the licence
supervision by the Probation Service means ever more complex systems of accountability
and responsibility.

The Prison Service rightly take the view that the end of the sentence should be viewed
from the beginning. The whole process of the sentence should be seen against its ending.
Resettlement, an inadequate term, should be the object of the executive in its many
forms, and while the offender is in custody, the lead responsibility of the Prison Service.

If things don’t make sense to the prisoner, they need to be revised until they do. You
cannot be responsible for what you do not understand. That goes for the staff who have
responsibility for sentence management on behalf of the Governor to whom the warrant
is addressed. Prisoners have commented on the need for staff to be trained in what a
sentence means, what the options are in their own and other prisons to which the prisoner
may be sent, what the implications are for the prisoner’s family and dependants, and how
the prisoner may and should retain responsibility for his or her life while in custody.

Induction and allocation staff should be the best trained, best informed staff as to what
sentence management means, and prisoners are likely to be their best tutors both as the
actual state of the system and as to their own needs and abilities. Thereafter sentence
reviews should bear in mind the plea of a prisoner ‘We must be allowed to fail sometimes
without it being held against us for ever’. Prisoners have suggested that staff should
have feedback sessions as at Grendon and elsewhere to help them to deal with what can
sometimes be a very tough and sensitive job.

PART 3 – Reflections

                             Information and Communication

This topic deserves a report all on its own. This Reflection therefore has to be limited to
the most important points raised by prisoners and others, and to a large extent repeats
points made elsewhere but in a simpler context.

The most powerful single point made throughout the scoping for the Project is that
prisoners can only be responsible if they know what it is they are supposed to be
responsible for. Alongside that staff and prisoners have repeatedly stressed that they can
only manage risk confidently if they have good access to risk factors and to the person
who is going to sanction risk management. If people do not know clearly what it is they
are supposed to be responsible for, they cannot be blamed if they avoid what they fear
might be a risk. If they see little of the person who has overall responsibility, or if they
think that person is unlikely to be around to catch the flak, then likewise they will wait
until another comes along, or they will go to the body which will support a much less
risky option.

This caution and confidence is reflected at every level in an establishment and is the chief
determinant of risk conversion, meaning the conversion of prison risk to community risk.
It is the chief enemy of spreading good practice, since good practice requires confidence
in managing change. And it is the chief ally of the confident change manager when he or
she can show that he, or the system, accepts final responsibility on a long-term basis.

Other more specific points are given in no particular order, but are grouped broadly
according to where the responsibility might lie.

Many staff and prisoners speak of the need to get the first flow of information right,
taking account of the individual’s ability to deal with it and the knowledge of the giver.
Lifers point to lack of knowledge of the Life system among induction staff. Many point
to the need to give some training to prisoners if they are to be asked to help with
reception and induction, particularly as to the value of Personal Officers and the dangers
of cutting themselves off from staff. Despite excellent advice and instruction from HQ
and information leaflets, people are not always receptive to leaflets, or not to essential
information in the first few days of custody. There needs to be a secondary check of the
information that is necessary to each prisoner a few weeks into custody. This applies to
very elementary needs such as use of English, ability to read and write, information about
the prison and their entitlements, as much as to much more sophisticated information
such as bail, rights of appeal and handling deportation which tend to be covered
satisfactorily. Regular surveys should show up weak areas.

The same is broadly true of sentence management and the involvement of Personal
Officers. Prisoners and others have often commented that they have little knowledge of
who is taking what decisions about them, though they tend to know about the outline
system of categorisation and allocation. Even when presented with evidence that they
were present at a sentence review they have sometimes been unaware that this was the
purpose of the meeting, let alone that they were expected to take an active if not decisive

When speaking with some potentially dangerous prisoners after release it was also clear
that prison staff had little idea of the problems the prisoner would face, or little idea as to

how the agencies could work to manage the risk constructively. Several governors
referred to the shortage of the resources needed for this. Others spoke of the imaginative
use of current and former prisoners, and the key role of YOTs. The Halliday report takes
much of this forward, but it will still need the vital ingredient of prisoner participation
and ownership to succeed, which in turn will depend on good and current communication
and information.

There is a whole area of trans-wall and trans-custody information which directly affects
the ability of the prisoner / ex-prisoner and family to prepare for release. Judged by the
response to the Governor Questionnaire the Service has scarcely begun to tackle this, and
where it has it seems to feel guilty in case someone should discover that they are using an
electronic ball pen or data base without permission. Everyone seems to be waiting for
OASys, and wondering if it will help to engage the prisoner.

Specifically there seem to be three main areas of complaint. First, IT hardware is
controlled and denied centrally, to the extent that Governors are embarrassed when
telling colleagues in other agencies of their arrangements. Second, video and other
telephonic communication for prisoners is over-priced and inaccessible, with no special
effort or facility for those who need it most such as heads of families and foreign
nationals. This seems inexcusable when it is so easily available outside. Third, there is
great inconsistency between Governors who are granted wide discretion in an area where
basic human rights are so easily curtailed. Prisoners and staff have repeatedly pointed
out examples where mail is delayed and phone calls are effectively denied; to have
further problems because of what seems like the whim of management causes great
resentment and undermines normally good relations on both sides, with Officers speaking
of their embarrassment in trying to defend the indefensible. That can be compounded by
the differential earning capacity of prisoners.

In general terms prisoners spoke of communications and the supply of information as the
biggest tell-tale of prison service perceptions of them as human beings. The access
needed to be within the gift of their staff: too often they were told that they should use the
Request and Complaint procedure to by-pass blockages. But all that did was to cause an
improper blockage to become a permanent insult to staff as well as prisoners.

The excellent examples of direct consultation, with the example of speedy, effective and
informal communication set by the head of the establishment, only showed up the rest. A
number of Governors felt that the malaise reflected an over-control and over-
complication of systems from the centre, not as a factor of the size of the service so much
as a reflection of the fear of failure to demonstrate accountability, as though sending the
message discharged the responsibility.

For many of the prisoners who commented, they felt sorry for the staff who had so little
discretion in decision-taking, or training in some of the key areas of their concerns such
as sentence options outside their particular prison or of specialist referral. But any
sympathy did not disguise their frustration that matters should have reached that state.

PART 3 – Reflections

                        The Responsible Prisoner and the Officer

Much has been written, and written well, about the role of the prison officer. Alison
Liebling and David Price’s work on that of peace-keeper has already been referred to in
the introductory papers. A number of people have also argued that you cannot have
responsible prisoners without having responsible staff. Sadly that is not so, though it
helps. Prisoners can be treated most responsibly by staff in spite of their own shoddy
treatment, and conversely you can find staff whose every need seems to be catered for
who seem also to regard prisoners as an irritating side show. The phenomenon of
decency as a characteristic of private prisons rests against arguably less secure conditions
of service for the those staff by comparison with their public sector colleagues.

This note looks at one aspect of the job of the Officer, rather beyond that of peace-
keeping. It is the importance of the Prison Officer as the risk agent, the person who
directly manages the risk of the prisoner both as a prisoner and as a person who will leave
prison. The Officer may be representative of all who deal directly with prisoners in many
respects, but in this respect he or she is key. This aspect is under-scored by the need to
treat each individual prisoner according to her or his need, and to stretch each according
to their ability. It also stresses the inescapable influence of the Officer in representing the
culture of the Service and its belief as to how responsible people should behave – the
Officer as exemplar.

Though we may stumble in seeking precision as to what we mean by the Personal
Officer, and though many of the functions described by Woolf and others would allow
the job to be done by other than Officers, it is the Prison (Custody) Officer who people
have in mind for this role. And the Prison Officer is aware that this is both her special
duty and privilege. And so is the prisoner. It is a cause for concern that there appears to
be no debate or apparent recognition of this in the final stage of Pay and Grading, and
doubly worrying that the first stage looked at the pay and grading of the top management
bands without looking at what they were supposed to be managing in relation to

Prisoners, staff, governors and above have commented on the vital role that the Officer
plays, for good or ill, in risk assessment and management. The rest of this note sets out
some of the key factors which allow (and prevent) the Officer from doing the job that lies
at the heart of prison work.

Although the Governor has limitations in setting the boundaries of risk management
(mainly referred to under Part 3 – Reflections: ‘Encouraging Responsible Risk
Management’) , she is the authority under whom the Officer exercises discretion. This is
seen most clearly in the OCA (Observation, Classification and Allocation) or Allocations
or Sentence Management Office. This function is carried out by an Officer who has to
balance the needs of the prisoner, the needs of the prison, the needs of the prisons served
by the allocating prison, the over-rides of population management, and the myriad
undertakings of sentence plans in honouring the security category and deciding the
appropriate allocation of each sentenced prisoner. She has to do this with very great
discretion, and with perhaps as little as one link between her and the Governor. Of
course much of the work for longer-term prisoners is decided at a sentence review panel,
but the final matching of prisoner need and prison service need lies usually with a single
Officer who alone is answerable for what may cast the entire sentence outcome. She is

the person the prisoner needs to see to understand the combination of all the strands
which control her life and may dictate her future.

Because it is such an important function in sentence management it is worth listing the
points made by an experienced Officer in the Sentence Management unit in a Core Local.

   •   People don’t realise that we try to make sure that every individual’s needs are
       catered for as far as we can. We go out into the prison to do our business (we
       haven’t the space here anyway) and we speak with the prisoner and his staff. We
       get to know them much better than you might think possible.
   •   People may not realise that we have extremely good, open and efficient
       relationships with a very wide range of departments – healthcare, security,
       Probation, Psychology, each shop instructor, Residential Officers and managers,
       the Governor etc. But they in turn depend on the Unit having very experienced
       staff, and those staff being on duty.
   •   We also have very intimate relationships with the establishments with which we
       do business. We know which ones won’t take what prisoners, which one’s ignore
       the Allocations Guide, which ones have blockages at senior management level,
       which ones will take our word on risk. And we establish very flexible
       arrangements to allow for mistakes to be rectified. But some prisons seem not to
       be willing to help, and they damage the whole process: we have to work as a
       network for the system to keep in balance. We should have regular meetings with
       all our prisons to iron out these problems, and we should have the time to go and
       visit them to understand and have a face to put to the voice. That can be really
       important if we have a difficult prisoner to place – ‘difficult’ in the sense of
       special needs.
   •   We tell prisoners the truth about all of this, because they need to trust the system
       and they in turn tell us how the system is actually working.
   •   There aren’t actually many choices when it comes down to it, and, other than Cat
       A and Cat D we can fine-tune according to control rather than security factors,
       and the prisoner knows that he therefore can influence our decisions and those
       who will handle his sentence further down the line.
   •   We sometimes get a prisoner who wants to opt out, not take responsibility, go with
       the flow. That’s his privilege, but we still need to tell him what that will mean and
       give him time to consider whether he should think again. It usually works. We
       can do a lot in a Local to get that right at the outset. Better a good decision a day
       or two later, than a bad decision on the day – specially with longer-term men.
       And better a decision which the prisoner has had some say in.
   •   These staff know their importance. It is a very strenuous job but we have a very
       good attendance record because of the commitment of the team.
   •   You must have a good senior manager, preferably the Dep, to say ‘Tell them if
       they have a problem to talk to me about it, and don’t ever feel you won’t be
       supported by me even if I accept their view on occasion’. The Dep knows you
       won’t use that unless you have to. Our Dep even rang X ( a very senior person in
       HQ – who was abroad) who was being quoted as the authority for one critical bit
       of obstinacy which turned out to be untrue.
   •   Our job should be seen as a real career move. It allows you to see how the whole
       prison operates, how the other prisons operate, and it tests your judgement and
       energy. I have done this for 10 years, and that is enough, and I am very grateful
       that the Dep is allowing me to use my skill and knowledge to transfer to the Seg
       which for some prisoners offers them space to turn round and grow up. I am only

        sad that the Dep himself has just transferred: it will be some time before we get
        back to the same level of confidence in risk management.
    •   Staff joining this unit need very good induction into the different departments in
        the prison, visits to the prisons we work with, and to see this as a career move.
        Obviously only good staff should be picked for it, but good staff should be
        encouraged to apply. And staff should not be forced to stay on if they don’t fit. A
        wrong note in Sentence Management will sound a discord right through the
        prison and beyond.

The influence of just a single Officer in risk management is almost tangible. It is often
said that you an tell if a particular officer is on duty by the feeling in the wing – for better
and for worse - just as an Inspector can pick up the influence of the Governor in a prison
within days of that governor’s arrival – again for better and for worse.

Although the Prison Officer does not embody the whole service in quite the same way as
the Police Constable, as far as the prisoner is concerned each Prison Officer has within
her the ability to make or break her life in prison and ease or endanger her prospects on
release. The careless record entry or failure to up-date an old one, the flip aside showing
an underlying contempt for prisoners or colleagues, the exposure of a dangerous (albeit
very human) weakness – any and all of these will mark out an Officer as one to be
avoided as unprofessional, and whose risk assessments are likely to lead to trouble for the
prisoner. Managing prisoners does not call for tier upon tier of management levels, nor
mountains of paperwork (though accounting for it may). But it does call for great
sensitivity and communication skill, and the courage to say ‘No’ and the courage to say

It does not follow that the more responsibility given to a prisoner the weaker the authority
of the Officer, but it does follow that the Officer must be the agent who confirms that
authority. If the Officer is by-passed or allowed to undermine the decision of others, the
prisoner will be at best confused, and at worse dangerous in her ability to set staff against

It does not follow that the underlying attitude of the Officer will make or break the
prisoner. Underlying attitudes change, and are anyway by definition hard to discover.
Many staff working with sex offenders or in Segregation Units deal with people whose
behaviour they detest with great commitment and professionalism to ensure the safety of
the prison and the prevention of further offending. What does matter is that the Officer is
managed on as short a leash as is necessary to ensure that any personal belief system
contributes to the job. Any beliefs which prevent responsible risk assessment and
management on behalf of the prison and the public is inappropriate for the job to be done.

For an Officer to work confidently and effectively, she must not only trust the Governor
but must be clear as to the job she is asked to do. That is what is meant by the ‘leash’.
And its length will differ from one Officer to another, and from time to time and job to
job. The judgement of that lies with the Senior Officer. If Altcourse needs only three
grades of staff under the Director, we seem to have two of them already. And a pretty
good idea of the first duty of the Director / Governor.

The problem of inappropriate relations between staff and prisoners has become
significant in recent years, to the extent that prisoners have commented ‘It has become
noticeably more difficult for women to talk to male staff who seem to have been warned

off them’. This is part of a very large issue but is mentioned here simply as a potential
inhibitor in risk management for which sensible precautions and training are needed.

In summary the Officer has to ensure peace and should be given the necessary discretion
to do so. But beyond that the Officer has to get involved and work against the
destructiveness of imprisonment to preserve and require the responsibility and humanity
of people while in prison. That involves a willingness and ability to see the person within
the prisoner. It requires the clear knowledge that this lies at the heart of the job of the
Service, and is the key responsibility of the Prison Officer as the most important member
of the staff team.

The importance of support structures to enable the Officer to carry out this work is
touched on in ‘Encouraging Responsible Risk Management’ (following).

Before that a word of caution on the limits to Officer involvement. Staff and prisoners
have spoken of what one might call ‘over-kill’ in various forms. Prisoners have spoken
of the constant raking up of their offence so that it becomes almost meaningless by
repetition. Staff and prisoners have referred to the claustrophobia and loss of privacy
which can happen with the best of intentions by never letting the prisoner be by herself,
or with her own group. Obviously a balance has to be struck, but the subject of over-
staffing can become a taboo. It is so obvious that prisoners need protection. It is so
obvious that the POA would always argue for more on grounds of health and safety. It is
so obvious that MCS and the governor will try to pare everything to the marrow. In fact,
powerful though those taboos may be, the evidence is that the debate is always well
worth having, set in terms of staff and prisoners being able to function at the level of
normalised relationships. For example, youngsters need space away from parents but
wish to imply no disrespect when they say so. It is just not easy to get that message
across to staff.

PART 3 – Reflections

                                         The family

It is not the intention to suggest simply that families are important, but how important
they are to the responsible prisoner, and how the Prison Service can make things worse
and better by its handling of prisoner families.

At bottom lies the requirement that each person in prison is treated as an individual in
terms of the risk they represent and the management of that risk. The same applies to
families who may be an important context in which that risk is to be assessed. The
family may be the problem as well as the solution. The family may not exist, or may
exist only as a faint memory. The family may be the victim, or may see the offender as
the victim. Whether considering restorative work or a new life without family on release
the key is to start with the prisoner, and the prisoner as the manager of family
relationships. The fact that many prisoners have poor family relations, or none, should
not get in the way of those for whom the family is a key to their future.

However young, however competent, however dangerous the prisoner or the family may
be, the Prison Service manages communications, and communications influence

For some prisoners the family are the key to responsibility, and the prison can be the key
to supporting that. The practice in a few prisons of allowing the family into the prison to
see the reality for themselves is warmly commended by prisoners as being helpful in de-
mystifying their imprisonment.

In a sense family comes first. Everyone knows that Visits and Phone calls are the last
things we want to cancel. Everyone knows that attendance at a family funeral comes
(almost) before the secondary issue of imprisonment. Everyone knows the huge
importance family ties can mean to the foreign national, and the youngster held under a
DTO far from home. But everyone also knows that visits in prison, like those in hospital,
can be artificial, painful and humiliating for all concerned, sometimes to the point of the
prisoner deciding not to endure them.

One problem is that offending, or at least being sent to prison, distorts family ties, so it is
difficult for anyone to see what they are like normally. Another problem is that it is
impossible to try to deal with the whole person without dealing with the family. Another
problem is that human rights include the right to privacy, which can mean the right of the
family or the prisoner to prevent interference by the state. One prisoner referred to his
refusal to have any visits over the 6 years he had been in custody because he felt that
prison visits would make relationships worse, particularly for young children. All of
these, if handled badly, will undermine the responsibility of the prisoner.

The extent to which a prisoner has given up on personal responsibility is easily assessed.
Their willingness to divulge information which we would normally regard as personal
and private without checking why the information is needed or how it will be recorded,
and whether it will be reviewed, and by whom, shows the degree of institutionalisation.
And the degree to which the prison expects that will indicate the extent to which the
prison has lost touch with humanity.

It may be weird to tell an anxious and loving wife who is worried about her husband’s
silence ‘I need to check if he is willing for me to tell you’, or to say to a prisoner ‘May I
check with the doctor how you are?’, but that is the legal position regarding access to
medical records as well as a proper respect for the individual’s privacy. Realisation by a
prisoner of her rights, or perhaps more important, of her proper response in dealing with
family matters with the prison calls for great sensitivity to avoid needless offence while at
the same time saying that it is none of the prison’s business unless the prisoner chooses to
make it so. The responsibility of the prison in relation to loco parentis can be very
tortuous. But the normal rules of respect between people apply to family ties more than
most aspects of imprisonment.

This is an area where prisoners have spoken forcefully about staff attitudes. At the edge
between the community and the service managed by YOTs it is also an area where staff
speak strongly about their inability to be made available to work with families as required
by the system or by prisoners.

Here a plug for such as Prison Visitors and Prison Fellowship. Both start from the
position of being entirely at the prisoner’s beck and call. But having been invited, they
come on their own terms. They and prisoners speak of the immense value of coming in
addition to family and friends as well as when there are none or they are too far away, in
today’s parlance almost as mentors, as the friend who speaks the truth, whose listening is
as important as her speaking, whose non-involvement with the process of imprisonment
is as refreshing as it may be frustrating.

It is perhaps a commonplace that the value of family starts by simply being there. What
may not be as easily understood is that the same goes for the prisoner. All may feel
impotent, guilty, angry, desperate, fearful of the future, and inclined to cut ties because it
is too difficult. That is to underestimate the value of being there.

It is also to underestimate the importance of the means of decent communication. It does
not take much imagination to understand the importance and cheapness of e-mail in all its
forms and mobile phones and faxes. The story of prison service attempts to get between
the prisoner and her adviser is one largely closing gates after horses have thundered off.
The Human Rights and Freedom of Information agenda require the Service to anticipate
rather than be dragged into concession. Preserving and promoting family ties is a severe
test of that requirement.

PART 3 – Reflections

                    Diversity and uniformity – the test of intention

When the project was first mooted several people suggested that there were some groups
who would need to be excluded from the scope of the project. The young would not be
able to handle responsibility. Women, who should not be in prison in the first place,
needed far more support, it was suggested, than men, and the support suggested in some
cases would actually have limited their discretion more than it was already by the
system’s inability to locate them close to home or close to resettlement opportunities.
Those with severe and dangerous personality disorders should not be encouraged to
undertake the same levels of responsibility as more normal prisoners.

The agenda of institutional racism has been one undercurrent which, strangely, has not
surfaced. Race has not been mentioned once as a factor in allowing or ensuring
responsibility. That might be because of a taboo on discussing it, or because it is not seen
as a problem, or because it is of relatively small significance against the issue of the
prisoner taking responsibility.

There are undoubtedly inhibitors to responsibility stemming from group and individual
diversity; many similar to those outside such as educational disadvantage and belonging
to a foreign nationality. We have come to take peer-group pressure, bullying, harassment
and prejudice seriously. But the most dangerous prison-related inhibitors can be those of
which we are hardly conscious, or which we have come to accept over time as being
simply the natural consequence of the sentence.

At shallow level we all regret the prejudice and ignorance which results in prisoners
needing protection and segregation. We tend not to recognise that we play into the
culture of hatred which produces huge VP units, and almost encourage them because of
the focus for SOTPs which they provide. Still at shallow level we are beginning to
understand the inhumanity which results from separating the remand from the convicted
– and other ‘unjust desserts’ which the Inspectorate have shown come to the

At deeper levels of unconsciousness, or denial, we create massive mechanisms which
allow us to label, stereotype, classify, and separate prisoners, and we design our prisons
around them. We have security categories, and sub-categories within them, and whole
prisons designed around a perception of what that type of prisoner needs. Then we have
to fill those prisons whether or not there are enough of the right type to go there. Not
surprisingly the prisoner may come to fit the label. We have Security departments which
can get out of hand and ‘blank’ options rather than give the advice which should
contribute to the decision. Often they work secretly, and it is hard for a prisoner to be
sure that she will not do further harm if she tries to check that information. Even the
Ombudsman may find that he is unable to divulge this information.

Deeper still, we have buildings and procedures and languages and uniforms and belief
systems which support and even sanction what we have to do and make it even harder to
think of some prisoners as people, or listen to the Officer and work supervisor who is
closer than anyone else. We have lost to the private contractor the membrane of working
at Court which shows exactly how a person surrendering to bail becomes a defendant, an
accused, a prisoner, a convict. We are too stretched to see them emerge on release to
know if they are larvae, pupa or chrysalis. We see only our failures and those of other

criminal justice and social agencies, and so we can become disillusioned and defensive,
and fall back on our systems to prove that prisoners, or types of prisoners, are all of a

Perhaps the most pernicious influence in the system is the fear of failure, and the
corollary of absence of commendation. The celebration of diversity is a rare event in
prison, but one of the annual joys of Highpoint North. The pleasure of working with staff
and prisoners who have somehow established a sense of human proportion without
banishing those who do not fit is almost tangible.

Understanding and working with diversity, whether of race, age, ability, gender,
nationality, creed or culture, is the job of senior and middle managers so that they provide
a safe framework for staff to make differences work rather than break up.

The evidence gathered at Low Newton and Hollesley Bay shows that many of the young
are not only fully aware of responsibility and its loss, but they also know their own
limitations. Their staff know and understand this. The words of a youngster who was
asked to take on a counselling role, quoted elsewhere in this report, bears repetition. ‘I
may resent being classed as a juvenile, but I am still a child and need training to do this
job properly’.

The evidence from Wolvercote clinic is that formerly dangerous offenders are under no
illusion as to what further offending would mean both for them and for the future of the
clinic. The evidence from the first Highpoint conference showed that prisoners
understand perfectly clearly the mutual dependency and understanding needed from both
staff and themselves for them to take responsibility seriously.

For diversity to be a source of understanding rather than an excuse to avoid it prison
people need to be allowed to face prejudice rather than suppress it, and recognise that
pre-judging is a necessary skill as the first step to checking understanding and planning
for growth as a consequence. The divisions which prison generates need to be seen as
guides rather than straight-jackets and checked to make sure they are not being used as an
excuse to avoid giving or requiring responsibility.

This is a use of anti-discrimination which accentuates the positive and helps to eliminate
the negative, and has no time for Mr In-between who is alive and well beneath the
institutional veneer.

None of this touches on the agenda of disability, homosexuality, harassment, bullying or
other specific outcomes of treating one group more or less favourably than another.
What it does suggest - what the Responsible Prisoner idea suggests - is that we have to
overcome a prejudice against people in prison which attributes to them as a group
negative characteristics which are seldom true of the individual, or no more true of
prisoners than of those outside. Or, if they are true, should not be attributable to their
treatment in prison. One of those stereotypes is of the irresponsible prisoner.

This project therefore does not attempt to replicate the excellent work being done on the
needs of women, of juveniles and of ethnic and other minorities. Instead it looks at the
need to help people to meet their individual needs whatever their group or classification.

PART 3 – Reflections

                       Encouraging responsible risk management

The primary job of the Prison Service is to identify the risk which prisoners present, first
to the system and then to the public It has then to avoid risk where necessary and manage
it constructively as far as possible within the custodial part of the sentence. Prisons need
to be safe places, but at the same time places in which responsible risk management is

This note identifies some of the factors identified by staff and prisoners which encourage
and discourage that. It is written as caricature, though all the comments have been made
during the scoping by staff and prisoners, of each other and of themselves, from some of
the most senior Governors to some of the youngest prisoners, and by a number of
volunteers and friends of the Service.

This note is written against the two assumptions underlying the project. We need to
concentrate on the Prison Service in particular because of the immense discretion it is
given by Parliament and the community in executing the sentence. Second we need to
focus on the Governor, the Officer and the Prisoner, without whom it is impossible to
manage the risk of the prisoner.

A small prize is offered to the person who spots correctly the total number of mixed

The key players

Everyone agrees that the individual Governor is the single most important factor in
setting the tone of the establishment. That applies particularly to the readiness of staff
and prisoners to test willingness to change.

Questionnaires confirm experience that Governors are nothing if not individualistic. And
that individualism can lead to the widest range of views as to how prisoners are best
handled and how many staff are needed, and how wide the estimate can be of the money
needed for similar establishments. That also seems to reflect the great variation in views
as to just how bad or dangerous prisoners are, and how far the public is willing to share
risk. Estimates of the numbers needed for a straightforward task of supervision can vary
by a factor of 10.

If a governor arrives who is believed to want a quiet life before retirement, or following
the taking of ‘a risk too far’, the message goes round, sometimes even before the
Governor arrives, that ‘We don’t wobble this boat’. If a Governor arrives who is clearly
destined to move onwards and upwards fast, staff may, with some regret perhaps, decide
they are not going to hitch to that particular wagon, but wait for calmer and more
predictable waters. If a Governor turns out to stay in post for three years, staff will
expect a change in the following one, and will grow more cautious as the time passes. If
Governors believe that they have little if any control over their time in post, they will
become increasingly cautious as time passes.

The same is true, though to a lesser extent, for all senior managers. It is not until you get
down to Senior Officers and other first-line managers that you begin to find more
permanence, more investment in the establishment as ‘home’, more practical acceptance
that the establishment is simply the place to come to work, more ownership of the local
area, and of fellow staff at the same level, as ‘family’.

Managers may come and go, but the POA goes on for ever. It is interesting to reflect on
how they are perceived when considering the Responsible Prisoner. Prisoners in private
prisons sometimes refer to public sector prisons as ‘POA Prisons’. They can be relied
upon to protect the status quo, or at least to avoid dangerous change. That is why they
were elected.

Along with that goes a whole culture and belief system, usually wrongly attributed to the
POA. Be in no doubt, it is a dangerous and self-serving world – of personality coming
before performance, of who you know coming before what you know, of promises by
transitory managers unfulfilled, of public criticism of prison staff and their
representatives, of a lack of willingness to recognise the tough job which staff have to do
with some very difficult prisoners, of lack of investment in physical conditions, and of
box-ticking when it comes to Investment in People. POA officials, in common with
those of most Trade Unions, are arguably among the most responsible of staff, caring for
their colleagues, giving up their spare time, taking their training very seriously, and
demonstrating most of the same range of competencies as their senior managers.

Often weathered by the experience of fast-changing Governors the POA can sometimes
reflect a caution which is seen as negativity. The Governor who understands this and
who will provide a secure and rational environment for risk management by staff will
often take the whole prison forward, and change a cautious culture into one in which all
staff will get great job satisfaction from prisoners’ success. Under those circumstances
the POA can prove to be a major force for long-term change and responsibility

The Chalice

A prison is a most precious vessel, full of humanity and hopefully brimming with
humanity. It is held together by a fine organic web of relationships, understandings and
cultures, some good, some bad. They are as sensitive as a spider’s web, and as capable of
adaptation and repair, and as entangling and threatening. At their best they can be
cradles, universities, therapeutic communities, nourished and supported by staff,
prisoners and the communities in which they live. They can establish strong cultures in
which responsibility is taken as read - ‘We don’t do that here’ is enough to reveal the
assumption of maturity on which the prison runs. But they can also establish
claustrophobic, institutionalising cultures which stifle initiative, focus on prison targets
which actually expose the public to risk rather than protect it. And the one can change to
the other overnight, largely due to the influence of the Governor who will in turn draw
down from the Area Manager and the Deputy Director General and the DG and the
Minister in short order. A nervous Minister will have an immediate effect on the whole
service. One bad ROTL will reduce risk management across the country the same day.

Until quite recently the charge of the prison was seen as a sacred charge, embodied in
‘The Governor’. Pre-Agency the Governor was the Sub-accounting Officer, with the
Accounting Officer being the boss of the Director General. (Even now, with the Director
General as the Accounting Officer, that still makes each governor heavily responsible).

Until quite recently there was a comprehensive Instruction on handing over a prison both
while the Governor was temporarily away, and when the Governor was posted, with
more than a whiff of engine oil and the scratch of quill pens as the deed was done. No
more. Or if there is still an instruction it is not observed. There is no equivalent of the
licensing of a Chaplain, an exchange of scrolls, a cloud of witnesses. Similarly there is
no solemnity, or sense of receiving in trust a great responsibility on the appointment and
introduction of a new Director General with any parallel to that of the new Chaplain

It is perhaps the emphasis on the achievement of measurable targets which has devalued
the idea of a prison as a vital, personal and sacred trust. ‘Show me a prison achieving all
its KPIs and I will show you a prison which is also treating prisoners with dignity’
(Martin Narey to the Prison Service Conference 2001) is true. But we must remember
that KPIs fall far short of real dignity and responsibility. How would we feel if we were
subject to ‘lights out at 10’, being locked in a cell at any time, sleeping in our lavatory
(let alone in someone else’s), referred to by surname and a number by staff who know
perfectly well who we are etc. KPIs and other measurable indicators are indicators, and
point to further investigation, but there are other ways of valuing a prison.

