Government policy 'inhumane' and 'dysfunctional'

Date: 
Tuesday, 17 December, 2013

The offender management system in prisons in England and Wales is dysfunctional and should be subject to a fundamental review, the Chief Inspectors of Prisons and Probation have concluded in a report out today.

Quoted in The Guardian, Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick and Chief Inspector of Probation Liz Calderbank said:

'We have come to the reluctant conclusion that the offender management model, however laudable its aspirations, is not working in prisons. We therefore believe that the current position is no longer sustainable and should be subject to fundamental review. [It] is dysfunctional.

'It does not work and we don't see any sign in the future that it will work and it undermines the whole thrust of the government's rehabilitation plan.

'It needs a fundamental rethink if transforming rehabilitation is going to stay on track and the public is to get the protection to which they are entitled.'

However, those who hope that the report might lead to rethink of the Transforming Rehabiliation agenda may be disappointed. Prisons expert Rob Allen commented via Twitter:

You can download the press release and report below.

The Chief Inspectors' reports came on the back of a leak of an internal Ministry of Justice assessment to The Observer last Sunday:

'On a scale of one to 25, where 25 is the highest likelihood of something happening, the assessment gives a maximum score to the probability that there will be a "reduction [in] performance" under the new system. It states that this will see the "potential for service delivery failure increase" and that there is a very high chance of "operational confusion". As a result, offenders will pose a "higher risk to the public" and there will be "poorer outcomes" for victims and communities. The report warns that courts would "lose confidence in the ability of the service to deliver sentences".'

The newspaper also reported that the 'assessment estimates that there is a 25 out of 25 risk that the programme will not "be delivered either in scope or within the timescale set by ministers".'

Also in The Guardian, the former reviewer of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), Professor Malcolm Harrington, warned the current Justice Secretary Chris Grayling in 2010 that the WCA was 'not working very well' . Professor Harrington advised Mr Grayling, then the work and pensions minister, to delay an expansion of the scheme to incapacity benefit claimants.

Professor Harrington said:

'If they had changed the system to make it more humane I would suggest that some of the people who went through it would have had a less traumatic experience.'

The Department for Work and Pensions said there was no record of Professor Harrington issuing such a warning.