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Prison conditions—is the worst still yet to come?


Prison conditions—is the worst still yet to come?

Prison conditions

This month saw the publication of yet more figures showing the continuing slide in safety and decency in our prisons. Despite a small and welcome decline in the numbers of deaths in custody, the Ministry of Justice’s Safety in Custody statistics show that all other indicators have reached record highs—with record levels of self harm and record levels of assaults on both prisoners and staff.

The findings are likely to come as little surprise to supporters of the Prison Reform Trust. Our Bromley Briefings Prison Factfile has repeatedly raised the alarm over deteriorating conditions over the last five years.

The publication of the figures coincide with the appointment of a new ministerial team at the Ministry of Justice, with David Gauke replacing David Lidington as Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice; Rory Stewart replacing Sam Gyimah as prisons minister; and Lucy Frazer taking on the portfolio of Dominic Raab. Rory Stewart met PRT director, Peter Dawson, this week and David Gauke has also agreed to meet Peter and PRT’s chair, James Timpson.

Whilst ministers will be rapidly getting to grips with their new briefs, the publication of the findings of an unannounced inspection at HMP Liverpool by HM Inspectorate of Prisons, and the issuing of the first ever urgent notification by the Chief Inspector following an inspection visit to HMP Nottingham, have thrown ministers in at the deep end; charged with rectifying the mistakes of their predecessors. Writing in the Huffington Post and The Times (£), Peter Dawson cautioned that the worst may yet still be to come, with impending cuts of £600m to the Ministry of Justice’s budget.

Giving evidence to the House of Commons Justice Committee following the inspection of HMP Liverpool, Rory Stewart committed to restoring decency to prisons and getting “back to basics”. Whilst undoubtedly welcome, back to basics on prison reform cannot just mean fixing broken windows and cleaning dirty and infested accommodation, necessary though this is. It must also include a concerted and sustained effort to take the pressure off overstretched prisons by reducing prison numbers to a sustainable level.

Maternal imprisonment

In an innovative partnership, supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Oxford University and the Prison Reform Trust have come together to create new resources, including films and briefings, for criminal justice professionals to help improve their understanding of the impacts of maternal imprisonment.

It is estimated that 17,000 children every year are affected by maternal imprisonment in England and Wales. 95% (16,000) of these children are forced to leave their homes as their mother’s imprisonment leaves them without an adult to take care of them.

Despite this, no government agency has responsibility for ensuring the welfare of these children is safeguarded and their rights are protected.

Dr Shona Minson, a Research Associate at the Centre for Criminology at Oxford University has conducted research on the implications of maternal imprisonment for children. The research findings show that the experience of having a mother in prison not only negatively impacts a child’s relationship with their mother, but can affect every area of their lives including their education, health, and well being. The knock-on effects of stigmatisation may also lead to social isolation and discrimination.

The resource includes short films and briefing papers, which will be used across the criminal justice professions including by the Judicial College, Magistrates Association, Law Society, Criminal Bar Association and probation services.

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New ministerial team at the MoJ

New Ministerial Team at the MOJ

ministers 1

Who’s who at the MoJ?

Not only did Theresa May replace David Lidington with David Gauke but she promoted two of the MoJ’s junior ministers too, Dominic Raab was promoted to housing minister while Sam Gyimah was promoted to Universities Minister, Minister of State at the Department for Education. Their replacements are Rory Stewart as Minister of State and Lucy Frazer, whose role is not yet specified.

Roles and responsibilities

As you can see, Rory Stewart is Minister of State replacing Dominic Raab. The roles and responsibilities of Phillip Lee and Lucy Frazer have not been clarified. To the outsider, it would make sense if Mr Lee continues to be Minister for Victims, Youth and Family Justice and Ms Frazer takes over as Minister for Prisons and Probation (the post previously held by Sam Gyimah). However, it is entirely possible that roles will be re-allocated. I have requested this information from the MoJ and will update the post on receipt. Finally, Lord Keen of Elie remains MoJ spokesperson in the House of Lords. I have included the new ministers’ Twitter feeds in case you want to follow them.

Rory Stewart – Minister of State

Roderick James Nugent “Rory” Stewart, (born 3 January 1973) is a British diplomat, politician, and writer. Stewart was a senior coalition official in Iraq in 2003–04. He is known for his book about this experience, The Prince of the Marshes (also published under the title Occupational Hazards), and for his 2002 walk across Afghanistan (one part of a larger walk across Asia), which served as the basis for another book, The Places in Between. In July 2008, he was appointed Ryan Family Professor of Human Rights at Harvard University.

Since May 2010, he has been the Member of Parliament for Penrith and The Border; he is a former Chair of the House of Commons Defence Select Committee and moved from being Minister of State at the Department for International Development and as Minister of State for Africa at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

The Parliament UK website lists his political interests as local democracy, rural affairs, broadband and foreign affairs. He led a review on the reasons why a number of British veterans become criminal offenders after returning to civilian life but stepped down before it was complete when he was appointed Chair of the Defence Committee. Many commentators were surprised that he was moved from a department where he had considerable expertise to one where he has none.

Lucy Frazer – Role as yet unspecified

Lucy Frazer (born 17 May 1972) studied at Cambridge where she was President of the Cambridge Union. She worked as a barrister in commercial law, and went on to become a QC at the age of forty. She won the South East Cambridgeshire seat in the 2015 general election with 28,845 votes (48.5%), a margin of victory of 16,837. and was elected to sit on the Education Select Committee in the same year. She also sat on the Policing and Crime Bill Committee in 2016. Ms Frazer was also David Lidington’s (the previous Justice Secretary) Parliamentary Private Secretary and sat in on a number of his meetings which will make her perhaps the best prepared of the new ministerial team.

Phillip Lee – Currently victims, youth and family justice

Phillip Lee is a qualified GP who was elected to parliament in 2010; he continues to work as a GP (for about 20-30 hours per month, see details on the theyworkforyou site), and he remains the sole Minister to remain in place at Petty France following this reshuffle. We must wait and see whether he retains responsibility for victims, youth and family justice.

Lord Keen – Advocate General for Scotland and MoJ spokeperson for the Lords

Richard Sanderson Keen has a long-standing involvement in the law having been an advocate (the equivalent of a barrister in England and Wales) in Scotland since 1980. He was chairman of the Scottish Conservative Party in 2014 and was ennobled in June 2015 when he became Advocate General for Scotland. He was the Lords spokesperson for the Home Office from April 2016 until moving to the MoJ later that year.

As an advocate he was involved in many high level cases representing Rangers Football Club and Andy Coulson among others. Lord Keen is not on Twitter.


Overall, the main problem facing the new MoJ team is the lack of continuity. In addition to frequent changes of Justice Secretary (5 postholders in the last three years), there is also a new Minister of State in Rory Stewart with little or no apparent knowledge of criminal justice and Sam Gyimah, the prisons and probation minister has moved on. Both David Gauke (solicitor) and Lucy Frazer (barrister and QC) are legally trained but had careers in commercial law.

Given the current parlous state of the prison and probation services, it’s a shame that a political reshuffle has delayed the momentum of reform and snuffed out again any chance of badly needed leadership in the justice arena

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Yet another 10 shocking facts about our prisons

Yet Another 10 shocking facts about our prisons

The state of our prison system

Just before Christmas (18 December 2017), the Prison Reform Trust published its most recent “Bromley Briefing” – an up-to-date compendium of facts that give an accurate, if depressing account of the state of our prison system.

If you ever need the latest, official information on anything to do with the penal system, the most recent briefing is always your best source.

Below are ten headline facts from the latest edition; for regular readers I’ve tried to pick the less obvious ones.

1. England & Wales has the highest rate of imprisonment in western Europe


2: We are sentencing people to longer prison sentences

More than three times as many people were sentenced to 10 years or more in the 12 months to June 2017 than at the same time in 2007. For more serious, indictable offences, the average prison sentence is now 56.6 months—23 and a half months longer than 10 years ago.

3: There has been a big increase in the number of recalls

8,309 people serving a sentence of less than 12 months were recalled to prison in the year to June 2017.

4: Prison conditions are deteriorating

More than two-fifths (42%) of our prisons are rated “of concern” or “of serious concern” by HM Prisons and Probation Service—the highest level ever recorded.

There are now more prisons rated “of serious concern” than “exceptional”. The number of prisons rated “exceptional” has plummeted from 43 in 2011–12 to only nine in 2016–17.

Three-quarters (74%) of people told inspectors that most staff treated them with respect. However, significantly reduced staffing in most prisons mean that many prisoners report felt unsupported and frustrated at not being able to get day-to-day concerns addressed.

Only one in seven people said they spent 10 hours or more out of their cell each day and nearly one in three people (31%) held in a local prison said they spent less than two hours out of their cell each day.


5: Prison food is not nutritious

The daily prison food budget within public sector prisons for 2015–16 was £2.02 per person.

7: Our prison population has multiple and complex needs


8: Remand

People on remand currently make up 12% of the total prison population—9,902 people. The majority are awaiting trial (70%), whilst the rest await sentencing.

More than one in ten people (9,765) remanded in custody during the year to June 2017 were subsequently acquitted. A further 14% of people (12,593) received a non-custodial sentence.

Nearly three in 10 (28%) self-inflicted deaths in 2016 were by people held on remand.

9: Older prisoners

16% of the prison population are aged 50 or over—13,601 people. Of these 3,251 are in their 60s and a further 1,601 people are 70 or older.

The number of over 50s in prison is projected to rise to 14,800 by 2021—an increase of 11%. The most significant change is anticipated in the over 70s, projected to rise by 31%.

45% of men in prison aged over 50 have been convicted of sex offences. The next highest offence category is violence against the person (23%) followed by drug offences (9%).

Six out of 10 older prisoners (59%) report having a long-standing illness or disability. This compares with just over a quarter (27%) of younger prisoners.


10: Prisoners with learning disabilities

Nearly three in 10 people (29%) were identified as having a learning disability or difficulty following assessment on entry to prison in 2015–16.

7% of people in contact with the criminal justice system have a learning disability—this compares with around 2% of the general population.

Prisoners with learning disabilities or difficulties are more likely than other prisoners to have broken a prison rule; they are five times as likely to have been subject to control and restraint, and around three times as likely to report having spent time in segregation.

Despite isolated good practice, for example at HMPs Parc and Littlehey, inspectors found that there has been a lack of focus and leadership from central government which has meant that little discernible progress has been made in improving the lives of this vulnerable group of offenders.

Inspectors have found that “little thought was given to the need to adapt regimes to meet the needs of prisoners with learning disabilities who may find understanding and following prison routines very difficult.”

However, more than half of prisons inspected this year were actively identifying and supporting prisoners with learning disabilities—a marked improvement on previous years.

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December newsletter

Newsletter December 2017


It would have been great to say that 2017 was the year that the prison service turned a corner and conditions started to improve. But as the new edition of the Bromley Briefings shows, that hasn’t happened. The statistics and a succession of crushing inspection reports show that life for many people in prison is neither safe nor decent, still less a preparation for successful resettlement. The recruitment of some additional staff is welcome, but expert analysis of the Ministry of Justice accounts shows that it faces a major financial crisis, and the prospect of closing prisons that are plainly not fit for purpose continues to recede.

So your support for PRT and, through us, the people who live and work in prison continues to be vital, never more so than at Christmas when the reality of what the loss of liberty means is very stark indeed. There is a mountain still to climb.

Peter Dawson, Director of the Prison Reform Trust

Bromley Briefings published

The latest edition of the Prison Reform Trust’s Bromley Briefings Prison Factfile has been published this week, the annual bumper edition of facts and figures about prisons and the people in them.

It highlights the consequences of a punitive political arms race over criminal justice policy over the past three decades. Steep cuts to prison staff and budgets in recent years have exposed the fault lines of a failed approach. The result is an overcrowded and overstretched prison system where standards of safety and decency are way below international expectations.

This year’s Bromley Briefings opens with a brand new section which we have called “The long view”. The evidence shows that the core of the current government’s approach—to spend more building more prison spaces—is identical to the actions of all its predecessors since the early 1990s. There is every possible indication that it will meet the same fate.

There is an affordable and practical route to reform, but it requires a fundamental rethink of who goes to prison, and for how long. A wise secretary of state should choose no other foundation on which to build.

Domestic violence

Women in prison have often been victims of much more serious offences than those of which they have been convicted, a new report “There’s a reason we’re in trouble”, published this month by the Prison Reform Trust reveals.

Fifty-seven per cent of women in prison report having been victims of domestic violence. More than half (53%) report having experienced emotional, physical or sexual abuse as a child compared to 27% of men.

Because many women fear disclosing abuse, both figures are likely to be an underestimate. The charity Women in Prison report that 79% of the women who use their services have experienced domestic violence and/or sexual abuse.

The report is timely in light of the forthcoming Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill and development of the forthcoming government’s strategy on women offenders—which has been delayed until spring next year.

The report identifies strong links between women’s experience of domestic and sexual abuse and coercive relationships, and their offending. Research has confirmed that women often encounter a culture of disbelief in the criminal justice system about the violence and exploitation to which they may have been exposed.

Prison reform and the Lammy review

This week, as Parliament approached recess, and government departments rush to publish announcements before the Christmas break, David Lidington made a speech outling his plans for prison reform, and the government response to David Lammy’s review was launched.

Whilst both described welcome ambitions to reduce prisoner numbers and improved outcomes for people in trouble with the law, it was disappointing that both contained few tangible commitments or deadlines for completion.

Press coverage of David Lidington’s speech focused on his call to ban the sale of small mobile phones. It is right that communication between prisons and the outside world requires careful and proportionate monitoring. However, when a person living and working in prison can spend their total weekly wages phoning home for just half an hour, or they are unable to access a phone on the landing because they’re locked up for 23 hours a day, it’s little wonder that a black market in illicit phones has developed. The justice secretary should focus on changing those things that are within his control. Reducing unacceptably high costs and improving access to phones would let people keep in touch with their support networks, and allow them to prepare themselves for release.

Whilst the government’s response to the Lammy review aims to meet the spirit as well as the letter of his report, there are notable omissions. Key recommendations on the judiciary have been rejected, outcomes for women are neglected, and very few of the promises of action have deadlines for completion. No new resources are promised to support any of this work, and the degree of external scrutiny proposed is very modest.

Equality requires perpetual vigilance. The Lammy Review’s recommendation of an ‘explain or reform’ discipline must become a permanent foundation, running throughout every stage of criminal justice. We are a long way from that, and trust will only develop if people from BAME communities, including those in prison, see good words turned into action.

Women in the justice system—new resource

Earlier this year we updated our popular web resource that provides information about mental health, autism and learning disabilities in the criminal courts, and included a new section on women in the justice system.

This reflects our programme of work, Transforming Lives, which seeks to reduce the number of women being sent to prison.

The first of two new film clips, featuring women with direct experience of the justice system, has now been uploaded and can be viewed by clicking here. A second film clip will be available in January.


We continue to submit evidence to a wide range of government consultations and Parliamentary inquiries. This month, the House of Commons Justice Committee has published our evidence to their inquiry on Transforming Rehabilitation. We have also responded to the Department for Communities and Local Government draft homelessness code of guidance for local authorities; and the Home Office’s consultation on revising PACE codes C, H, E and F.

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Chief Probation Inspector draws line in the sand

Chief Probation Inspector draws line in the sand

Current probation system is not evidence-based

It’s a safe bet that today’s first Chief Inspector of Probation annual report by Dame Glenys Stacey will get much more media coverage than those of most of her predecessors.

In a now familiar, direct style, Dame Glenys provides a surgical analysis of the extent to which the new probation system brought in by the government’s Transforming Rehabilitation programme is failing to rehabilitate offenders and protect the public.

If you work in any way for or with the public or private branches of the probation service, I strongly recommend that you invest the time to read the report in full.

In this post, I have picked out some key assessments to give you a flavour of the whole.

The [TR] teething problems we identified in a series of early inspection reports have largely been resolved. More deep-rooted problems now prevail.


The report provides a useful graphic summarising the inspectors’ findings:

Key assessments

Below are some of the key assessments that the Chief Inspector and her team have made of the current performance of the probation system.
A two-tier service

We see clearly that there is now a two-tier and fragmented service, with individuals being supervised by the NPS more effectively overall. Of course, the NPS is funded differently, and more generously.

IT holding back modernisation

Most CRCs are struggling. Those owners ambitious to remodel services have found probation difficult to reconfigure or re-engineer. Delivering probation services is more difficult than first appears, particularly in prisons and rural areas. There have been serious setbacks. Despite significant CRC investment, implementation of new IT systems so central to most CRCs’ transformation plans is stalled, awaiting the essential connectivity with other justice systems, yet to be provided by the Ministry of Justice.

Resourcing & Staffing

Unanticipated changes in sentencing and the nature of work coming to CRCs have seriously affected their income and indeed their commercial viability, causing them to curtail or change their transformation plans. Many have reduced staff numbers more than once:
in some, we find staff with exceptional workloads working long hours and still unable to deliver to the professional standards that they know are right.

Lack of consistent, face-to-face supervision

I question whether the current model for probation can deliver sufficiently well. Above all, a close, forthcoming and productive relationship between an individual and their probation worker is key. This is where skilled probation staff add most value, by motivating offenders, working continuously with them to bring about change, and at the same time protecting the public from harm. Yet in some CRCs, individuals meet with their probation worker in places that lack privacy, when sensitive and difficult conversations must take place. Some do not meet with their probation worker face-to face. Instead, they are supervised by telephone calls every six weeks or so from junior professional staff carrying 200 cases or more.


In simple terms, Dame Glenys makes the following key points:

    • TR is not working.
    • The Community Rehabilitation Companies in particular are under-funded.
    • Any probation system which does not guarantee consistency in offender manager-offender relationships is unlikely to work

Any model which abandons specialist interventions for offenders which have been proved to be effective is flawed.

      The full report makes a number of clear recommendations about particular issues and problems in probation and effectively invites the Justice Secretary to take action.

We know David Lidington is making a speech on prison reform at the Reform Think Tank next Monday 18 December. We also know that he is interested in sentence reform. Sentence reform can only be an effective response to our growing prison population if the probation service is working effectively.

Here’s hoping for some major announcements on probation reform in early 2018.

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Prison cost us £3billion last year

Prison cost us £3billion last year


How much does prison cost?

Three billion pounds is the short answer.

£2,997,687,957 is the official number for 2016/17 published in an addendum to the HMPPS annual report and accounts last month (26 October 2017).

That’s the overall figure (which includes “net expenditure met at regional or national level and recorded in the annual accounts of the National Offender Management Service”), the direct resource expenditure (which only includes net expenditure at a prison level) is a billion pounds less: £1,943,546,987.

These two different calculations generate two different costs:

The overall cost per prison place last year was £38,042 a big jump on the previous year’s £36,720. The cost per prisoner shows a similar jump (4.2%) from £33,931 in 2016/17 to £35,371 last year.

The direct cost per prison place last year was £24,664 compared to the previous year’s £24,249. The cost per prisoner was £22,933 in 2016/17 compared to £22,407 last year — this is a smaller increase of 2.3%, showing that it is head office expenditure behind most of the rise in the costs of imprisonment. This is unsurprising given the range of problems the prison service has been trying to respond to in terms of recruitment, riots etc.

Public vs private

The accounts also show comparative figures for public and private sector prisons (which the MoJ calls “contracted prisons”).

The table below shows the comparison in terms of direct resource expenditure. The MoJ classifies two types of private prison: Private Finance Initiative (PFI) for prisons which are designed, constructed, managed and financed by the private sector and Operate and Maintain for prisons which are leased to a private sector operator who contracts directly to run the prison and maintain the buildings.

[CNA stands for Certified Normal Accommodation, the number of prisoners an establishment should hold.]

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New standards for probation

New standards for probation

business hand clicking quality on virtual screen interface

What difference does

We at HMI Probation have been thinking for a while about why and how we inspect. That may sound a bit odd, but it is not quite as daft as it sounds.
To inspect is to examine closely or to inquire carefully. Over time, an agreed view of what good inspection should achieve has developed. I first saw it set out in a paper in the Modern Law Review: inspection of any public service should focus on its conformity to standards; the quality of service it delivers and the quality of its management arrangements. The author, Professor Stephen Shute also argued that it should cover the organisation’s efficiency and value for money, but today I want to focus on the first three requirements.


Shining a light

Professor Shute argued that by shining a light on these things, inspection provides those carrying political or executive responsibility, as well as the general public with an independent way of holding agencies to account and testing whether the services they offer are being delivered appropriately. He also argued that inspection can drive up quality in the criminal justice system. Done well, it shines a light, holds people to account and – critically – it should improve services, over time.

Most rational people would agree that inspection should show whether the body being inspected is conforming to standards, but of course, standards in probation have waxed and waned in recent years. With Transforming Rehabilitation, probation providers were freed up to a large extent from established standards, and encouraged to innovate and find new ways of rehabilitating offenders.

Inspection can drive improvement

There is plenty of evidence to suggest that the new found freedoms are not yet working as intended, but that is not my focus today. Instead I am speaking of inspection, good inspection. Where there are no clear, agreed, published standards to show what good quality work looks like, then inspecting is less effective than it can be. Those inspected are not always sure what is expected of them, how their service might be judged, and how and where to focus so as to improve. That is a hole we want to fill.

As HMI Probation, we can produce inspection standards, to show what we are looking for when we inspect. But for standards to do more – to drive improvement in services – then they should be built by consensus. Inspection alone cannot improve quality. Instead it requires the combined efforts of providers, professionals and staff, commissioners and funders, and inspectors, all working towards a single vision of high-quality probation services, informed by listening to those receiving those services. It is that single view, single vision that is so important for us all.

It is essential then that those who will be inspected against standards are involved in their development. We have been working with the NPS, CRCs and others in workshops across England and Wales to develop and refine a new set of standards for probation services delivered by the NPS and CRCs. We think we have a good set of draft standards as a result, and now we want to see if others agree.

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Our prisons keep getting more violent

Our prisons keep getting more violent


Highest number of assaults on record

Thursday’s (26 October 2017) Safety in Custody Statistics make for predictably grim reading with self harm and assaults reaching record highs.

The only glimmer of hope is that HMPPS focus on suicides has seen a drop in the number of prisoners killing themselves. Tragically, there were still 77 suicides last year (compared to 110 the previous year).

The latest figures cover deaths for the year to September 2017 and assaults and self harm for the year to June 2017.

Here are the main points:


Deaths in prison

In the 12 months to September 2017 there were 300 deaths in prison custody, a decrease of 7% from 324 in the previous year, at a rate of 3.5 deaths per 1,000 prisoners. The most recent quarter saw the lowest number of total deaths since the three months to December 2015. Quarterly death figures should be considered with caution due to greater volatility and the potential for seasonal effects.

There were 77 apparent self-inflicted deaths, down 30% from 110 in the previous year.



In the 12 months to June 2017, there were 41,103 reported incidents of self-harm (a rate of 482 per 1,000 prisoners), up 12% on the previous year. The number of self-harm incidents requiring hospital attendance increased by 9% on the previous year to 2,833 while the proportion of incidents that required hospital attendance remained broadly similar at 6.9%. The number of self-harm incidents and those requiring hospital attendance are both the highest ever recorded.



In the 12 months to June 2017, there were 27,193 assault incidents (a staggering rate of 319 incidents per 1,000 prisoners), an increase of 14% on the previous year, and the highest level in the time series. In the latest quarter, there were 7,115 assaults, up 6% from the three months to March 2017.

There were 19,678 prisoner-on-prisoner assaults in the 12 months to June 2017 (a rate of 231 per 1,000 prisoners), up 10% on the previous year, and a record high. The latest quarter also saw a 7% increase in the number of incidents, reaching a record high of 5,155.

Assaults on staff reached a record high of 7,437 in the 12 months to June 2017 (a rate of 87 per 1,000 prisoners), and are up 25% on the previous year. In the most recent quarter, assaults on staff rose by 9%, reaching a record high of 2,011 incidents.



Not only are these figures shocking in themselves, they remain (in my opinion) the best barometer of the overall state of our prison system. Only when we see a prolonged trend in the fall of self-harm and assaults will we be able to feel confident that our prisons are beginning to become a more acceptable place for prisoners to live and staff to work.

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Trauma-informed work key to protecting the public

Trauma-informed work key to protecting the public

Do YOTs protect the public?

The public can be better protected from dangerous and violent young offenders if adults working with them are trained to understand the often extreme trauma in their childhoods.


That’s the headline finding from a new report published by HMI Probation today (26 October 2017): Addressing childhood trauma of young offenders and understanding social media use in crimes can reduce offending.

At first glance it seems slightly odd that an inspection report addresses two such distinct issues: trauma-informed desistance work and the use of social media. However, it transpires that the inspection was actually an examination of the work done by Youth Offending Teams (YOTs) with young people convicted of violent and other serious offences and that these were the two key issues which emerged.

Overall findings

Overall, inspectors found we found YOTs doing a good job with this group of serious offenders. They found that almost all the staff they interviewed in six different YOTs were competent and committed. YOTs were found to be using new assessment and planning materials effectively, although they could do more to incorporate the views of young people in their plans, and to develop robust intervention plans.

YOTs were also found to be working well to protect victims, if necessary by setting exclusion or curfew conditions, and taking enforcement action when needed to keep people safe.

Traumatic pasts

Inspectors examined the case files of 115 young people who had committed violent, sexual and/or other offences where there were potential public protection issues. Where information was available, they found that more than three in four had experienced emotional trauma or other deeply distressing or disturbing things in their lives.

Research tells us that these experiences will affect a young person’s current behaviour, making it more likely that they will offend and reducing their ability to work with adults trying to help them.

The spectrum of experiences was remarkably wide (and are described in an Appendix to the report) and included separation and estrangement from parents, the death of a parent or main carer, sexual abuse, severe physical chastisement, serial domestic abuse and parental substance misuse.

For some young people their experiences of trauma were both multiple and severe. Domestic abuse was prevalent: one-third had grown up in a household where there was a formal record of domestic abuse. Almost half of our sample were in local authority care, often placed some way from home.

Inspectors recommend that all YOTs should be able to identify and respond effectively to emotional trauma and other adverse events in young people’s lives, and apply the strategies available for tailoring services to take account of trauma. There is evidence, for example, that the young person’s relationship with the case manager is important and also that interventions should be kept as simple as possible.

Inspectors found YOT staff accounting for some of these issues in their work with young people, but doing so intuitively rather than within a clear policy or practice framework. We found that the models of youth justice intervention that respond to trauma have been implemented in only a handful of YOTs.

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Relentless: The impact of working with high-risk offenders

Black and white closeup photo of man holding on cliff on one hand

Relentless: The impact of working with high-risk offenders

Probation has been much more in the news recently.

Michael Spurr, the Chief Executive of Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service acknowledged that through-the-gate support wasn’t working.

The Justice Select Committee has announced an inquiry into Transforming Rehabilitation, the name given to the government’s privatisation and split of the probation service.

Increased media coverage is likely to follow an upcoming Panorama on the poor performance of private probation companies known as Community Rehabilitation Companies.

However, almost all the attention is focused on the private sector part of probation with the National Probation Service (which is normally found to be performing reasonably well by inspectors) mainly ignored.

Today’s post, however, is solely concerned with the NPS, sharing the findings of a study published in a new virtual special issue of the Probation Journal focused on TR. As most readers know, the NPS works with offenders assessed as presenting a high risk of harm and the study:

“It’s relentless”: the impact of working primarily with high-risk offenders by Jake Phillips, Chalen Westaby & Andrew Fowler of Sheffield Hallam University.

examines the impact on NPS staff, most of whom now work almost exclusively with this group of offenders.

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