Prisons can change hands without thought to the many informal and formal contracts on
which they and the local community have come to depend, and in which often costly
investments have been made. Incoming Governors can undo these in minutes, either
through ignorance or design, and they have the power to do so with impunity. If their
action can be seen to support budget and other targets, it may be seen not just as
excusable, but as desirable. That at least is the culture.

Everyone, staff, prisoner, associate, special interest group, has pointed to examples of this
lack of responsibility. Some have suggested that the priorities have changed to those of a
Management or Performance culture. Others to a blame culture where no one dares make
mistakes and hence ventures nothing. Others to a ‘Control College’ living in the wake of
Whitemoor and Parkhurst, fanned by a Government distrustful of the Executive, and
determined to curb the Judiciary, in its pursuit of votes.

This sense of identity and purpose are essential if people are to feel confident of their
role. Pay and Grading, an exercise which is entirely within the gift of the Prison Service
Agency, recognised the confusion in the titles of Governor in Charge, No 1 Governor,
Duty Governor, THE Governor, etc., and has in many people’s eyes, inside and outside
the Service, managed to replace the misleading with the meaningless. And, on the eve of
the second stage, there is little evidence of discussion as to the job of the Prison Officer
or his / her role in sentence management and intervention. Somewhere in the middle, the
vital link in the chain, on which all prisoner treatment and uniform staff management
depended, the Principal Officer has become so blurred that staff will by-pass where they
can, if only to avoid embarrassment.

The effect of this emphasis on performance runs much wider than changed measures of
the effectiveness of a prison as an engine of change and development. If you can no
longer discover about the quality of life from published data, and if Inspections usually
only take place every 5 years, you have to use other means of discovering what prisons
are up to in terms of the treatment of prisoners and their preparation for responsible life.
Finding out what ex-prisoners and their families think of prison is one starting point.

If you want to know what is going on in the prison, ask the Board of Visitors. They
usually visit the prison more often and in greater detail than any Governor or senior
management team, and more comprehensively that any other single manager. They
review their visits monthly, and require a response to points raised. At their best they are
the true inspectors and auditors, and the pain in the Governor’s neck, and the holders of
the balance between staff and management, and between prisoners and staff. If they
want. And the default of the Governor in all these roles and functions has been accepted
because the governor is buried in paperwork, has another job of reporting on
performance, is judged by skill in buck-passing and by who he or she knows. Like the
POA they have a sense of continuity beyond the single governor, and they know the
location of the prison in the community.

If you want to know what is going on in the neighbouring prisons, ask prisoners,
preferably long-termers. They will have more, and more up-to-date, and more reliable,
knowledge of the system, and will be used by other prisoners in preference to official
sources. And they will do so in a perfectly responsible way since they have no need to

They will tell you that sadly, for them and the Service, the chalice has often become a
mug, and a rather grubby one at that. Only in the High Security Estate is the true value
seen and any tarnish polished off. The rewards for these Governors are as great as they
are for their long-term and high risk prisoners. Their case is understood, their needs met,
their role in protecting the reputation of the Service made clear by Woodcock and
Learmont – and Derek Lewis. At the other extreme there is a strong consensus among
the poisoned chalices, with their identity made plain as ‘failing’ prisons, their high
turnover of Governors, the tales of offers to Governors who have refused them, the
threats of Market Testing almost as though the private sector could always be relied on as
the janitor of the service. Not confidence-building stuff for those staff or people in the
community who work with the prison – or prisoners. Wherever we have visited,
prisoners as well as staff are acutely aware of these cultures, and of their stranglehold on
managing risk.

The Corporate Culture of the Prison Service

The following views are derived not only from hearsay in scoping for this project but also
from the views of a hundred or so Functional Heads and group managers in HQ who took
part in Intermediate Management Development Training which was developed with the
Grubb Institute over the last 4 years, (and for which funding was withdrawn last year). In
this they were asked to identify the culture as they perceived it, compare it with the
professed culture, and consider how they, as key managers, might move it from where it
is to where it needs to be.

They identified a culture of conflict. Great care and openness juxtaposed with one of
institutional indifference and secrecy. Great tenderness and cognitive awareness among
staff and prisoners contrasted with pockets of unlicensed evil and hatred. A service in
which the white male macho bullying culture was exposed by courageous staff and open
leadership at the top. A proud history of leading the world in parole and lifer
management and that of the young contrasted with arguably the greatest humiliation of
any public service and the fastest rise in the prison population in the latest decade,
leading to the highest rate of incarceration in Europe. A change from ‘Prison is a costly
way of making weak people weaker’ to ‘Prison Works’ in weeks, with a current

proclamation that suggests that prison is a policy of first rather than last resort for a
growing group of offenders. The defender of the weak and tackler of the dangerous
alongside the macho, male, bullying, club-ish, police-uniformed, self-serving arrogance.

It is a confusing as well as a confused culture. The sentence does not appear to mean
what it says any more than it did ten years ago. The definition of who is ‘young’ or
‘juvenile’, together with the assumption that those terms mean something to do with
reduced responsibility and greater hope of reformed ways seems less clear. The claim the
Prison Service as the best agency to entrust with the care of the young offender seems at
odds with the management of the sentence now belonging to, and being funded by YOTs,
though it appears to be demonstrably cheaper. Lifers now seem to be dissolving into
several distinct groups ranging from the ‘2 Strikes’ mini-tariffs to ‘Natural Life’, with
Human Rights questioning both. What was once a clear admission of institutional racism
now seems to be in question. What will be the significance of the judiciary being asked
to follow through the sentences they hand down? Are we confusing the judiciary with
the executive, widening the gap which HDC first made when it empowered Governors
with direct responsibility for deciding early release. Will it mean that prisoners can
increasingly influence their release date by their behaviour in prison? Do we see a new
role emerging for the Victim in influencing the sentence through Restorative Justice?

And for the first time we may hold the Prison Service responsible for what prisoners do
after they leave. Do Governors play safe and avoid the risk of expecting responsibility,
or do they set the scene by educating the community and the prisoner and the prisoner’s
family as to the safest way of handling the end of the sentence – of sharing the
responsibility, with the former offender as the key player, for all his or her strengths and

And where are we starting from? We recruit risk avoiders who are looking for security
and discipline. We train them to avoid embarrassment and to train people to be prisoners.
We are very public in criticising governors who may have been responsible for a poor
Inspection report. We appear to treat a prison which is at the front edge of risk
management as so highly suspect that we break in to it to find out what might be
happening. We do not send messages which encourage responsibility. We seldom
apologise and thus show we respect the people we have wronged. We seldom
congratulate those who manage risk successfully.

The Balances

Some of the Responsible Prisoner Reference Group have cautioned against too detailed
an approach. ‘Do not bombard the Prison Service with too many recommendations and
too much detail’. Others have welcomed grit in the debate, and a stress on physical
conditions and minutiae as the prerequisite and true test of the commitment of the Prison
Service to treat with humanity people who will have to take responsibility when they are
released. It is difficult to expect responsibility from people who are deliberately de-
humanised by sloppy procedures and filthy conditions. This project has grit because that
is what prisoners and Officers and Governors say matters as much as broad principles.
They say that the detail of humanity is as much the test of the seriousness of the Service
as the broad policy. They say that the extent to which they take responsibility is directly
affected by the extent to which those at the top support them.

The question of resources, particularly time, is as much about what you do with them as
whether you have enough. Prisoners and staff comment on the failure to post mail on
time, delaying Requests and Complaints, cutting opportunities for phone calls and
delaying visits start times as being major results of both staff shortages and lack of proper
prioritisation. They feed any underlying negative stereotypes of lazy staff or selfish
prisoners, and can quickly become a self-perpetuating state of normality. That culture
has to be tackled at both the practical and attitudinal level, playing to the strengths of
staff and prisoners.

The best Governors and Directors, that is to say those praised both by the Director
General and the Chief Inspector, say that simple gaolcraft and attention to detail matters.
‘How does it feel between staff and prisoners?’ asks Phil Wheatley. ‘We don’t have
more formality or more levels of staff than we need to run a decent prison’ says the
Director of one in the private sector, ‘ and we pay the people who actually work with
prisoners more’. And responsible prisoners say they would not expect their families to
stand for the poor standards they meet in prison. This Project needs to recognise what
prisoners say about what matters to them as responsible people.

Summary and Conclusion

If prisons are to encourage responsible risk management staff need to be clear from the
Governor that this is their job, and they need to know that this will still be the case when
the governor changes. They need evidence of enduring care in the form of recognition of
the basics both as to behaviour and resourcing.

Governors need support in valuing their prison, and in holding it in trust from generation
to generation as a place in which the predominant culture is that people in custody are
treated with dignity and in which responsibility is a reciprocal requirement.

The role of the Governor in setting and developing the culture of risk management must
be complemented by the role of the Officer as the risk assessor and manager, and by the
role of the prisoner as the person answerable for the outcome of any plan with which he
or she agrees during the total sentence.

PART 2 - Reflections

                      The ex-Prisoner, ex-offender. Title regained

This note concentrates on the difficulty of the system letting go. It explores briefly the
advantage of seeing prisoners as responsible people eventually, and the difficulty of
putting that into practice.

This Project focuses on the Prison Service because of its wide discretion in the treatment
of people in custody. Within that it focuses on the Governor, the Officer and the
Prisoner. That means a lot of omissions. But it would be useful to reflect on the possible
outcome of treating people as responsible as far as we and they can when they leave

The memory returns of the separated wadge of ‘dead’ records in the muniments room of
those whose behaviour meant that they served the full borstal sentence up to the final
breakfast, but whose records were never sent for, meaning they were never reconvicted
within the 2-year recall period. They had somehow proved their critics wrong, and it
seemed almost as though the same stubborn resistance which meant they did the full 2
year sentence (Borstal was then indeterminate between 6 months and 2 years) was also
giving them the momentum and strength to carry them through. It was their strength that
prevented the bastards from grinding them down, much as we might see in our children
when they succeed almost to show us they can do it on their own..

Perhaps the first point in what must of necessity be only a sketch is that prisons are
designed to remove responsibility. That is what the community asks the court to do; to
limit the choice to break the law. And prisons to limit the choice to wander at will. And
many prisoners show by their attitude and behaviour that this was entirely justified, often
for more reasons than were apparent to the Court. The fact remains however that you
can’t lock people up just because they are unpleasant, or even because they are
dangerous, if the sentence does not allow it. The fact is that people other than Lifers will
be released, and the Prison Service has to make the best of the job in ensuring a proper
resettlement plan.

