Examination of Witness (Questions 340-359)|
CBE, JULIET LYON,
CBE AND PAUL
12 DECEMBER 2007
Q340 Chairman: Good morning and welcome
Mr Tidball, President of the Prison Governors' Association; Ms
Owers, Chief Inspector of Prisons; Mr Bridges, Chief Inspector
of Probation; and Ms Lyon from the Prison Reform Trust. We are
very glad to have you with us this morning. Which of you were
consulted by Lord Carter? Nobody is volunteering.
Anne Owers: At my request I had
coffee with Lord Carter on one occasion in the Treasury in July.
Q341 Mr Tyrie: This was at your request?
Anne Owers: Yes.
Juliet Lyon: At my request I had
a cup of tea and a cup of coffee on two separate occasions with
Q342 Chairman: Otherwise.
Paul Tidball: The PGA had an hour
with Lord Carter which was a formalish hour, I think it was at
his request. We managed to extract from him an interest in our
putting in some written evidence after it but this particular
inquiry did not formally ask for evidence in a way that I have
been used to, as with effective sentencing for instance.
Q343 Mr Tyrie: When you had these
cups of coffee, were they on the basis of evidence that you had
Anne Owers: No.
Q344 Mr Tyrie: Was evidence requested?
Anne Owers: No.
Q345 Mr Tyrie: Did you submit evidence?
Anne Owers: No.
Q346 Mr Tyrie: Why not?
Anne Owers: Because evidence was
not requested and because actually I am producing evidence all
the time every time I produce a prison report, but there was not
a call for evidence in the way that there normally might be.
Q347 Chairman: Were any of the ideas
that Lord Carter is developing tested out on you, like large prisons
Anne Owers: No.
Q348 Alun Michael: There is not much
in the Report about how to cut reoffending in order to cut the
requirement for prison places. Are there any glaring omissions
in the report?
Anne Owers: I think my own response
is that it is disappointing. To be fair to Lord Carter one would
not want to start from here, but I think
Q349 Alun Michael: That is usually
Anne Owers: This is a belated
and narrow response to some of the issues that many of us have
been raising for some considerable time. My fear is that what
we will get is more prisoners and worse prisons, a focus on efficiency
rather than effectiveness, and also a moving away of resources
from those things which are currently leading to the rise in prisoner
numbers, in other words things like the over-stretched Probation
Service, the under-funded mental health services, the kind of
things that Baroness Corston thinks are necessary for women and
the kinds of support that are needed for those with complex needs
coming out of prison. I would have preferred to see a more transparent
and broader inquiry. I think it is a missed opportunity to do
something like Lord Wolff did 15 years ago which would have allowed
all these issues to be fed in and a public debate about what kind
of penal policy we want.
Juliet Lyon: I absolutely agree
with the Chief Inspector and I think the Government had an opportunity
in 2002 when the Social Exclusion Unit presented a report to the
Prime Minister which made it abundantly clear that the solutions
to preventing reoffending did not lie as was then in the Home
Office, and as now in the Ministry of Justice. And that the only
way that government would be able to solve the issue of reoffending
was to go across departments to look to the Department of Health
to look to Housing, to look to other initiatives in much the same
way as the Children's Plan has just proposed a cross-government
response. When you asked are there any gaps, it is the most narrow
of narrow reports without consultation and without even reference,
as the Chief Inspector says, within the criminal justice system
to probation and other measures but, in particular without any
reference to the role other government departments must play.
Andrew Bridges: It is very easy
to say but fiendishly difficult to do but to reduce reoffending
you have got to do the right thing with the right people at the
right time in the right way. It is about differentiated practice
and that is very much about what offender management is about
and prisons are part of that system. I think as far as this report
is concerned, it is what was reasonable to expect given the brief
but it is the wider questions which are the interesting questions.
Q350 Alun Michael: You rightly say
that prison is part of that equation but there is a relationship
between the application of community-based interventions and prison
interventions, is there not. Can you deal with one without the
Andrew Bridges: The pattern has
developed over the last 20 or so years that in terms of the whole
spectrum of seriousness of offending that prison has expanded
down the scale and community sentences have expanded even more
down the scale and it is the other sentences that have shrunk.
It really does not help to come at reducing reoffending by looking
for one-size-fits-all panaceas; it has to be individualised.
Q351 Alun Michael: Those responses
are clear in general terms but there is the issue which the Report
says little about which is of resources for community interventions.
Would any of you want to comment on that?
Andrew Bridges: I have been on
the record on the question of the probation system in the forward
of our last Annual Report making the point that the capacity has
been gradually squeezed over a period of ten years and it is the
whole question of efficiency savings which are entirely legitimate
one year at a time but over a period of time they add up to a
considerable amount. Government is correct that the resourcing
for probation has increased by a considerable amount in the course
of the last ten years but what they are required to do has increased
by considerably more than that. If I could just take one figure
in the last five years probation staffing has gone up by over
10% which is good but the number of people they have to deal with
has gone up by over 20% and that is even before you start looking
at what is being asked of Probation to do with them when they
have got them.
Juliet Lyon: Might I say something
about the costings because I have an anxiety that the figure of
£1.2 billion might not be quite right. I also have a concern.
I do not fully understand, and maybe the Committee would want
to investigate, how one can borrow ahead of the Spending Review.
I thought the whole point of a Spending Review was to produce
evidence in order to demonstrate a case for significant public
expenditure, but there seems to be, as I understand it, an agreement
already made that this money will be taken ahead of the next Spending
Review. My understandingand this is in discussion with
senior people in the Ministry of Justiceis that we are
talking about more than £2 billion. I think the greatest
fear of the Prison Reform Trust is that expenditure on this scale,
without proper public consultation and without proper parliamentary
debate, will totally eclipse any real advances in rehabilitation,
any real efforts to solve a very long-standing problem.
Q352 Alun Michael: Understanding
that position could we focus on the question which was glaring
omissions in terms of how other interventions could reduce the
requirements for prison, which obviously is the focus of the report?
Is there anything anybody would like to add specifically?
Anne Owers: I mentioned in my
opening remark mental health services, for example. We produced
a thematic review on the mental health of prisoners which pointed
to the need of course to improve services within prisons but,
crucially, to the need to improve services outside prisons and
court diversion schemes that might direct people to them. There
is a very helpful consultation paper at the moment on offender
health which includes mental health, but my understanding is that
there is no new money to be diverted to that.
Juliet Lyon: Specifically on an
example of a costing that would make a difference, the estimated
cost of residential drug treatment following a PQ was £35,000
a year. All the evidence suggests that residential drug treatment
is effective in enabling addicts to break an addiction which is
fuelling most acquisitive crime. If we look at binge drinking,
and I am not sure proper costings have been given as to how to
enable people to stop hazardous drinking but we know that binge
drinking is driving most violent crime and public disorder offences,
It seems completely sensible to look at those two issues alongside
Q353 Julie Morgan: The day after
Lord Carter's report, we then had the Government response to the
Corston proposals and I wanted to use this opportunity to ask
you what your views were about the Government's response and generally
about women in prison and how we should move ahead. Perhaps I
could ask you first Juliet, because I know you were involved in
Juliet Lyon: I worked as a member
of Baroness Corston's review team all of last year and I think
we as a group were very optimistic that at long last, after a
very long period of time from 2001 onwards when Government published
its new strategy on women offenders which made it very clear that
it believes the solutions to women's offending did not lie within
the prison system, but at long last a very measured and thorough-going
review would lead to a set of proposals which could change things
radically and reduce offending by women. The Government have responded
positively to 39 of the 43 recommendations. The omissions are
disastrous. The money has not been allocated to take forward Baroness
Corston's recommendations at all as far as I understand it and
the Commission that Baroness Corston proposed that would drive
the reforms has been dismissed. So you have a very small team
of civil servants and ministers who undoubtedly are committed
to wanting to take it forward. The intentions are still there.
The policy commitment is still there. But I cannot see from my
perspective any prospect of change or delivery and yet actually
the proposal would interestingly in the light of the Carter proposals,
over a ten-year period have freed up the women's prison estate
entirely. Baroness Corston was quite clear that it was possible
to close the women's prison estate, to establish small custodial
units for those few women who were violent and needed to be locked
up and a network of community centres which we observedAsha
in Worcester, Calderdale in Halifax and Centre 218 in Glasgow.
All of which were up and running with extremely impressive results,
in terms of outcomes and reduction in reoffending, simply by enabling
women to take responsibility for their lives, to get out of debt,
to take proper care of their children, to deal with their mental
health issues and to break addictions. All of these three centres
were delivering that in an impressive manner. I am almost speechless.
It is such a tragedy to have Titans stamping over something that
potentially would make a huge difference.
Q354 Julie Morgan: That is certainly
a very pessimistic view. Anne, have you got anything to say?
