Prisoners 'must work harder' for privileges


Chris Grayling: "Prison is about two things - punishment and rehabilitation"

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Male prisoners in England and Wales must work harder for privileges such as TVs in cells, the government has said.

Inmates will be made to wear a uniform during their first two weeks in jail and their access to private cash to call home will be restricted.

Satellite and cable TV channels, currently available in some private prisons, will be banned altogether.

The Prison Reform Trust said "getting rid of tellies" was not going to cut reconviction rates.

But Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said: "I want the arrival in prison for the first time to be an experience that is not one they'd want to repeat.

"That means an environment where they arrive [where] standards are pretty basic and then they start to gain extras by contributing... and if they won't do it, then they can't expect to start gaining those privileges."


Justice Secretary Chris Grayling says he's making these changes to refocus prisons on their twin aims of punishing and rehabilitating. He believes they offer privileges too easily and are too willing to settle for simply containing inmates. But it's also obvious that measures such as removing multi-channel TV are likely to be eye-catching to voters.

When asked, ministers couldn't provide concrete evidence that a tougher regime would increase rehabilitation though they insisted the plans had been properly thought out. The Prison Reform Trust said providing jobs behind bars was vital and there currently weren't enough. The government aims to increase them - but make good behaviour a condition of employment.

Ministers could have gone further - taking televisions in cells away completely, for example. But a Pentonville inmate told me the biggest perk for him was being able to earn enough money to call friends and family. He said more than anything, maintaining personal relationships would ensure he goes straight on the outside.

There are currently three levels of privileges available to prisoners - basic, standard and enhanced. Currently all inmates must be placed initially on the middle tier when they enter prison.

This allows them to wear own clothes, have a TV in their cell and gives them more family visits, access to private cash and potential to earn more from prison jobs than those who are moved to basic level for poor behaviour.

However, from November, all prisoners will spend their first two weeks on a new "entry" level, which more closely resembles the basic standard currently in place.

Their behaviour will be reviewed after two weeks and they will either stay at the basic level or move up to the standard level.

Other changes to the Incentives and Earned Privileges (IEP) schemes from November will include:

  • A longer working day for prisoners
  • A ban on films with an 18 certificate
  • Extra gym time being dependent "on active engagement with rehabilitation"

The Ministry of Justice said it would also strengthen prisons' powers to recover money from inmates who cause damage.

When the new system is introduced, existing prisoners will not lose the privileges they already have unless their status is reviewed - other than the loss of the cable and satellite TV service available in some private prisons.

Officials are still working on possible changes to the privilege scheme for female prisoners.

Ben Gunn, who spent 32 years in prison for murder, told the BBC Mr Grayling was putting newly incarcerated people at risk.

Prison Incentives and Earned Privilege

There are three levels of incentives.

  • Basic: The minimum entitlements in the prison rules. Includes visits, work, education, treatment programmes, religious services, access to the prison shop, exercise and associating with other prisoners but no TVs in cells
  • Standard: Allowed more visits than those on basic level, more time to socialise with other prisoners, higher rates of pay for work, higher allowance of private cash and in-cell TVs
  • Enhanced: Receive a greater volume of the standard level privileges. Includes extra visits, more time to socialise with other prisoners, more private cash allowance, priority consideration for jobs that pay more money

"To actually bring people into prison and in their first two weeks, when they are at their most vulnerable and prone to suicide and self-harm, to then throw them in uniform so they're marked out from the rest of the population and restrict the money they can spend to phone home to talk to friends, family and lawyers is just absurd.

"It's positively harmful."

Abdulla Choudhury, who was released in 2011 after serving 13 years in prison, agreed vulnerable prisoners could become targets for bullies.

He rejected the notion that prison life was easy and said those with less opportunity to earn money working in prison were more likely to sell drugs.

Mr Choudhury, who now works with young offenders for charity User Voice, also questioned the timing of the government's announcement, saying: "They should focus more on training so prisoners can get jobs when they leave prison."

Noel "Razor" Smith, who was in prison for 33 years and is now a writer, said putting TVs into prisoners' cells actually helped reduce violence in prisons, because it gave inmates who could not read or write a way to occupy their time.

"You would think he [Mr Grayling] would start on drugs if anything," Mr Smith said. "It's easier to buy heroin on prison landings than on the streets."

But Max Chambers, from the right-leaning Policy Exchange think tank, said the moves were "exactly what taxpayers would expect from our prison system" and would improve behaviour in jails.

Prison Reform Trust director Juliet Lyon said it was "perfectly reasonable" to remove subscription TV channels but there was no evidence to suggest that a "so-called tough approach" would improve rehabilitation.

"But, to be more effective, you have to focus on employment and skills training, on making sure people have safe housing to go to and that they have good contact with their family."

The Howard League for Penal Reform, meanwhile, said it was "bizarre" to introduce "new layers of red tape which will only add to the cost of prison and demands on staff time".

"It is also astounding that the justice secretary spends his time policing what prisoners watch on DVD, to the point that Scary Movie 2 or series three of The Inbetweeners will be banned," chief executive Frances Crook said.

Yvette Cooper: "You get a big announcement but the reality doesn't stack up"

"Instead, Chris Grayling should look at taking our prison population back to a manageable level - giving non-violent people community sentences so something productive can be done with those who remain in prison."

Last month, MSPs warned that prisoners in Scotland's jails were spending too much time watching TV instead of taking part in activities to cut reoffending.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    Treat them like animals, then release them later, that's the ticket. I can't see any way it could fail.

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    Why is this a topic? I can't rant against the EU, communists or the unemployed, so this is a total waste of my licence fee. Do prisoners pay a licence fee? I should hope so! Or do I pay for that as well?

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    How long before we get US style prisons using inmates as slave labor producing products and taking jobs from honest, hard working people while making a hefty profit for those with more than enough money already? Got to get those criminals "earning" their keep, eh...

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.


    Bit ignorant. . . . . Some who work 50 odd hours per week can't afford a TV. . . . . .You must be one of the lucky ones. . . . Shame you have no insight for those who are suffering

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    Yes, fine, all should work and contribute for their privileges...

    BUT most important we should be putting the brakes on slavery (less than a living wage).

    Those benefiting from great wealth on the backs of hard working slaves surely aren't working for their privileges.

    Can we have the same rules for everyone ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    I don't care whether the prisoners get a TV in their room for no work at all.

    What I really do care about is the Libor fixers and banker fraudsters who have yet to see the inside of a prison cell for destroying the countries credibility on an international scale and ruining our economy to boot.

    Focus on the real problems, not on things that make no difference to us, the law abiding citizens.

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    Heres an idea, rehabiliate them by making the prison experience so tough that they dont ever want to go back. One level of existence while in prison...basic. They get their basic needs met and nothing more.

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    Locked in a cell with a TV for company is enought to put anyone off from committing a crime. The pictures are far better on radio or indeed a book.

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    No TV's period. Maybe a film once a week in the common area. Serving time should be punishment. A lesson learned in the loss of liberty. Not an easy ride until the minimum term is served.

    And yes, why is this male only. Are female offenders more deserving of special treatment? I doubt their victims would say so. Criminals are criminals regardless of gender.

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    9 Minutes ago
    You get a TV with cable channels and your own cell in prison?

    I can't even afford a TV!

    get a proper job then.

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    For those who say that prison is a holiday camp - let's see you doing 5 years of bird. You couldn't stand a minute - telly or no telly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    If reported correctly Kiaran Stapleton murderer of Anuj Bidve is quoted as boasting about the "easy life" he faced in prison and Sky TV being one of the luxuries. Said it all really

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    We're far too soft on prisoners.

    Less telly and more porridge I say !

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    And this just highlights what a joke this country has become.

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    Prison is better than some Bed and Breakfasts I have stayed in. There in Prison for a good reason they should have nothing. If they have visitors it should be behind glass , so nothing can be passed to them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    "It is also astounding that the justice secretary spends his time policing what prisoners watch on DVD, to the point that Scary Movie 2 or series three of The Inbetweeners will be banned," chief executive Frances Crook said.

    NO Mr Crook (with the ironic name!!) - what's astounding is Prisoners are being given any DVD's to watch instead of access to basic TV as a privilege!

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    A custodial sentence means that your right to liberty is taken away. The judge never goes on to say that you will only be fed bread and water - the regime is rightly the responsibility for prison governors who should decide the balance between rehab and punishment depending on behaviour. I think micromanagement of all institutions by politicians including schools hospitals leads to mediocrity

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    But without a TV how will a prisoner play his xbox..?

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    I fully support the new entry level. I don't see why it should be relaxed after two weeks. Prison is meant to be a punishment. Being allowed to sit in your own clothes, watching TV in your room, getting fed all for free is a better deal than I have when I get home from work!

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    The start of all prison term should be punishment and they earn perks for positive behaviour. Prison uniforms should be compulsary until you have completed 75% of your sentence. TV should be BBC1 only. Gymnasiums are a luxery item only to be provided to exemplary prisoners.


Page 48 of 51


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