Although the ex-prisoner, ex-offender will have pre-cons and a dodgy reputation among
those who know him or her, the debt has been paid, the title of citizen regained, along
with the expectation of responsible behaviour.

In reality for many this is not so. The ‘revolving door’ shows how easily people grow
weaker and weaker, their social contract increasingly one-sided, their natural
environment one where others take control. They cannot do the time outside, so they do
the crime and they become skilled at doing the time inside, and don’t blame anyone else.

It may be helpful to see a criminal career not as a series of disconnected episodes of guilt
and innocence, of demon and angel, but as one aspect of a life which will usually end in
observance of the law, or avoidance of entanglement with it, or one which has learned
much of value from the experience, albeit not necessarily what the executive might have
thought as likely.

This unpredictability is an important factor, and one which can be predicted. The
predictability is not the difficult part. The Governor who wrote on every discharge report
‘He will be back’ was right every time – of those who came back..

It is the ability of the parent to stick with the child which counts, sticking with the child
as she tries out what works for her, living, experiencing, learning. The notion of the state
as parent has major drawbacks, but the state cannot avoid those who persistently come
back. It must however avoid encouraging dependency, institutionalising, giving up hope,
giving up on offenders.

It is a paradox that giving responsibility is part of weaning, yet weaning encourages
commitment and mutuality. It is a fact that, unless the prisoner continues to offend in
prison, she is an ex-offender by the time she comes to prison. But it is also a fact that the
shadow of the conviction lies in front of the ex-offender, as does the stigma of the
banishment of prison. To have title as citizen is not the same as to come into the
inheritance of citizenship.

If prison is to prepare the prisoner for inheritance it may be useful to start before the
offence and to look ahead to the time after custody in order to set expectations of
responsibility in prison that are pertinent.

That may be easier than it sounds, if the staff who know the prisoner best are the judges.
In a small rural Local the staff were able to give men who had burned their way through
the high security system the chance to retreat and turn round without loss of face. In a
large high security Local the staff had already identified the three out of 400 who were
assessed for severe social disability, and had given them key jobs which allowed them
little scope for wide discretion but massive scope for limited discretion – as outside
cleaners and stores orderlies. And the funeral of one who might have been entitled the
Revolving Doorman was attended by several ex-prisoners and staff as well as a dozen
nurses and the Karaoke Club of the pub to which the nurses wheeled him after his
sentence expired. Before he died he said to the Prison Fellowship man who subsequently
conducted his funeral ‘I have lived my life more in the last 3 months than in all the time
before’. He had come into his inheritance without even gaining his freedom.

Perhaps we need a more formal recognition of the end of the sentence which marks the
formal assumption of full responsibility. When the sentence ends it does not mean that
the former prisoner is on her own with all supports taken away, but it does mean that
checks become supports, and supports become options – to be negotiated and bid for,
rather than imposed. And resettlement training ought to have that dimension as a key
understanding, with sentence termination checks built around that.

PART 3 – Reflections

                               Responsibility and religion

It seems rather a long stretch to include a note on religion in a Project which is already on
the borderline of being too touch-feely. But matters of faith are on the agenda in society
at large, and prisons, true to form, have their own hot-house version of the debate.

Because prison work is very distinctly an extension of one’s personality, and we recruit
people for their maturity and inner strength in mind, it is perhaps useful at least to raise
the lid on faith, and for a non-Minister to do so. This note is written therefore in the hope
that it may have some relevance to staff and prisoners who find themselves confronted by
their faith as a test of their encounter with imprisonment.

I am a Christian, an Anglican, and born to that. That is not why I joined the Prison
Service, but it has stood by me in trying to make some sense of the maze of morality in
this strange job. It is not easy deliberately to de-humanise with humanity, which is what
managing in this Service is all about.

For me it has been particularly valuable to recognise an all-loving God, and that
forgiveness is not ours to give. It is important in a job where you are tempted, and even
required at times, to play God, and sit in judgement on your fellows, that you have a
healthy view of your immediate power and authority and your long-term responsibility,
and your insignificance outside prison. You share that with teachers, servicemen, parents
and judges.

It is hard to imagine doing the job without some belief system, and it is hard to imagine a
belief system which would survive the work unaffected by its stark realities.

Prisons are forcing houses in which all human life is reduced, concentrated and distorted.
You see the full glory of the human spirit up beside the lowest depravity and degradation.
You see the brilliance and inspiration of leadership in staff and prisoners, and its instant
eclipse by a risk taken too far. You view with alarm and perhaps cynicism the emergence
of yet another test designed to prove that prison is something other than the outward sign
of an inner failing. You see the struggle of people brought in to the heart of the criminal
justice system by the heels who then try to make sense of the indifference and even
hatred which the community is prepared to reveal in its handling of those who challenge
its stability.

It is tempting in all of this to use religion as a prop, or even a justification for
imprisonment. Christ did not say that prison is wrong, he just said ‘Don’t give up on
prisoners’. He added that ‘What you do to your fellows, you do to me’. That is the sting
which each jailer should remember every morning and evening, whether they believe in
God or not. How we treat the people we cannot stomach says everything about us; it is
the test of our humanity as well as of our spirituality. Churchill said something on that,
as on so much else.

Treating people as responsible, or discovering the responsibility in people, is our greatest
contribution to the future. Whether as parents, teachers or managers of organisations, we
have to decide how far what we do makes the most of others and ourselves. We prison
people can decide to make people into prisoners, which is all that we are actually required

to do, or go further in trying to reverse that process so that prisoners are not too damaged
by that, and are able to take on responsibility from the lower base of imprisonment.

The danger of having a faith as a drive in your life and work is that you can confuse
yourself into thinking that your faith justifies your work rather than tempers it. It is
rather the same as confusing moral standards with criminal ones. The law is our way of
regulating society. Morality is God’s way of stretching us towards him. It is not quite
true that the law is about the bottom line and morality about the top, but there is much
truth in it.

It is worth remembering that we leave the judgement to juries, not judges, because we
know the awful responsibility that involves. Prison Chaplains stand for love not
judgement (except perhaps on themselves). The centrality of the Chapel recognises our
acknowledgement of our human frailty and our dependence on our God. Our faith is a
celebration of our responsibility not a denial of it. But what a test faith makes of our
belief and of our pretensions as gaolers or as prisoners, as offenders or as punishers, as a
Church, as a persuasion.

The responsibility we allow to juries is by statute temporary, and necessarily so even for
indeterminate sentences (though the Life tariff is an arrogance some of us personally
reject). All of us recognise that what is humanly possible is a most severe test of us as
human beings in the prison world. Whatever our faith our mysterious God will always
show us how frail we are in that area.

For Christians He will always show us how infinite is His love, how severe the test, and
that our salvation is not justified by our works. That is just as well for all concerned who
accept the high responsibility of tackling criminality.

I imagine much of the above applies whatever our persuasion. Without a persuasion of
some kind, then it must be difficult to make much sense of what we do. Some faith, both
in others and in ourselves, gives us an additional incentive to allow responsibility as a
sign of our respect for the spirituality as well as the humanity of our fellows.

PART 3 – Reflections


It is risky to talk about suicide in almost any context, so powerful is the duty of care to
prevent it. But it would be irresponsible not to try to do so in the context of giving people
in prison responsible choices including life choices.

In some senses the issue is comparable with that outside prison. Prisoners can starve
themselves to death if they know what they are doing. It is almost impossible to prevent
the determined suicide, though recent evidence of a reduced rate resulting from an all-out
effort is very encouraging. Suicidal feelings are a private matter although they may occur
at some time or other to a large number of people in prison, particularly at times of stress
and uncertainty. Any suicide produces a degree of horror, of guilt, of anger, and of a new
sense of proportion of what matters in life.

And there are major differences between what happens inside and outside. Prison self-
harm can be about relief of pressure. It can be the opposite of a cry for help – a cry to be
left alone. It can be a terrible accident. It can show patterns which may exist only in the
eye of the beholder. Suicide investigations, or those into a death in custody of whatever
final determination, are closely hedged about by other forms of investigation as well as
the Inquest. Families have several hurdles to negotiate which would not exist outside. As
do the police. As do Coroners. Samaritans outside are not subject to the same difficulties
over confidentiality as are prisoner Listeners inside. The human rights of Freedom of
Information Privacy are more likely to conflict when a death occurs in prison. Prison is a
shell which hides as well as protects.

But arguably the notion of a person in prison having as full responsibility as they can
handle simplifies what is needed. Because prison takes away, prison staff must replace,
as far as they can.

What makes that difficult is being able to show that one has done all that one reasonably
can to make that replacement while at the same time treating with humanity. So, where
risk is high, the care has to be high and the reasons for that made clear. But equally
important, where the risk is low, then privacy should be weighted and granted.

And people need to know that risk for each individual is very hard to predict. Even when
anyone can initiate the special care required by the form F2052SH, we still miss four out
of five who succeed in killing themselves.

Running a prison as though all prisoners are dangerous, weak, sick, of poor intellect,
severely damaged and unable to take any responsibility is more likely to produce those
symptoms than to prevent them. To regard a prisoner, however low they may feel, and
however threatening of suicide, as still retaining capacity for choice, is eventually going
to provide the basis for re-building.

We have foresworn strip cells for the suicidal as we have foresworn closed visits for all
prisoners, though both are pretty safe systems to prevent their respective risks. We have
constantly to check that our systems which are designed to prevent a once-in-a-lifetime
incident are as well-rehearsed for suicidal incidents as for other emergencies.

The unlikelihood of the emergency does not invalidate the procedure, but its possibility
does not mean that we remove the risk altogether. With suicide the danger is that we
very quickly get into de-humanising if we remove all choices. We can bring about the
lack of responsibility which may be a contributor to the feeling of hopelessness.

How we approach self harm and suidide can demonstrate our regard for prisoners as
responsible people, for showing them that we know what we are doing and for asking
them and their families to take responsibility with us for that part of their custody.

A suicide will always strip away the unreality of prison for a period. If part of that
unreality is the perception of prisoners as being unable to take responsibility, we can do
something about that without waiting for a suicide.

PART 3 – Reflections


Asking someone’s opinion is a first step in showing them you value them. It is counter-
productive if you then ignore (as against over-ride) what they say. But if you do not ask in the
first place it is hard to convince them that you value them. That is why some prison staff have
difficulty in asking prisoners’ opinion, even suggesting that it is dangerous to do so. If you
believe that prisoners should have no say in their custody it would be dishonest to consult them.

