Prisoners, Rehabilitation and Privileges

by cartwrightking01 on June 22, 2013

  • Sharebar

By Naomi De Silva from

Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling has announced “radical” changes which he believes will make an impact on the rehabilitation of offenders.

The proposed changes are:

–          that inmates should wear a uniform during the 1st two weeks in jail; and access to private cash to call home should be restricted;

–          satellite and cable TV channels, currently available in some prisons, will be banned;

–          A longer working day for prisoners;

–          A ban on films with an 18 certificate;

–          Prisoners to be put on either basic or standard, “IEP level” depending on how they “co-operate with the regime or engage in rehabilitation.”

Some of the proposed changes already exist in some form and can be found on the Ministry of Justice’s website. Rules on the IEP regime Prison Service Order 4000, PSO 4465) and private cash is governed by Prison Service Order 4465 and Prison Service Instruction 30/2008. The Government appear to be provoking public outrage at the “luxurious” life that inmates serve in prison rather than addressing the root problems which are causing prisons to fail to rehabilitate offenders.

The suggestion that offending would be reduced would have to balance against the severity of the offence and the public perception on offences. It is naïve to believe that a tougher approach to the treatment of offenders in prison would address the issue of offending.

The prediction for changes to the prison system suggest a steady reduction in offending however, it does not have any regard for the unsettled lifestyle of the average offender or the impact that outside sources have such as the ability to find gainful employment or accommodation. People will continue to threaten and assault, without ever having received any form of rehabilitation and children may still witness and suffer abuse and go on to offend. Social statistics currently document an increase in poverty and whilst there is significant class divide the crimes will continue – e.g.  drugs taken as a means to escape reality, robberies/burglaries for financial gain.

A lot of indeterminate offences are committed uniquely and there are a number of common-place determinate sentences such as not paying tax, committing an insurance fraud or using illegal substances; these are some of the offences that are unpredicted (with no prior/similar offending). It is not sensible to target these inmates at the early stages of entry into custody, when they are undoubtedly at their most vulnerable.

Custody will continue to act as a means of punishment and prisoners will still require assistance and advice in enforcing human rights which have been established through case law. Judgments pertaining to the rights of prisoners handed down from Strasbourg are areas which the Government will be unable to deviate from (although access to justice will be affected by the cuts to legal aid). Rehabilitation will not be addressed by the removal of a television, which currently assist a much strained prison service by keeping inmates occupied. (There is also no evidence that 18 rated films or programmes enforce offending behaviour).

Solutions to reducing crime and promoting public safety lie outside the prison gates and beyond the criminal justice agencies. These solutions are to be found in improved mental health services, drug treatment and alcohol services. Social development initiatives that address exclusion and disadvantage by providing effective support for communities would, in the long run, be more effective than relying on punishment to stop crime. This again is dependent on the amount of capital invested in social development schemes; we should not forget that it was a Conservative Government that made cuts in the number of psychiatric and psychological services available to the public, and proposed cuts within the NHS will undoubtedly affect the number of psychiatrists available to assist those with mental illness. How will those with Mental Health illnesses fare in isolation in the first two weeks of custody?

It is accepted that the primary purpose of prison, is punishment and deterrence but, as the UK moved away from capital punishment a more humanitarian practice towards offenders developed. We now have a system where psychologists, psychiatrists and probation staff all work on assessing the background and the triggers to a person offending with a view to completing in-depth work in order to address the cause of the offending.  Plans for probation licences and considerations for release are all dependent on psychology-lead assessments not general behaviour in custody. How else can we reassure that a person is not a threat to the public?

Currently, only those serving lengthy or indeterminate sentences have the time to access the in-depth rehabilitative work supplied in prison. An overstretched prison service already struggles to place offenders on rehabilitative courses and it can take months to transfer an inmate in order to access much needed offence focused work. With issues like these taking the matter of rehabilitation out of the control of an inmate, how can the Government then seek to punish them by taking away their cheap portable telly?

Ultimately, there is a greater need for proportionality in sentencing and move away from the notion that rehabilitation can be used as a crime reduction tool. Of course prisons should seek to assist and support offenders, but they are ultimately places of punishment, not a social service, and so will never be an effective crime reduction tool; essentially except for a better application of sentences and funding to support rehabilitative courses it is anticipated that  the reduction of privileges will have little impact upon rehabilitation.




Latest posts by cartwrightking01 (see all)

No related posts.

Previous post:

Next post: