Tuesday, 29 November 2011


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Mark Clark

Editor Inside 'n' Out

Monday, 7 November 2011


by prisonofficer on November 5, 2011

PP A view from the landings.

IPP Indeterminate for Public Protection.

From an officers point of view this is a nightmare situation. Give a prisoner a life sentence with a low tariff (often under two years) and almost no way of securing a route out of prison. Add to this the propensity of IPP prisoners to have mental health issues or “personality disorders” and the fact that nearly all IPP prisoners drift wildly over tariff, the result is conflict. Lashings of it.

I have acted as personal officer to a number of IPP prisoners but I’ve only seen one move on. He had no discernible mental health issues, he found out what he needed to do, got his head down and got it done. He was released near tariff. This strategy is wildly out of reach for most IPP prisoners.

Being blunt about IPP sentences it seems that a persons mental health issue will reflect itself in their crime. Levels of violence will be excessive or bizarre, crimes themselves will be unusual or odd. A feature of the IPP prisoners I have dealt with is how very few crimes have a profit or monetary gain ambition. Most prisoners tell of very dramatic situations, fake guns, fire, hostages, churches, fear and attention. Very few speak of robbery or theft or money.

You can’t speak of IPP sentences without mentioning Joseph Hellers book, Catch22. I am reminded of one particular incident in the book that relates so closely to IPP.
“If you want to see the base Major you may wait in his waiting room only when he is not in his office. When the Major is in his office you may not wait in his waiting room to see him.”
The Catch22 for IPP prisoners runs something like this;
“You will be considered for release when you have completed certain courses and shown acceptable behaviour. The courses don’t run anymore and the secret behaviour passwords are Not Mentally Ill Anymore”

Why 'John Lewis jails' are better for corporations than for prisoners

A thinktank wants to cut crime with 'John Lewis jails', but the plan to get prisoners working looks more like a new opportunity for giant corporations

The Guardian,

Yesterday afternoon, it was announced that the prison population has hit its all-time high: at 87,749, it is 76 higher than the previous record set at the start of last month. They promised us a rehabilitation revolution. When Ken Clarke gruffly took the stage to spell out the government's prison policy, in June last year, he said reoffending had to be brought down; he said prison sentences didn't necessarily work; he talked about the "bang em up" culture, and how it produced more hardened criminals; he hinted at sentencing reform, and alternatives to custody. The overwhelming impression was that with this man in charge, there would be fewer people in prison.

There followed what commentators call "disarray": David Cameron backed Clarke, at the same time insisting he believed in short sentences – which two positions are basically opposite (and not in a sophisticated way). Michael Howard piled in; backbenchers were displeased. The prison population grew. It has now topped 87,000 prisoners for 12 weeks in a row. Maximum capacity is 89,000. Relations between prisoners and staff are already deteriorating. One professional wondered, off the record, if "this is the year it's all going to kick off".

Last week, Clarke appeared before a select committee, and said he was against mandatory sentencing for juniors carrying knives, and against three-strikes-and-you're-out rules on principle, because judges always found a way to get round them. But later last week, Nick Herbert, the minister for policing and criminal justice, announced there would be mandatory sentences for knife crimes, juvenile or not.

In April, Birmingham became the first prison in the UK to move from public to private hands. At the beginning of this week, the first tender document went out for nine other prisons; bids are invited from the public and private sectors. The companies bidding will be the same vast corporations that have hoovered up contracts elsewhere in the public sector: Capita, G4S, A4E, Serco, Sedexo. There are "new kids on the block", but they aren't exactly kids – they're companies of a similar size, from elsewhere in the world: Amey, Geo. What is certain, even at this early stage in the bidding process (where companies are selected for their "qualification" to bid), is that the contracts are too large to be bid for by social enterprise organisations.

To read more, click here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/theguardian/2011/nov/05/rehab-revolution-uk-prisons

Young people left on the sidelines

guardian.co.uk, Friday 4 November 2011

The problems young people face trying to find a job are shocking (Young, willing and desperate, G2, 2 November), and with nearly 1 million young people aged between 16 and 24 unable to find a job, the government must act.

Small firms do want to employ, but lack the resources that would enable them do to so. Research by the Federation of Small Businesses shows that only 8% of small firms took on an apprentice in the past year, but four in 10 said they would take someone on with a wage subsidy. At the same time, the FSB is aware that people need money for everyday living. That is why we would support a rise in the national minimum wage to £123 a week for apprentices – a figure roughly in line with the rate for 16- to 17-year-olds.

