Probation Service to supervise all offenders after flawed privatisation

Supervision of all offenders in England and Wales is being brought back in-house after a part-privatisation was dogged by controversy and criticism.

The public National Probation Service (NPS) will take over management of low and medium-risk cases, which are currently handled by private providers.

Under the existing system, high-risk individuals are supervised by the NPS, with all other work assigned to community rehabilitation companies (CRCs).

Changes to be unveiled by Justice Secretary David Gauke will see all offender management brought under the NPS after CRC contracts end in December 2020.

Under the new model, the Government will provide up to £280 million a year for probation “interventions” from the private and voluntary sectors.

Each NPS region will have a dedicated “innovation partner” responsible for providing unpaid work and accredited programmes.

Mr Gauke said: “Delivering a stronger probation system, which commands the confidence of the courts and better protects the public, is a pillar of our reforms to focus on rehabilitation and cut reoffending.

“I want a smarter justice system that reduces repeat crime by providing robust community alternatives to ineffective short prison sentences – supporting offenders to turn away from crime for good.

“The model we are announcing today will harness the skills of private and voluntary providers and draw on the expertise of the NPS to boost rehabilitation, improve standards and ultimately increase public safety.”

Probation services manage more than a quarter of a million offenders in England and Wales, including inmates preparing to leave jail, ex-prisoners living in the community and people serving community or suspended sentences.

Under a programme known as Transforming Rehabilitation, 35 probation trusts were replaced in 2014 by the NPS and 21 privately-owned CRCs.

The overhaul, introduced under then justice secretary Chris Grayling, was designed to drive down re-offending.

But it has been heavily criticised by MPs and watchdogs.

Earlier this month, the Public Accounts Committee accused the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) of taking “unacceptable” risks with taxpayers’ money when rushing through the shake-up at “breakneck speed”.

An inspection report previously revealed thousands of offenders were being managed by a brief phone call once every six weeks.

Chief inspector of probation Dame Glenys Stacey, who earlier this year described the model delivered by Transforming Rehabilitation as “irredeemably flawed”, said she was “delighted” at Mr Gauke’s decision.

She said: “Probation is a complex social service and it has proved well-nigh impossible to reduce it to a set of contractual requirements.”

Shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon said the Tories “have been forced to face reality and accept their probation model is irredeemably broken”.

He added: “The Tories didn’t want to make this U-turn and had been desperately trying to re-tender probation contracts to the private sector. It is right those plans have been dropped and that offender management is to be brought back in-house.”

Unison national officer for probation Ben Priestley described the move as “a long-overdue step in the right direction”, adding that the union is “convinced probation services are best delivered locally, rather than from the one-size-fits-all centralised model which is the National Probation Service”.

Speaking on behalf of Interserve, MTC, Seetec and Sodexo – companies responsible for 17 CRCs – CEO for Sodexo Justice Services in the UK and Ireland Janine McDowell said: “We are disappointed by this decision.

“As well as increasing cost and risk, this more fragmented system will cause confusion as offenders are passed between various organisations for different parts of their sentence.

“We will now work closely with the Government to minimise risks as the cases we manage are transferred to the National Probation Service.

“The Government has recognised our track record of innovative, evidence-based initiatives to tackle knife crime, stalking and alcohol-related offences and we remain committed to working with them to drive down re-offending.”

The MoJ said the reforms announced on Thursday are designed to build on the “successful elements” of the existing system, which led to 40,000 additional offenders being supervised every year.

The ministry will now run a period of “market and stakeholder engagement” to finalise the proposals in order for the new model to come into effect in spring 2021.

Offender management in Wales will be integrated on a quicker timescale, by the end of this year.

Prisons could get new powers to test for NPS

Prisons could be handed new powers to test for psychoactive substances not currently prohibited by law – but one prisons expert has said the move was “based on a complete misunderstanding of reality”.

Prisoners can now only be tested for substances that are registered under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 – meaning many modern manufactured psychoactive drugs go unchecked.

Tory MP Bim Afolami told ministers in the Commons that the “cancer of drugs” like Spice needed to be “exorcised” from the system.