Anne Owers: I am struggling to
be more optimistic than Juliet but not entirely succeeding. I
can remember and I think Juliet probably can as well that we have
been here before. We were here in 2001 when Juliet's organisation
and the Women's Policy Group in the Home Office put forward proposals
for small community-based women's units and those got knocked
out of the way by a rising prison population which led to more
resources and energy being put into building prisons. I fear that
we are running into the same kind of thing again and it is very
disappointing that it was possible the day after Lord Carter's
report to allocate whatever significant resources there are to
the prison building programme but nine months after the Corston
Report no significant money is forthcoming. It is also in the
larger pictureI have to say I find it somewhat paradoxical
that the approach towards women in prison, which I entirely support,
is that we should put resources into things that are not prison
and we should have smaller community-based places close to home
but for any man over 18 the approach is we should put lots of
money into building prisons and put them in prisons 2,500 strong.
I would be the first to say that women are different but I would
submit they are not that different.
Q355 Chairman: We will come back
to some of the implications of that.
Andrew Bridges: I would just want
to stick to the principle about what should be done with individual
offenders and the Corston Report is right about providing an individualised
service for individuals and it captures a range of individual
issues that women in particular are likely to face including their
vulnerability, but having said that, that is the same principle
that should apply with this particular group of offenders, and
in that sense I agree with Anne.
Q356 Julie Morgan: Mr Tidball.
Paul Tidball: I was the Governor
of a women's prison not so long ago for over six years and regularly
daily had to deal with people who were 150 miles away from home
in some cases and had committed not much more than multiple shoplifting
because they had a unfortunate and tragic drug habit. Across the
piece not just about women's prisons I think we could think outside
the box a bit as is now happening ironically now happening in
the USA where a lot of money is invested in communities, not to
reduce reoffending but to stop it happening in the first place
even. Investment in communities is the way forward. I have referred
to the USA. There are a couple of states in the USA where local
authorities are actually given the sentencing budget and they
decide what to do with it. This is being piloted in a couple of
states and it has resulted in 70% less use of imprisonment so
I am sure that in those states they will be investing that money
that is diverted rather than spending the amounts of money we
are talking about today into community facilities to support women
and men. That is why they are able to reduce the huge expenditure
Q357 Julie Morgan: We did see some
of the community work in the USA. What do you think would be the
most important thing that could be done now to drive the Corston
Report forward because I take the point that some of you have
made that the same remedies are needed for men maybe but certainly
we could lead the way with women and then we could follow with
men, so what would be the most important thing now at this stage
where we are to drive this agenda forward?
Paul Tidball: My understanding
is, having had a brief look at the Government's response, that
the feasibilityI can understand the frustration about going
back to 2001 and similar undertakings being made at the time,
but the feasibility of women's custodial units nearer home will
be looked at. The only way I would differ slightly from Lady Corston
in fact is that she speaks of small, multi-functional custodial
units. If they are secure units which are so secure that they
do not have the facility to put women out into community activities
from the custodial units, it is not going to be a multi-functional
unit because it will not be big enough for it to be multi-functional.
There would be a limit to the custodial regime that can exist
in those units.
Juliet Lyon: I think the Committee
could, if I might say, play a critical role here. I am sure that
Ministers have issued a strong statement of intent, led by David
Hanson, and they have talked of the timeframe in which they are
going to establish an inter-ministerial group and set up a cross-departmental
criminal justice women's unit. It is not the same; it does not
have the same level of authority or budget in the same way as
Baroness Corston envisaged, but it does set a timeframe for moving
the recommendations forward, which we welcome. If it were possible
for your Committee to hold Government to account this time on
a set of clear promises (but, as yet, as I said, no opportunity
to deliver on those promises) and if it were possible to interrogate
to see how it proceedsI do not know whether that is possible.
Chairman: It is like teaching grandmothers
to suck eggs, but we will do our best! It is part of what we do.
Q358 Alun Michael: Within the Carter
recommendations there were some references to measures to cut
demand for prison placesif we stay on that issue. Jack
Straw gave a general and positive response to the report but do
you think there is something more specific that is needed on those
Carter recommendations? For instance, reform of the Bail Act,
time spent on conditional bail, restriction of community sentences?
Or is there anything else you want to refer to?
Anne Owers: There is certainly
a need to move on the IPP sentences, which the Lord Chancellor
has said he will do. I think my concern about this, really, derives
from what we have seen about Lord Carter's previous report, the
2003 report. Lord Carter then recommended two things very clearly:
he recommended the creation of a National Offender Management
Service and an offender management approach with it, but, also,
that the prison population should be kept below 80,000. It is
obvious which one of those we have got. This report recommends
prison building and measures to reduce demand in the short and
medium term, and in the longer-term a sentencing commission. My
fear is which one of those we will get and how difficult it could
beand it has proved difficult previouslyto reduce
demand for prison places unless we do things differently.