Extending work trials by making them available from the first day someone signs on to jobseeker's allowance could help create 46,000 jobs. The government could also reinstate the Graduate Internship Scheme. Our research shows that a quarter of all internships end up turning into a full-time role and that, better still, young people exposed to working in small businesses are more likely to set up their own business.

The government must ensure young people are not hindered at the very beginning of their career, but it must also take into account the atmosphere that small firms are trading in. We cannot afford to watch this generation just disappear.
John Walker
National chairman, FSB

• I agree with much of Zoe Williams' article (Don't blame the young – it's the jobs that have vanished, 3 November), and would add the following: one of the main reasons why young people cannot get jobs is that the current employment legislation discourages small businesses from employing them. There are many thousands of businesses who would take on additional staff except for the fact that in the event of a business downturn, it can be difficult and expensive to get rid of them. In times of prosperity and full employment all employees should enjoy the same job protection. In these economically difficult times, this government should be doing all it can to encourage businesses to employ young people.
Joe Haynes
Wargrave, Berkshire

• Zoe Williams is right to demand an end to blaming unemployment on young people and their education, and to call instead for collective responsibility. The CBI, which denounced the "chaotic school-work transition" in last week's Action for Jobs report, calls too for the business community to quit "complaining from the sidelines". But in lobbying for a national insurance refund for employers who retain a young person for a year, the report undermines its own sense of urgency. The nation and its jobless youths don't have the luxury of waiting for such policy changes. This is in large measure a business issue, and one businesses must play a lead role in fixing, with or without government subsidies.

Some, including key players in the insurance industry such as the Chartered Insurance Institute and Legal & General, already invest seriously in schools volunteering programmes designed to develop young people's skills and appetites for careers in their sectors. It's time for other businesses to get into the classroom.
Nigel Rayment
Director, Magnified Learning

• Zoe Williams is right to highlight the difficulty that young people with criminal records face in finding a job. However, her suggestion that "not many young people have criminal records" is questionable; more than a quarter of men have been convicted of a criminal offence before the age of 30.

For young adults with little or no experience of work, a criminal record can prove particularly difficult to overcome. In its green paper Breaking the Cycle, the government set out much-needed proposals to improve the employment opportunities of all offenders, including reform of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. Since then, however, plans to review this ineffective legislation appear to have sunk without trace.

Employment significantly reduces the risk of reoffending. A clear plan to get more ex-offenders, including young adults, into work, should be a priority.
Vicki Helyar-Cardwell
Director, Criminal Justice Alliance

The Cell Project in the Royal Festival Hall: Discussions in a prison cell

Posted on November 3, 2011 by themagnificentsomething

People in a small screen, having a muted conversation. The space is fairly claustrophobic, yet in the saturated colours it is shown, the people in it do not seem threatening.

And then you take a step to the right, and here they are. Participants visiting someone that has spent time in prison, all together in a very small space. In a cell. A cell that is constructed to government guidelines, and looks like what you imagined it would look like, yet a bit different. Strangely, it looks lived in, and that incites a mixture of interest and fear.

Hosted in the Royal Festival Hall in Southbank, Rideout created and presented The Cell Project. There is an electric buzz around it, and just standing next to it invokes really powerful emotions. Saul Hewish, the co-director at Rideout is contributing to that: he talks to visitors, his passion and energy drawing them in, and he is equally engaging during our talk. He explains to me how the project took life after a discussion about the Empty Shop Network, when an impossible idea came up: ‘imagine putting a cell in a shop!’. And that is what they did.

After two installations in shopping centres (the Mander Centre in Wolverhampton in 2010; and Piccadilly, Hanley in Stoke-on-Trent in 2011), the project is now in an artistically aware environment instead of a retail destination. Saul tells me how the spaces have made difference (imagine walking into a shopping centre to find a prison cell!), however explains the general response to the project: participants find it a powerful and profound experience, that demands to challenge their views on prison (usually shaped by TV series, media, and reports that portray prisons as comfortable and luxurious summer camps).

Yet the project challenges these views. ‘Luxuries’ like a rug or a guitar are accentuated, and visitors can take part in a survey that examines the concept of the luxurious provisions.

Saul explains how the project’s main target is to raise issues of the criminal justice on a public forum, and demystify the views on jails and prisoners. It is really powerful being inside the space,and talking to people that have been through the real experience. As Saul says, this is a experience that can not really happen: people can not visit cells in prisons,there are specific prison areas for visitations. So being in the space holds so much meaning, emotion, and power for the visitor.

Even though the piece is now over, keep an eye on the Ride Out Current Projects page for any upcoming events, as well as the Cell Project website for more information. it is a truly powerful and immensely thought-provoking experience.

Prisoners to get Halifax bank accounts as they prepare for release

By Sarah Whitebloom

Last updated at 3:01 PM on 6th November 2011

The Halifax is to offer bank accounts to prisoners across the country as they prepare for release.

The campaign aims to sever the link between reoffending and the lack of access to basic financial services.

Many released prisoners have struggled because bank accounts can be vital when seeking jobs, benefits, grants and allowances.

And it is almost impossible to find accommodation without a bank account.

By next April, Halifax, owned by Lloyds Banking Group, expects to be offering basic banking facilities in 20 jails.

Anthony Warrington, director of current accounts at Halifax, said: ‘Not having an account is a real barrier to reintegration into society.’

The bank will become the largest account provider for the sector with about 5,700 accounts per year being opened for prisoners.

Basic money management training will be offered in prisons with the support of the Halifax and UNLOCK, the national association of exoffenders.

Christopher Stacey, head of projects and services at UNLOCK, said: ‘The accounts will give people released from prison a chance to secure employment and become contributors to their communities.’

Strict guidelines will govern the accounts. To be eligible, prisoners will have to be less than 12 months from release, they must not be undischarged bankrupts or guilty of financial crimes and they must undergo all the usual identity checks.

Prisons Minister Crispin Blunt said: ‘We welcome this new service that can help offenders resettle on release. ‘A bank account makes it possible for offenders to go straight into employment.'

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Report highlights ‘an improving prison’ at Blundeston

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Inspectors at Blundeston Prison have expressed serious concerns over further budget cuts – questioning the safety of prisoners and staff in the midst of any potential changes.

The fears have been raised in the Suffolk prison’s Independent Monitoring Board’s (IMB) annual report, which is published today (November 1).

The report for the category C jail near Lowestoft, which caters for 520 male inmates, has highlighted six key concerns for the Prison’s Minister Crispin Blunt and five concerns to the Prison Service.

Chairman Michael Cadman said: “Of particular and continuing concern are the funding reductions which continue into this year and next. There is a proposed cut of 4pc, the IMB is informed, this year with a likely similar cut in the following year.

“In quantitative terms that means a minimum of £500,000 being taken from the budget in the year 2012/13 but with other knock-on effects it is more likely to be £800,000 or even higher. The IMB is informed that should the proposed cuts in staffing levels for next year go ahead this will mean the loss of 35 officers in the past 18 months and 35pc of all operational grades,” Mr Cadman said.

“The questions have to be asked about the wisdom of such cuts, not only from the internal security aspects of the prison with regards to the safety of prisoners and staff, but also how such cuts are compatible with the government’s green paper ’Breaking the cycle’ and the much heralded ‘Rehabilitation Revolution.”

The annual IMB report, which runs from July 2010 to June 2011, for the Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice speaks of an improving prison - particularly since the critical Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector’s of Prison’s (HMCIP) report that was published earlier this year.

Mr Cadman said: “It is fair to say that the IMB did not accept some of the report and raised some issues with the HMCIP, however the Blundeston Prison Governor (David Bamford) and his management team have wisely used the report as a springboard to improve the regime and prisoner care at the prison.

“In spite of all the concerns, HMP Blundeston still provides a good regime and standard of care for the prisoners, which is a remarkable achievement for staff at all levels against the background of public sector funding cuts. “It would be fair to say that when the HMCIP first visited the prison it was still in the throes of settling down after the previous budget cuts and staff reductions which would explain the poor prisoner survey, that survey forming the starting point for HMCIP report.

“Prisons cannot be expected to adjust to such large changes in staffing levels overnight,” Mr Cadman added.

The report calls on the Prison Minister to review the proposed budget cuts, to look into building contracts and their poor procurement to ensure better value for money and greater efficiency, to improve the recruitment procedure and prevent holes in the prison regime, to realise that the delays with UKBA and the Probation Service, outside the prison, has a knock-on effect with prisoners and prison numbers, to look further into HMPS’s continued requirement of all the statistics, and also improve the recruitment procedures for IMB members, realising that there are not queues of people wanting to do the work.

The concerns to the Prison Service centre around finding funding to provide integral sanitation for four wings, to improve the design and planning for building contracts, to resolve the issue of prisoners’ property, reduce the amount of management information and to provide funding for a new gymnasium - a request that has been made for the past 16 years.

The report adds that “there has been an extensive programme of works” within the prison over the past few months, and this year the prison achieved a 92pc accommodation rate and 35pc in finding employment for leaving prisoners, which they describe as an “excellent achievement.”