The Hitchin and Harpenden MP, proposing his Prisons (Substance Testing) Bill, said: “In order to add a newly formed manufactured psychoactive drug to a list of prohibited drugs the Government needs to manually add each and every psychoactive drug to that list.

“This can be very cumbersome, very time consuming and relatively easy for drug manufacturers and the chemical experts to get around the law and they do this by producing slightly different versions of such a psychoactive drug.”

Mr Afolami urged the Government to support his Bill, via a 10-minute rule motion, telling ministers it would “untie their hands” in the fight on drugs within prisons.

He added: “This Bill is very straightforward and very simple, it allows a generalised definition of psychoactive drugs, one provided by the Psychoactive Substance Act 2016.

“It allows it to be added to the statute book which will allow Her Majesty’s Prison Service to test prisoners for any and all psychoactive substances going forward, now and in the future.”

The Bill was listed for a second reading on July 6 but is unlikely to become law in its current form without Government support or sufficient parliamentary time.

But Mark Leech, editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales said:

“I applaud their willingness to keep going back to this issue, it is vital they do as NPS drugs are a toxic chemical combination that have already claimed around 100 lives in our prisons – and have been responsible for tens of thousands of incidents of violence and self harm too.

“But widening the legal goalposts in this way, is not the solution and it is based on a complete misunderstanding of reality.

“The fact is that prisons can and do already test for NPS.

“Prisons now have around 300 drug dogs trained to sniff out NPS, and HMPPS have had powers to test prisoners for NPS since September 2016.

“Figures drawn from the HMPPS Incident Reporting System suggest there were just over 4000 incidents where psychoactive substances were found in prisons between August 2016 and July 2017 in England and Wales.

“Latest details of how many positive NPS tests there have been is due in July 2018, when HMPPS publishes its next Digest on the matter.”

source: https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2017-09-04/6921/

Prison Deaths From New Psychoactive Substances Rises To 79 Says Ombudsman

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The number of prisoner deaths in which the use of new psychoactive substances (NPS) may have played a part has now risen to at least 79, said Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) Nigel Newcomen. Tonight (11/7/2017) he addressed the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Penal Affairs at the House of Lords.

Looking back at his six-year tenure, and discussing the rise in self-inflicted deaths in prisons, Mr Newcomen said the prison system was yet to emerge from a crisis. He discussed major themes that have emerged from his investigations and studies into deaths in custody that need to be acted upon, and mentioned the problem of mental ill-health among prisoners, which needs to be better recognised by staff and, if recognised, better managed.

 

Nigel Newcomen said:

“As well as mental ill-health, another contributory factor to the increase in suicide in prison is the epidemic of new psychoactive substances. My researchers have now identified 79 deaths between June 2013 and September 2016 where the deceased was known or strongly suspected to have taken NPS before death or where their NPS use was a key issue during their time in prison. Of these investigations, 56 were self-inflicted deaths.

In the past, Mr Newcomen has highlighted the four types of risk from NPS:

  • a risk to physical health – NPS use may hasten the effects of underlying health concerns;
  • a risk to mental health, with extreme and unpredictable behaviour and psychotic episodes, sometimes linked to suicide and self-harm;
  • behavioural problems, where the NPS user has presented violent or aggressive behaviour, which is often uncharacteristic for that prisoner; and
  • the risk of debt or bullying, as the use of NPS often results in prisoners getting into debt with prison drug dealers.

Nigel Newcomen said:

“Establishing direct causal links between NPS and the death is not easy, but my investigations identified a number of cases where my clinical reviewers considered that NPS led to psychotic episodes which resulted in self-harm. In other cases, NPS led to bullying and debt of the vulnerable, also resulting in self-harm.

“NPS is a scourge in prison, which I have described as a “game-changer” for prison safety. Reducing both their supply and demand for them is essential.

“But neither mental ill-health, nor the availability of NPS wholly explain the rise in suicides in prison. Every case is an individual tragedy with numerous triggers. And, in such complex circumstances, the safety net of effective suicide prevention procedures is essential. Unfortunately, too often my investigations identify repeated failings in prison suicide prevention procedures.”

Mark Leech editor of The Prisons Handbook said: “This further rise in prison deaths attributable to NPS is deeply concerning, it shows that despite a range of measures introduced by HMPPS, and a Thematic Review by the Chief Inspector of Prisons in December 2015, these dangerous drugs continue to cause deaths inside our prisons.