The Human Rights agenda suggests that everyone, whether a prisoner or not, should have
freedom to speak and to associate if they want to do so. The English and Welsh Prison Service
has not used surveys, whether of staff or prisoners, as a significant part of policy formulation.
The Scots have done so for some years, and manage it tightly and speedily and personally with
every prisoner and every member of staff.

Few of the Governors who answered the questionnaire used surveys other than for simple matters
such as menus, sports and entertainment. Many said it would be inappropriate to do so for more
complex subjects such as deployment of staff, budget distribution, staff discipline, punishment or
population management. Those more cautious governors were not peculiar to the high security
estate. Indeed the spread of consulters was more or less evenly divided within that estate.

In practice however we witnessed few if any bars on subject matters which prisoners could raise
with staff and management. Whether they were satisfied with the outcome was not so easy to
say. In one highly consultative prison the use of prisoners to manage fish tanks was, in terms of
outcome, as unsuccessful as their request that they could be transferred to a near-neighbour open
prison. In another dealing with juveniles we witnessed suggestions on staff deployment, risk
management and handling indiscipline being handled in as adult a manner as anyone could have
wished by a manager who clearly welcomed such opportunities for clarification and shared

The culture on valuing people’s opinion, whether staff or prisoner, is all-important, and stems
from the Governor, and probably from the Director General and in turn Ministers personally.
And its manifestation is easy to demonstrate in terms of formal structures, minuted outcomes and
processes such as Surveys. The picture can be caricatured accurately between those Governors
who, like the Ombudsman, see voiced opinion and criticism as healthy, and its absence as cause
for concern. We are right to take what prisoners say seriously as a basis for a reciprocal respect.

The author has direct experience of the value and problems of local surveys, and has managed a
national major survey, and had the privilege of studying the process of regular surveys in
Scotland. The Inspectorate has also done a lot of work in trying to get a system which will
inform subsequent inspections which is acceptable to staff, and credible with Governors. There is
no doubt that a sensitive governor will pay great heed to what prisoners say to an independent
inspector, and the Director General has been known to double check this when the criticism is

This is one of the few papers in this report where there is a clear recommendation to support
prisoner responsibility which will have cost implications. There are however many other benefits
beside those of showing respect for prisoner opinion.

All Governors should conduct annual open prisoner surveys which have a national and a local
agenda. The Governor should have to answer for the response to the points raised. (The same
should apply to staff, but the Responsible Officer is not within the remit of this project, and it
does not follow that staff who are treated responsibly will treat prisoners responsibly, though it is
obviously desirable that they should).

Among the lessons from Scotland were the following.

1.   You need people who understand the system to design and administer surveys.

2.   Staff and prisoners are happier if familiar people can vouch for the exercise.

3.   Surveys are an inherent part of Public Relations. On their own they are an empty gesture.

4.   Persistence and continuity pay, but surveys must be organic, and be revised to reflect current concerns
     while maintaining core questions for trend analysis.

5.   Surveys are valuable in keeping the key issues (such as prisoners) centre stage.

6.   The actual Survey, though exhausting, is the least part. Planning and handling the dialogue which
     follows is the main effort. Costs reflect this balance of effort.

7.   The language is important. Surveys should be about support rather than Pass / Fail.

8.   Once you get past the fear stage, you will find local managers will use it for their own purposes.

9.   Local surveys don’t provide the national picture, but they do produce ownership and can be collated
     for national stats, and used by others such as Inspectors.

10. Feedback is crucial. Promise and deliver over as short a time-scale as possible, and point to results.
    For added credibility there should always be attention given to basic living conditions, and there
    should be evidence that they have been addressed.

11. Surveys are a Comma, not a Full Stop.

12. In Scotland a Research Liaison Officer in every gaol helps networking enormously, as does the fact
    that every member of staff has their own e-mail address, which they access through a far greater
    number of terminals than we currently have in England and Wales. RLOs meet 4 times a year. They
    each have 2 days training.

13. For those who remain to be convinced it is worth remembering that surveys meet an important
    Investors in People requirement.

14. Prisoners and staff should be given time to complete questionnaires. (Prisoners get a half-day, though
    it takes only a small part of that to administer).

15. Completion in cell avoids cross-contamination and contagious refusal. Doubling up helps with

16. Confidentiality is what professionals worry about, not prisoners, though they should be reassured on
    the point and the system should demonstrate secrecy.

17. Giant Dayglo posters pay off. Followed quickly by the visit and administration of the questionnaire.
    (In Scotland this is done personally by the Director of Research with a few other prison service staff
    who see all prisoners personally within a month, with the Report published two months after that).

18. Do not omit the Seg which often holds very influential prisoners.

19. Surveys need to dovetail with the planning cycle to ensure that plans and investment are checked
    against the most recent knowledge.

20. Identify your customers – business plans, public relations, Trade Unions, Staff Welfare, Training,
    Prisoner Sentence Plans, Programmes, IT investment, defeating a negative culture based on hearsay
    and replacing it with an open and accountable one.

21. Denial of ventilation and access to information is denial of responsibility. Openness and access is the
    test of the mature person’s ability to live with the consequences. Surveys provide a sound basis for
    responsible decision-taking and behaviour.


                       Attribution, appreciation and a look ahead

This project could not have taken place without the support of Michael Spurr and Colin
Allen and their respective staff, particularly Lucy Richardson with whom I conducted
most of the field trips.

Lucy is also willing to field any enquiries and refer them on to me. Her address with the
Inspectorate is Room 1015, 50 Queen Anne’s Gate SW1H 9AT (tel 020 7273 2735, fax

I could not have asked for more help and cooperation in taking on this project. Whether
on field visits or in a voluminous correspondence with staff, Prison Service headquarters,
prisoners and special interest groups the theme has obviously touched several chords. Of
necessity I have had to leave many avenues unexplored due to lack of time.

I was particularly grateful for the time given when visiting establishments and
organisations, some more than once. These included:

Altcourse, Belmarsh, Doncaster, Grendon, Highpoint, Hollesley Bay (Carlford Unit), Holloway,
Lancaster Farms, Lincoln, Low Newton, Portland, Preston, Prison Reform Trust, Reading,
Scottish Prison Service HQ, Wormwood Scrubs, Wolvercote Clinic.

If I attempted to list everyone who has helped it would take too much space and might
imply a consensus in some areas where none existed. It is also probably true to say that
the theme raises questions in areas which have not fully or recently been explored, and
many contributors have voiced reflections rather than views: hence the title of Part 3. It
would have been difficult to attribute opinion in such cases.

In attempting to do justice to these contributions it is perhaps worth mentioning here a
few of the current themes which people have suggested should be informed by the notion
of the responsible prisoner.

Regarding social exclusion the application of the principle suggests taking a ‘holistic’
view, longitudinally, of many episodes of ‘failure’, of engagement with the criminal
justice process, to provide a more realistic idea of what a custodial sentence might
achieve – and what further damage it might do (necessary though custody might be for
other reasons). The principle of offender responsibility suggests that we might take a
more positive view, against the background that many persistent young offenders do not
grow up into persistent old offenders. This supports the Halliday principle of interim-
ness, of checking progress – though it has reservations as to who might be the appropriate
people to do that, with a danger of confusing the judiciary’s function with that of the

There is much that is good in Halliday. It requires us to make better use of the disposals
open to the Courts, and that the Courts themselves should face the consequences of their
actions. It requires the executive to watch what is going on, and take powers to change
the sentence if it is not working. But Halliday is about punishment. And punishment is
about reducing choices, about hurt, about making an example, about short-term
satisfaction of victims and ‘the public’. So Halliday needs to be seen in a wider context,
and part of that context is about offenders retaining some control, some choices, some

‘What works’ is a growing industry, and one whose shape is changing, and set to go on
changing. We have to be very careful not to suggest that prison is a preferred choice, and
the more of it and the longer the better for it to ‘work’. We need to remember that there
seem to be a lot of people who are able to handle it all on their own without our
intervention. How can it work if we didn’t think of it first? It may be in the nature of
people to try to find, make and take responsibility – for themselves. We need to be
careful that ‘What Works’ programmes do not actually stifle that.

Safer prisons are only half the story, but a most necessary half, and one where the Prison
Service will always be vulnerable to public criticism when it is shown to be at fault. It is
the core business of the Service to run safe prisons. But we have to be careful to make
sure that we have not removed risk to the point where people cease to be people

The art of running a prison is to provide as much opportunity for testing risk while the
offender is in custody, as far as one can, safely. A safe prison is a good start, but a safe
prisoner may be disabled when it comes to coping with release.

It would hardly be fair not to mention inspection and its effect on the ability of prisoners
to take responsibility. Prison sentences are about risk management, whether of risk to the
system or to the public, and about the minimum of de-humanisation needed to execute
the sentence. Of the large number of audits and inspections (some 15 were listed at one
point, including line management responsibilities), each will have its own particular
search agenda. That can confuse a governor as to what she is supposed to be doing. If ,
for example, one inspector is focusing on measures of efficiency, another on quality of
life, another on success after release, and another on a range of customer satisfaction, it
will be tempting to play one off against another. If one checks every five years and
another every month and another every year, that will affect the length of action plan
targets. If one will decide budget allocation and another the future of the Area Manager,
priorities will be affected. And if inspectors merge rather than share, they may lose their
unique perspective which acts as a vital check on too narrow a focus overall.

It may be helpful to remember that there is an essential triangle of commissioner,
executor and auditor. The prisoner, if responsible, has a role to play in all three.

Responses (in italics) to Points raised by prisoners at the 1st Highpoint Conference 13 July

1. ‘You need far more information about imprisonment at the beginning, particularly about your
   own sentence. No staff seemed to know much about Life sentences. I did not know I had a
   12 year tariff until I had been sentenced 3 years’.

        This is picked up in ‘Reflections – Sentence Management’ as a priority for Induction
        staff training.

2. One Lifer still cannot read or write after 15 years.

     See I (above) and several other references to Induction and Sentence Management

3. You need to feel good to be good. You need to feel responsible to be responsible. I have
   done a bad thing, but that does not make me a bad person.

        Perhaps picked up most strongly under ‘Reflections – Restoration’. Also in the first
        paper ‘Introduction – An Invitation to Change’.

4. Such a waste of skills. Some very highly qualified people doing quite inappropriate jobs in
   some prisons – caterers brick-building.

        This is referred to in a number of places mainly in the context of Sentence Planning. It
        also underpins Question 29 re responsible jobs, and Governor’s answers to Q 30.

5. Keeping your head down is what is rewarded, not challenging or stretching yourself.

        Picked up in ‘Reflections – Rewards’, and several other places cautioning against
        rewarding institutional conformity alone, and preventing people from reaching their
        potential as people.

6. Really helpful to de-mystify prison by letting families and Probation Officers come onto the

        Picked up in Part 3 – Reflections: The Family’.

7. You have to know what responsibility feels like to take it on. Many of us have not had the
   experience. Just helping others to learn to read and write gives you some feeling for it.

    This is picked up in many places. Its limitations are also suggested, eg as to the need for
    training for juveniles and others to perform some of the more specialised responsibilities.

8. Life does not always get better as you move on in your sentence. ‘I feel I am banging my
   head against a brick wall after 18 months, and despite recently getting my Cat D. Staff can
   lose their sense of decency and direction when there are senior management changes. Small
   issues become big ones, and my family has nearly been destroyed because they have shared
   my anxiety. Important systems such as posting mail, delaying Requests and Complaints,
   getting phone calls and visits on time all suffer when staff lose confidence or there are staff

        The points about loss of a sense of decency and the importance of basic entitlements, and
        the need for evidence of continuity are picked up under Reflections – Encouraging
        Responsible Risk Management’, and ‘Private Responsibility’

9. Being unable to take responsibility because it is denied to you is not the same as being

        This is picked up in many places, particularly the Introduction papers. Quoted in the first

10. We should share a sense of being a team with staff since we share mainly the same goals.

        Specifically mentioned in ‘Introduction – Givens’.

11. The main problems in behaving responsibly are inconsistency and poor communications.

        This is a major theme, perhaps most strongly stated in ‘Part 3 – Encouraging
        Responsible Risk Management’.

12. The lack of staff training is most serious when it comes to safety, including training in child
    abuse and the background of some of the girls in prison. Even simple things like strip
    searching without dressing gowns make people feel like animals and lead to disrespect for
    staff who can otherwise be good people.

        Both picked up in ‘Introduction – Givens’.

13. Staff must not take away your self-esteem: it is sometimes all you have left. It is not helpful
    to be told, when you ask for help, ‘You did the crime. Now you can do the time’ – seems to
    have given some staff an excuse to behave cruelly. When there was a barricade no one asks
    ‘What is the problem?’.

        Quoted in Part 3 – Reflections: Restoration

14. Staff really enjoy helping when they are trained, and are clear as to what their job is.

     Quoted in the conclusion of ‘Part 3 – Encouraging Responsible Risk Management’.

15. For some, family days are critical. For others they are too painful, or irrelevant. But that
    does not mean that their importance for some should be forgotten.

        Emphasised in ‘Part 3 – Reflections: The Family’

16. It has become noticeably more difficult for women to talk to male staff who seem to have
    been warned off them

        Quoted in Part 3 – Reflections ‘The Responsible Prisoner and the Officer’.

17. The more responsibility we have, the better self-controlled we are.

        Emphasised as a ‘Given’ in the Introductory papers.

18. Whatever happens in prison can be important to my family.

        Emphasised in ‘Part 3 – Reflections: The Family’

19. First impressions – and poor initial information and communications – are very important and
    can easily be put right.

        Picked up in several places, particularly Part 3 – Reflections: Sentence Management’.

20. The Prison Service needs to be very careful when it involves families. Each one is different.
    Visits can be worse than useless, especially stressful with no privacy or intimacy.

        Emphasised in ‘Part 3 – Reflections: The Family’. The problem of lack of privacy is not
        addressed because there is very little one can do against the need for good observation.

21. ‘Everyone needs someone. People like to belong. In my case my family and God have pulled
    me through: my family’s standards are far higher than any standards I have met in prison’.

        Quoted in ‘Part 3 – Encouraging Responsible Risk Management’.

22. ‘My family is the problem. That is why I have decided to have no visits in 6½ years’.

        Emphasised in ‘Part 3 – Reflections: The Family’

23. As well as being ex-offenders we are people all the way through.

        The central theme of Part 3 – Reflections: The ex-prisoner, ex-offender. Title
        regained’. Also in several Introduction papers and Restoration.

24. Secrecy and confidentiality can get out of hand. How far we can be open depends very much
    on what the Governor encourages – as at Grendon. In the wrong context our efforts to help
    each other can be misconstrued and even punished; for example if we are thought to be
    hanging around in the wrong company or are thought to be bullied by the person we are
    trying to help.

        Picked up in Question 27 re holding information in confidence.

25. How I am addressed can stay with me for a long time, good or bad. Being ordered around
    doesn’t help. I would not dream of treating anyone the way some staff treat me in prison. I
    don’t want to go home and go on behaving like I am expected to do as a prisoner. It is very
    unusual in prison to hear ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. That feels very odd. Especially as we are
    allowed to wear our own clothes and therefore sometimes feel quite human.

        Picked up in Part 3 Reflections: Private Responsibility’ and elsewhere.

26. After-care is important, but so is ‘during’-care with those we love.

        Emphasised in ‘Part 3 – Reflections: The Family’

27. Some staff are outstandingly good. They go out of their way to help, and they take a lot of

        Recognised in Part 3 – Reflections ‘The Responsible Prisoner and the Officer’.

28. The way I have made myself free is to do everything for myself and be dependent on no one.
    I felt free when I opted out of parole. Because I don’t want to let an officer get at me I won’t
    allow them to talk to me in a derogatory manner.

             Picked up in ‘Part 3 – Encouraging Responsible Risk Management’.

29. Initially I had everything I wanted when I came into a Dispersal prison. But since then they
    have slowly taken everything that mattered to me away. I fear not being as able as I was to
    communicate when I return to the community.

        Referred to in ‘Part 3 – Reflections: Information and Communication’.

30. We must be allowed to fail sometimes without it being held against us for ever

        Quoted at the end of Part 3 – Reflections: Sentence Management’.

31. Staff should have feedback sessions with prisoners as they do at Grendon and some other
    places. It is sometimes a frightening job, and even professionals need time and criticism.

        Quoted in Part 3 – Reflections: Sentence Management’

32. A lot of officers who are seen as bad actually need to be properly managed and trained if they
    are to be able to operate as the people they are.

        Recognised in Part 3 – Reflections ‘The Responsible Prisoner and the Officer’.

33. It is amazing how much talent prisoners have when they are allowed to show it. Officers jobs
    would be much less stressful if they learned how to make use of us scumbags: there are so
    many things we could do for ourselves, and them.

        Quoted as ‘Comment’ against Question 29 in the Governors’ Questionnaire.

34. Some of the ways in which we could learn to take responsibility are very simple, such as
    being able to fill in forms ourselves.

        A point made in several places.

35. Are staff allowed to change or take responsibility, and is time allowed for them to work with
    prisoners who are trying to change?

        Recognised in Part 3 – Reflections ‘The Responsible Prisoner and the Officer’, and
        Encouraging Responsible Risk Management’

36. Inter-activity between staff and prisoners seems to be normal in some prisons and completely
    banned in others. Not only does it lower barriers, but it helps both groups to see each other as
    human beings. Without this you see the bad things a lot ‘louder’ than they really are.

        Quoted in Part 1 – Introduction: the Origin of the Project’

37. There can be a problem when trust is abused and power is taken away. The aim should be to
    trust people until they prove they cannot hold it, and then give them a chance to learn from
    their mistakes rather than punish immediately. There will always be times when people
    abuse trust; that is part of learning and growing up.

        Recognised in Part 1 – Introduction: Givens’.

38. But trusting people is stressful, and the more you do, the higher the stress, but also the greater
    the pleasure when it works.

        Recognised in Part 3 – Reflections: Sentence Management, and ‘The Responsible
        Prisoner and the Officer’.

39. Successful risk-taking is so often not recorded, nor the added value which results.

        Recognised in ‘Part 3 – Reflections: Rewards’.

40. Whatever else one may say about them, prisons are supposed to help people

        Quoted as the final ‘Given’ in Part 1.

                   2nd Highpoint Conference – 28th September 2001
The first conference scoped a wide range of issues which prisoners felt contributed to or inhibited
their ability to take responsibility. Those are reflected in the foregoing report. The second
conference explored some of those issues in greater depth.

These notes are given in their draft form more or less as they were spoken. They are not attributable
to particular people or prisons unless so indicated.

1.   A bad experience at the first establishment made it very difficult to improve in one’s attitude later.

2.   Taking away Association and substituting TVs in cells takes away the opportunity to improve social

3.   The staff seem to have forgotten that more is needed than TVs to make life worth living.

4.   Accepted that staff should not spoon feed relationships, but that does not excuse withdrawing to their
     office, and using their position to make prisoners dependent on trivial things, for example ignoring a
     prisoner who has some simple request such as being given a key to a cupboard so that they can do their
     job. Staff should be careful not to let physical barriers such as counters and desks block
     communication. ‘Enhanced’ is not an excuse for staff to stop bothering to interact.

5.   The privileges of ‘Enhanced’ don’t make a whole life change. Conforming is only the beginning of the
     story, not the end.

6.   Taking away TV if we are ‘naughty’ is what one might do to a child. Surely there can be more adult
     ways of dealing with poor behaviour and of rewarding responsible behaviour.

7.   Consistency of standards should not only apply to prisoner behaviour. There should be an overall
     consistency and expectation right through the service, with the emphasis on the best. There is no
     reason to accept second best when it comes to how staff and prisoners treat each other.

8.   The IEP scheme expects me to behave responsibly by attaining enhanced status and to earn and save
     money. I then decide to save my money to buy a stereo. When I am then moved on to another prison
     they say I cannot have it in possession and will have either to store it or hand it out. That is unfair and
     a disincentive to behave responsibly.

9.   The culture of ‘We don’t have to give a reason. It is sufficient to say that it is policy’ has to go. It is
     the sign of arrogance and a determination to keep people down, whether staff or prisoner.

10. Responsibility comes from within, not from being granted privileges or from being punished.

11. Being a normal prisoner is not the same as being a normal person. You can be a tow-rag at the same
    time as being an ‘enhanced’ prisoner.

12. There needs to be some way of recognising responsibility separately from conformity. Not that
    conformity is unimportant, but it is only necessary as a baseline of the standard expected.

13. It is perfectly possible to have most of a prison doing more than just conforming, and deserving
    ‘enhanced’ ‘privileges’. It is nonsense to deny people these privileges because they are in short supply
    when their behaviour has earned them.

14. Staff need to learn, and set an example, of speaking to prisoners without threatening them.

15. Prisoners should not have to re-establish credibility each time they move, whether between or within
    prisons. Obviously they will all be different, and disoriented when they move, and each circumstance
    will be different, but receiving staff should assume an underlying wish to behave responsibly and let
    that come through, rather than trying to impose some humiliation to make a point about their authority,
    and achieve an underlying resentment, even from the most responsible prisoners. Prisoners respond to
    an expectation of responsibility; if they don’t, then they can be advised.

16. Simple things matter a lot. Freedom of movement is an area of great inconsistency. Even though it is
    within defined boundaries it is greatly valued in terms of self-esteem (eg at Carlford Unit). Own
    clothes are very important, though families can pay a high price and they are not easy to administer
    and there is wide variation between similar establishments, often due to lack of imagination.

17. ‘Cons help Cons’ should be recognised more. That, and the fact that Cons want to help staff rather
    than undermine them. That is common sense, because they want to feel safe rather than hostile.


18. Stephen Shaw opened the discussion after lunch. ‘ IEP tries to encourage responsible behaviour and
    discourage irresponsible behaviour (prisoner: ‘conformity more than responsibility’). In your personal
    experience does it achieve that?’

    19. Not much if the range of privileges is small, eg just TV.

    20. If the underlying atmosphere is oppressive, IEP is only relatively encouraging.

    21. If the underlying atmosphere is encouraging and responsible , IEP is hardly needed.

    22. It is meaningless for those of us for whom decent behaviour and determination to make something
        of life is the norm – and most of us are probably in that category if given the chance.

    23. Some of the privileges are meaningless or even irritating. For example there are a number of us
        who have no visits, or choose to have them rarely, or do not want our families to have to send in
        cash, and they can actually encourage us to behave selfishly and just assume our visitors will
        conform to what we have earned.

    24. IEP ought to reflect people’s starting point. A major improvement for some people is the starting
        point for others.

    25. It is very helpful to get onto a drug-free unit as a result of conformity.

    26. IEP is about control, and has produced a three-class society, based on material rewards. It should
        offer opportunities for more choices, more responsibility, more time, more space.

    27. IEP should not be subject to the strike of a red pen. Staff should be accountable for what they
        write, and for reflecting responsible as well as irresponsible behaviour.

    28. IEP assumes that cleanliness and conformity are the exception; they should be the rule everywhere
        and for everyone.

    29. Town visits are very important, especially for long-termers, to keep in touch with what is going on
        outside, and with another side of themselves. Resettlement runs throughout the sentence, and so
        therefore should home leave once we are known to be trustworthy whether we are serving more or
        less than 4 years (those serving 4 years or more are not entitled).

    30. For most IEP makes no difference to how they behave. Sometimes it can actually make people
        behave worse by setting what should be the basic standard as the highest, and buy giving staff the
        impression that their job stops after they have achieved conformity.

    31. IEP can lead to double punishment: reduction to basic can follow punishment on adjudication, and
        the problem of re-establishing credibility with staff as a responsible person from a position where
        that is not easy to prove. That can be much worse than formal punishment, where you can usually
        more or less pick up where you left off before the adjudication. ‘Being on Basic is exactly the
        same as being in the block, but without an adjudication or a clear process’.

    32. For the depressed or suicidal it simply makes the bad worse, and staff behaviour can be
        judgmental rather than understanding. ‘After my brother died, my withdrawal was recorded as
        giving black looks, even by an officer who knew about it’.

    33. We should not take people out of society if we want to make them better members of society.

    34. IEP gave us [staff] control at a time when we desperately needed it.

    35. Down-grading to ‘Basic’ is very hard to recover from. There should always be an exit strategy
        worked up with the prisoner. Unlike good Segs, there is no requirement of any staff to help
        prisoners get off Basic. If the purpose is to get a prisoner to ‘reflect’, what happens if the prisoner
        doesn’t like what he sees and cannot see how to improve the reflected picture?

    36. The system is very powerful and should be overseen directly by the Governor and closely
        monitored by the Area Manager. It is scrutinised far less than adjudications, but it can have far
        greater consequences for prisoners.

37. The Chairman then asked the Director of Doncaster, who had served in many public sector prisons
    before taking charge of Doncaster in 1993 ‘Why are private prisons different in how they handle
    responsibility?’ He said the following.

    38. I am totally responsible for a contract which is my baseline – the least I am required to do. I
        always need to do better than that.

    39. The basic unit of 3 officers to 90 prisoners is our community, with the assumption that the
        prisoners are an integral part who are required to help, and who do not want to do harm to that
        basic assumption. They are given responsibility to do that. It is in many senses their prison as
        well as the staff’s prison. That is simple reality.

    40. My contract gives me a blank sheet to say what services I need. I recruit staff on the basis that, if
        you want good behaviour, you will get it, and if you show respect you will get it in return. So the
        staff need to be good and to understand that, and that if they lose control and lose respect and there
        is an actual price in money to be paid as a result, we will have to pay that actual price for it.

    41. And they are my staff.

    42. Prisoners and Listeners attend the relevant staff and management meetings, with representatives
        meeting the senior management team weekly under my chairmanship. Prisoners are expected to
        show full responsibility, and we are not disappointed.

    43. In answer to the question ‘How far is the quality due to the supervision of the contract by the
        Prison Service Controller?’, Kevin Rogers replied ‘It makes no difference because we operate well
        above the minimum standard of the Contract. I have even more auditors than there are in the
        public sector. The only real difference is that the Controller adjudicates, and I should be required
        to do that as part of my accountability anyway’.

    44. In answer to the point that the private sector is able to draw on the best which the public sector can
        offer, the Director said that he felt that the special requirement for leadership and responsibility in
        a prison was clearer, and quoted the big handicaps under which he had been constrained in the
        public sector which he had been determined to leave behind.

    45. It was commented that it was clear that. In the private sector, accountability could be seen as
        something more concrete, a specific undertaking as against an accountability in the public sector
        to do whatever you were told to do.

    46. The Director, who had to leave early, ended by saying that he was also able to invest personally in
        the future of his prison with greater certainty over his future and that of Doncaster. ‘Everyone
        knows I have always been there for the future. We have staff shortages, sickness, and budget cuts
        just like anyone else, but we know we still have to deliver, and go on delivering, and cannot rely
        on being bailed out by others. We have to rely on each other, including prisoners’.

47. After Kevin Rogers left it was commented that this shows that accountability can only be discharged
    responsibly if there is transparency.

48. A prisoner commented that she had not met much sense of accountability: sometimes staff seemed not
    to recognise even their basic obligations, or to be able to distinguish between their discretion and their
    lawful duty. Another questioned how there could be such a difference in understanding between the
    two sectors.

49. The final phase of the conference focused on ‘Information’.

50. Prisoners should be able to get hold of accurate and up-to-date information so that they can manage
    family matters themselves as far as possible. It doesn’t exist routinely. Mark Leech’s gazetteer is
    difficult to get hold of. This lack of accuracy and accessibility was confirmed as a widespread problem
    by staff and prisoners alike (as it has been by many who were involved in the scoping of the Project).
    It was pointed out that Quantum would make the information available to and by each establishment,
    which would then have to make sure it was available to prisoners, families and others.

51. The young confirmed what adults said, that they needed early knowledge of what is going to happen to
    them from people in authority who know. There is no reason why prisoners could not be trained to
    help with this, as some are to help with providing accurate information about key resettlement
    questions of accommodation and work. There is very little known by most staff about life sentences or
    the transitions for young long-termers – even at senior levels.

52. There seems to be no accountability at all in some of the most critical areas. “I was told the Parole
    process ‘begins in May’. It is now October, and no one, but no one, can tell me where I am. Surely
    someone has to be accountable for that. Staff - the Prison Service – whatever – simply don’t seem to
    understand that as a basic right”.

53. The problem is particularly clear when dealing with patients who may include some of the least
    adequate people who will sometimes have the least ability to express their need, the least
    understanding of their rights or how the system works, and the greatest need to achieve their potential.

54. The point was re-emphasised – that if you start off being treated as someone who is entitled to
    information, you are more likely to behave responsibly, to be seen as accountable. The reverse is
    equally true, that if you are not, you are more likely to behave without responsibility because you do
    not know for what you are responsible. That calls for clear understanding by all who manage entry to
    the system and subsequent induction in further prisons. It also calls for proper assessment of what
    those staff need in terms of time and information if they can avoid ‘starting from the bottom’ or
    treating all the same regardless of individual need each time.

55. Family ties are even more important for long-termers who have them, especially for the young who
    need to continue to grow up with their families as far as possible.

56. It was suggested that it could be useful to have a responsible prisoner perspective with the work of the
    Inspectorate and of that of the Ombudsman.

57. A final point was the need never to let the excellent be betrayed by the good, nor the good by the
    barely acceptable. Most of what had been discussed was a matter of re-thinking rather than of
    resources. You can pump resources into bad thinking without achieving any change.

Participants in the second Highpoint Conference

      Colin Allen (D/Chief Prison Inspector)
      Gail Bradley (Prison Service HQ)
      Keith Burgess (Highpoint South)
      Nina Buckby (Prison Service HQ)
      Paul Callendar (Highpoint South)
      Phil Derbyshire (Highpoint)
      P T Forster (Highpoint South)
      Robert Fuller (Carlford Unit H B)
      Carmel George (Highpoint)
      Anna Gray (Highpoint North)
      Jean Hutton (Grubb Institute)
      John Jopling + 16 (Highpoint)
      Val Keitch (Prison Service HQ)
      Caroline Kirk (Board of Visitors)
      Cynthia Lewis (Highpoint North)
      Michael McDonald (Highpoint South)
      Ann Norman (Prison Health Policy Unit)
      Peter Owen +2 (Carlford Unit, H B)
      Ricky Palmer (Highpoint)
      Jeremy Pollard (Highpoint South)
      John Rea Price (HM Inspectorate)
      Rev Bruce Reed (Grubb Institute)
      Lucy Richardson (HM Inspectorate)
      Kevin Rogers (Director, Doncaster)
      Rev Peter Sedgwick (Board of Social Responsibility)
      Stephen Shaw (Prisons and Probation Ombudsman)
      Clare Sparks (Institute for Public Policy Research)
      Josie Smith (Highpoint North)
      John Sutcliffe (Prison Service HQ)
      John Warth (Highpoint South)


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