Tag Archive | "Peter Clarke"

Prison reform


Prison reform was a key element of the Prisons and Courts Bill, abandoned in the run up to the general election. And it was not reinstated in the threadbare Queen’s Speech.

In his first public statement since taking up the post of justice secretary, David Lidington has sought to reassure that this apparent dropping of prison reform is not sinister. The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) published an open letter from him claiming that ‘essential’ changes are already under way to make prisons places of ‘safety and reform’.

“The work to make our prisons true places of reform and rehabilitation is already under way – and it will continue unabated,” Lidington writes. He details the work within local communities and with other services such as with Probation, Jobcentres, housing, health and drug services, local businesses and charities to provide innovative schemes and initiatives to prepare prisoners for a life after release and promises: “Only by building on this work to reform offenders and support ex-offenders will we stop the vicious and costly cycle of reoffending.

“This is my priority and as the new Secretary of State, I am committed to building on the essential reforms that are already under way to make prisons places of safety and reform.”

Stressing the importance of staffing he said: “My predecessor has already secured a £100 million a year investment for an extra 2,500 prison officers. The most recent figures show the number of prison officers in post has increased by 515 compared with the previous quarter and we are on track to deliver all 2,500 prison officers by December 2018.”

Lidington claimed that we are the first jurisdiction in the world to introduce testing for psychoactive substances across the estate. And more than 300 dogs have been trained to detect these substances.

On drones he said that the department is working with the police to catch and convict criminals using drones to smuggle contraband into prisons, and have also established a new team of prison and police officers to directly tackle the threat posed by drones. On mobile phones: “We are working with mobile network operators to tackle illicit use of phones. We have now fitted out every single prison across the estate with hand-held mobile phone detectors and detection poles to step up the detection of illegal phones on the landings. More than 150 mobile phones have been cut off since the introduction of new powers through the Serious Crime Act.”

He confirmed that “We are continuing to transform our prison estate to close old and dilapidated prisons and create up to 10,000 new places through a £1.3 billion investment.”

As reported in the ‘Gazette’, Peter Clarke, HM chief inspector of prisons, said the bill had enjoyed broad parliamentary support and had made real progress. Its absence from the Queen’s speech was a ’missed opportunity’, Clarke said, adding: “We will continue to report the harsh reality of what we find in our prisons – all too many of which are dangerous for prisoners and staff alike.”

And Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: “The decision puts even more pressure on the new justice secretary to find ways to stop our chronic overuse of prison so that this hardest pressed of public services can start to repair the damage his predecessors have inflicted upon it.”

The full text of the justice secretary’s letter can be found at:
https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/prison-reform-open-letter-from-the-justice-secretary

Posted in Criminal Justice, Law UpdatesComments (0)

Imprisonment for public protection


Peter Clarke, the chief inspector of prisons, has produced a report on the 3,859 imprisonment for public protection (IPP) prisoners currently held. He said justice secretary Liz Truss needed to take decisive action to reduce the numbers of those still in prison years after the end of their tariff.

The sentence was introduced in 2005, designed for those who had committed specified ‘serious violent or sexual offences’ and who were deemed to pose a ‘significant risk of serious harm’ in the future. Under the sentence, high-risk individuals would serve a minimum term in prison (their tariff), during which time they would undertake work to reduce the risk they posed. When sufficient risk reduction had been achieved, they would be released by the Parole Board.

The sentence was abolished in 2012. Between 2005 and 2012, a total of 8,711 sentences were issued by the courts. As of September 2016, 3,859 of those prisoners sentenced to an IPP were still in custody, and 87% or 3,200 of these prisoners were beyond their tariff expiry date. Over a third, 42% or 1,398 prisoners, are five or more years over tariff.

Peter Clarke said it was “completely unjust” that offenders serving IPP terms were “languishing in jail”. He warned that these sentences were having a serious effect on prisoners’ mental health. He said “It is widely accepted that implementation of the sentence was flawed and that this has contributed to the large numbers who remain in prison with this sentence, often many years post-tariff.
“Some people with IPP sentences remain dangerous and need to be held in prison to protect the public. Others, however, present much lower levels of risks but system failures have impeded their progress.”

He added that, as the only person “who’s got the authority to get a grip on the way things happen,” the justice secretary needs to act quickly to ensure the consequences of mistakes made in the past do not continue to resonate for many years to come.

Nick Hardwick, Parole Board Chairman, said he very much welcomed the publication of the report. He said: “The Parole Board has recently published its strategic plan to take it to through the next four years to 2020, and one of the 5 over-arching aims is directly focused on the progression of IPP prisoners where it is safe to do so.”

Former lord chancellor and secretary of state for justice Michael Gove was the speaker at this year’s Longford Lecture, delivered last week. His speech highlighted the dire state of UK prisons with instances of violence and unrest in HMP. 200 prisoners rioted at HMP Bedford, and prison officers tried to stage a protest against the unprecedented levels of violence until the High Court declared their actions unlawful.

Gove waded into the subject in strong support of Clarke, saying: “I would recommend using the power of executive clemency for those 500 or so IPP prisoners who have been in jail for far longer than the tariff for their offence and have now – after multiple parole reviews – served even longer than the maximum determinate sentence for that index offence.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said the chief inspector’s report rightly highlighted concerns around the management of IPP prisoners. “That is why we have set up a new unit within the ministry of justice to tackle the backlog and are working with the parole board to improve the efficiency of the process.”

The full text of Peter Clarke’s report ‘Unintended consequences: finding a way forward for prisoners serving sentences of imprisonment for public protection’ can be found at

https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons/wpcontent/uploads/sites/4/2016/11/Unintended-consequences-Web-2016.pdf

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