“Research shows that synthetic cannabinoids, usually known as Spice or Black Mamba, form the only category of illicit drugs whose use by prisoners is higher in prisons than in the community, 10% compared to 6%, and there is no easy answer to it – many of those who take NPS say they do so for reasons of boredom one solution therefore is to resource the Prison Service to deliver the active purposeful regimes that have been steadily stripped away since 2010.”

The Prisons Handbook: Further reading and research on NPS can be found at the following links

■ NPS in Prisons – a Toolkit for Staff: http://www.nta.nhs.uk/uploads/9011-phe-nps-toolkit-update-final.pdf

■ Drug Misuse: Findings from the 2015/16 Crime Survey for England and Wales https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/drug-misusefindings-from-the-2015-to-2016-csew

■ Changing patterns of substance misuse in adult prisons and service responses. A thematic review by HM Inspectorate of Prisons https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons/ wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2015/12/Substance-misuseweb-2015.pdf

■ Adult substance misuse statistics from the National Drug Treatment Monitoring System (NDTMS)1st April 2015 to 31st March 2016 http://www.nta.nhs.uk/uploads/adult-statistics-from-thenational-drug-treatment-monitoring-system-2015-2016[0].pdf

■ HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for England and Wales Annual Report 2014–15 https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons/wpcontent/uploads/sites/4/2015/07/HMIP-AR_2014-15_TSO_ Final1.pdf

■ HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for England and Wales Annual Report 2015–16 https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons/wpcontent/uploads/sites/4/2016/07/HMIP-AR_2015-16_web-1. pdf

■ Spice: the bird killer (User Voice May 2016) http://www.uservoice.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/ User-Voice-Spice-The-Bird-Killer-Report-Low-Res.pdf

■ Project NEPTUNE guidance, 2015 www.neptune-clinical-guidance.co.uk/wp-content/ uploads/2015/03/NEPTUNE-Guidance-March-2015.pdf

■ Harms of Synthetic Cannabinoid Receptor Agonists (SCRAs) and Their Management. Novel Psychoactive Treatment UK Network NEPTUNE http://neptune-clinical-guidance.co.uk/wp-content/ uploads/2016/07/Synthetic-Cannabinoid-ReceptorAgonists.pdf

■ Ministry of Justice press release, 25 January 2015 www.gov.uk/government/news/new-crackdown-ondangerous-legal-highs-in-prison

■ Centre for Social Justice, ‘Drugs in prison’, 2015 http://www.centreforsocialjustice.org.uk/library/drugs-inprison

■ EMCDDA, European Drug Report 2015: ‘Trends and developments’, June 2015 www.emcdda.europa.eu/publications/edr/trendsdevelopments/2015

■ Drugscope, ‘Not for human consumption: an updated and amended status report on new psychoactive substances and ‘club drugs’ in the UK’,2015 http://www.re-solv.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Notfor-human-consumption.pdf

■ PHE, ‘New psychoactive substances. A toolkit for substance misuse commissioners’, 2014 www.nta.nhs.uk/uploads/nps-a-toolkit-for-substancemisuse-commissioners.pdf

■ Home Office, ‘Annual report on the Home Office Forensic Early Warning System (FEWS). A system to identify new psychoactive substances (NPS) in the UK’, September 2015 https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/ attachment_data/file/461333/1280_EL_FEWS_Annual_ Report_2015_WEB.pdf

■ Global Drug Survey 2016 https://www.globaldrugsurvey.com/past-findings/theglobal-drug-survey-2016-findings/

A copy of the speech can be found on the PPO’s web site from 14 July 2017. Visit www.ppo.gov.uk.

Birmingham Prison – ‘The Worst Prison Riot Since Strangeways

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Authorities have regained control of one of the country’s biggest jails after trouble described as the worst since the infamous 1990 Strangeways Prison riot.

Hundreds of inmates were caught up in disorder after disturbances erupted across four wings of HMP Birmingham, lasting more than 12 hours.

Riot squads were deployed to the category B jail to restore order after reports of prisoners setting fire to stairwells, breaking a security chain and destroying paper records.