Juliet Lyon: In Annex E of Lord
Carter's report on pages 50 and 51 he sets out a package of measures
which we welcomenot all, I understand, the Ministry of
Justice has responded to positively. Just very briefly, Prison
Reform trust has produced a briefing paper which I shall submit
on the IPP sentence,
just showing, really, how very rapidly, against projections and
predictions and questions in the House, it had grown to well over
3,000 people serving those sentences (more than 400 of whom are
now over tariff), and the way in which that badly drafted and
very unjust measure had had a major impact on the population and
those who have to administer the prison system. One of the things
we have identified, in particular, in relation to IPP, because
we are doing a programme of work on learning disability, is that
those with a learning disability or an IQ below a certain level
are disbarred from attending these programmes.
So they really are in a maze with no exit. They are, in effect,
serving a longer sentence because of a disability, which I think
is a human rights breach. We have submitted evidence to the Joint
Committee on Human Rights to that effect. I do not think it is
reasonable to have a sentence which requires people to jump through
a series of hoops then not make those hoops available, and then
to disbar particular individuals because of a disability from
even entering that particular race. The measures on IPP are right
to try and reduce its ambit, and, in the view of the Prison Reform
Trust, it would have been legitimate to withdraw the sentence
entirely. I think that might have been something the Lord Chief
Justice has referred to on public recordthat it was simply
a bad sentence. If I might say just a couple of other things,
because there are recommendations about bail, we know that, for
example, if you look at the women's prison population, two-thirds
enter on remand but when they get to a court case, after a matter
of a few days, then a fifth are acquitted altogether and more
than half go on to serve a community penalty. In our view, there
is still an overall of custodial remand, and I think those recommendations
would have made a difference. On recalls and the idea of limiting
to 28 days, we know that six out of ten recalls to custody are
for technical breaches of licence, and very many of those people
are simply behaving in a chaotic way, which is difficult to manage
but, arguably, does not warrant a long period of imprisonment.
That has swelled the numbers colossally; 11% of the local prisons
are now taken up by people on recall to prison. These measures
seem to be very sensible to rebalance a system and reintroduce
some degree of proportionality.
Q359 Dr Palmer: I have a couple of questions
to Mr Bridges, if I may. The pressure on your resources is clear,
but talking to local probation officers they had two primary concerns:
one is that they feel that a lot of the additional resources that
have been given to the Probation Service have gone to the managerial
level rather than to the front line, and the other is that they
feel that they have been led into a somewhat defensive culture
where, because of a few, high profile cases where somebody re-offended
and it was found that the probation officer had not re-interviewed
them at the appropriate date, they were really focused on box-ticking;
on making sure that they had the required number of interviews
at the required number of dates rather than the broader mandate
of preventing re-offending. The combination of those two things
made them feel that they were simply becoming much less effective.
Andrew Bridges: Like everything
else in the criminal justice system, everything is always terribly
complicated and there is never a simple answer. So let's try to
get the big picture. As I have said already, I think resources
have gone up; demands have gone up by more. How much of that additional
amount is down to additional management, as alleged by people
who have spoken to you, yes, some of itthere is now an
enormous national headquarters compared with the pastwith
a lot of it involved in probation policy and the equivalent of
that ten years ago was absolutely minute. However, that is just
a small part of the issue. A lot of it is specialist interventions
which simply did not exist before; some of it is particular services
that probation officers are required to do that they did not have
before. So it is always complicated. It is a factor, but it is
a bit of a stereo-type to say that it is the whole factor. As
for the question of what probation officers are now required to
do and are they defensive and on the back foot (and, of course,
some people say: "Yes, well, look, if you publish reports
like this then, of course, people will be on the defensive"),
we are very clear about what is expected of probation staff and
their partner staff in the police, the prisons, etc, when managing
offenders, and it is to take all reasonable action. When we review
a case and we say: "Yes, under the circumstances, they did
everything that was reasonable", that is okay because you
absolutely cannot eliminate risk in the community. This is the
issue that is bedevilling all of the discussions about criminal
justice. We say something is more effective than something else.
You have to understand, it is by a few percentage points. Now,
that is a big gain, a few percentage points, in numbers, but that
also means there are lots of disappointments as well. Some of
them are awful disappointments, and people get upset about them.
So, yes, probation officers are being held accountable now in
a way that they were not before, but what we are not doing is
asking them to achieve the impossible.
3 Note by witness: The enclosed "Indefinitely
Maybe?" Prison Reform Trust briefing highlights the unjust
and unsustainable nature of the IPP sentence. Back
Note by witness: In my answer to Q358 I referred to the
Prison Reform Trust's concern that since those with a learning
disability or an IQ below a certain level are disbarred from attending
offending behaviour programmes they are in effect serving longer
sentences. Enclosed is a copy of the submission to the Joint Committee
on Human Rights to which referred in my answer. I also enclose
a copy of our latest report on this important issue "No One