Specially-trained prison guards, known as “Tornado” squads from other parts of the country were backed up by around 25 riot police as they moved into the privately-run facility late on Friday.

Police had earlier closed the road and established a secure cordon around the main gate of the prison.

One prisoner is understood to have received a broken jaw and eye socket during the disturbances, while no prison staff were injured.

Broken windows and damaged walls were described as being left in the aftermath of the disruption, but sources said it had been “superficial”.

Mike Rolfe, national chairman of the Prison Officers Association, who last month protested over safety concerns, said more than 30 staff had left the prison in recent weeks and compared the trouble to the notorious Strangeways riot 26 years ago.

“This prison is a tough place to work, it serves a very big area, it serves a large, dangerous population of prisoners but it’s not unlike many other prisons up and down the country – ones that have very similar inmates,” he told BBC Radio Four’s The World Tonight.

“And we’ve been warning for a long time about the crisis in prisons and what we are seeing at Birmingham is not unique to Birmingham, but it certainly would seem that this is the most recent worst incident since the 1990 Strangeways riot.”

Mr Rolfe accused the Government of not funding the prison system properly and said such disturbances are becoming more frequent as a result.

The situation, in which keys giving access to residential prison areas were taken from an officer and inmates occupied some blocks and exercise facilities, will be investigated thoroughly, the Justice Secretary said.

Liz Truss said: “I want to pay tribute to the bravery and dedication of the prison officers who resolved this disturbance.

“I also want to give my thanks to West Midlands Police, who supported G4S and the Prison Service throughout the day, ambulance crews and the fire service who also provided assistance.

“This was a serious situation and a thorough investigation will now be carried out. Violence in our prisons will not be tolerated and those responsible will face the full force of the law.”

The city centre jail formerly known as Winson Green and run by G4S can hold up to 1,450 inmates, but it is understood around 260 prisoners were caught up in the incident.

Jerry Petherick, m anaging director for G4S custodial and detention, said the prisoners behind the trouble “showed a callous disregard for the safety of prisoners and staff”.

He added: “This disturbance will rightly be subject to scrutiny and we will work openly and transparently with the Ministry of Justice and other relevant authorities to understand the cause of today’s disorder.”

Former inmates at the jail where serial murderer Fred West hanged himself in 1995 have said they are not surprised at the disturbances, describing it as something that was “bound to happen”.

The latest disturbance is the third in English prisons in less than two months.

On November 6 a riot at category B Bedford Prison saw up to 200 inmates go on the rampage, flooding the jail’s gangways in chaotic scenes.

Just days earlier, on October 29, a national response unit had to be brought in to control prisoners during an incident at HMP Lewes in East Sussex.

A spokesman from the Prison Governors Association said the disturbance at the Birmingham jail “comes at a very difficult time for Noms (National Offender Management Service) on the back of recent riots and at a time when the prison estate is already bursting at the seams”.

Shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon said the disturbances at the Birmingham jail were “hugely concerning” and claimed the Justice Secretary was “failing to get this crisis under control”.

Tory chairman of the Commons Justice Committee, Robert Neill, told Channel Four News the Government had been warned by his watchdog group of MPs that a “time bomb was ticking” as prisons were in “crisis”.

When it was suggested this could be the worst prison riot in years, Mr Neill said: “Certainly looking that way, yeah, and this is a problem which has happened both in privately and publicly-run systems, so it applies across the piece.

“I think that does indicate that we have got a situation where if people are locked down 22/23 hours a day, as we have discovered, that breeds tension, that breeds violence, and, as you rightly say, we are not actually keeping prisons secure enough to stop contraband getting in.”

Labour’s shadow home secretary Diane Abbott told Channel Four News “private companies should not be involved in taking away people’s liberty. Actually, it’s clear that G4S don’t have the quality of staff to manage a crisis like this”.

Mark Leech, editor of Converse, the national newspaper for prisoners, urged people to sign the online petition for a public inquiry into the prison system.

Mr Leech said Mr Leech said: “We need a public inquiry into our prison system – something we have never had – so our prison system can be clear what is expected of it.

“At the moment we have a secretary of state who has sought to bring in a clear vision of reform, but the evidence shows that these policy decisions are fragile – we are now on our third Justice Secretary in just 18 months, each with very different approaches, and we simply cannot go on stumbling from one policy change to another.

“We need absolute clarity about exactly what it is that we expect our prison system to deliver, in terms of how it reduces crime, punishes offenders, keeps staff and prisoners safe and how it addresses the concern of victims.

“Once we have that clear vision, based on an examination of evidence, from around the world if necessary as to what works best, we then need to know exactly what that is going to cost in real terms and ensure that the prison system has those resources to pay for its delivery.

“At the moment the prison system is told it has a mission of prison reform, but we have no idea what that ‘reform’ really means, what it will cost in real terms or how its delivery is to be paid for – that’s a recipe for disaster.

“And there is nothing to say that this time next year we will not have another Justice Secretary, with completely different views to the current one, who orders another 180-degree turn in policy yet again and leaves the prison system reeling and even more confused than ever about what it is expected to do.

” Only a Public Inquiry will deliver that clarity and I urge everyone with an interest in our prisons to sign the petition.”

Mr Leech said: “You cannot run a prison system on tuppence ha’penny while expecting it to deliver reforms that cost billions – where is that money going to come from?”

The introduction of legal highs, inside our prisons has been a game-changer. Assaults on prisoners and staff are at record levels, staff assaults are running at the rate of 65 a day, every day, with suicides, murders, self-harm, escapes and riots – where will it end?

Please, sign the petition.

HMP/YOI Moorland – New Psychoactive Substances Threat Level Raised To ‘Severe’

moorland_prisonThe availability of new psychoactive substances was threatening to undermine recent progress at Moorland, said Peter Clarke, Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the South Yorkshire resettlement prison.

HMP/YOI Moorland holds around 1,000 prisoners, of whom around 250 are foreign national offenders and 340 are sex offenders. The prison is in the process of adapting to its new role as a resettlement prison for the area. The recent history of the prison has been one of uncertainty and disruption and at one point the prison had been earmarked for privatisation.

Inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • the threat posed to the stability of the prison by new psychoactive substances (NPS) is severe and despite some positive initiatives, the situation appears to be deteriorating and needs to be addressed;
  • forty-eight per cent of prisoners now say it is easy to get drugs at Moorland compared to 28% at the last inspection;
  • the number of violent incidents, fights and assaults had increased since the last inspection in 2012 and levels were also higher than at similar prisons;
  • almost one in five prisoners surveyed said they felt unsafe at the time of the inspection;
  • staff often struggled with the many demands made of them and, while most contacts with prisoners were polite, they were also mostly brief and often superficial;
  • work on diversity continued to be weak and had been undermined by chronic understaffing in the area; and
  • the overall strategic approach to resettlement lacked focus and too much of the work of the offender management unit was process-driven.

However, inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • care for prisoners at risk of suicide or self-harm was generally good;
  • there had been substantial improvements in the management and availability of work, training and education, with places for 87% of the population; and
  • the prison had successfully introduced a sex offender treatment programme in response to being re-roled as a national resource for holding sex offenders.

 

Peter Clarke said:

“There are real opportunities at Moorland to make progress, but the issues of NPS and inefficiencies in routine transactions that have such a negative impact on prisoners’ experiences need to be addressed. In particular, there is a real opportunity to make progress in embracing the prison’s new role as a resettlement prison, and in delivering treatment programmes for sex offenders. We saw evidence that many staff wanted to build constructive relationships with prisoners and to address the challenges facing Moorland. It will be the task of a focused and visible leadership team to inspire the staff to grasp the opportunities provided by the new roles that Moorland has assumed.”

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive of the National Offender Management Service, said:

“I am pleased that the inspector has highlighted the real progress being made at Moorland in purposeful activity as well as successfully introducing and managing sex offenders. The prison is currently going through a challenging time of transitioning to its new role as a resettlement prison and is working to ensure prisoners are prepared for release.

“We are not complacent about safety and there is clearly more work to do to address levels of violence and tackle increasing availability of NPS at the prison. The Governor and staff have put measures in place to reduce the rise in drugs and I am confident the team will continue to build on the firm foundations in place to take this work forward.

Read the report – copy of the full report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from 10 June 2016 at: justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons