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 156.

    Why only male prisoners ? there are female murderers and child molesters as well !

  • rate this

    Comment number 155.

    Just saw a lawyer walking down the street licking his lips, now i know why..

  • rate this

    Comment number 154.

    Whatever happened to austerity?
    Prisoners can buy their own clothes. Why is taxpayers money being wasted on kitting out crooks with uniforms?

  • rate this

    Comment number 153.

    The stupidity of this government is beyond belief.

    If they want to do this firstly they must increase the staffing levels in prisons by at least 100%.

    Will they do that?.

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.

    144. chelseaclipper
    hmmmm cooked meals, Tv, 18-rated movies, games of pool, money, adult education, a bed, no bills, and a gym........and the reason to fear prison is?
    Being deprived of your liberty whilst locked in a small cell for 20+ hours a day and surrounded by hordes of violent psychopaths - sounds a decent reason for being fearful.

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.

    I am all for the criminals having a harder punishment, for myself I would happily kill them all. But until then let us stop them having the subsidied bar under the house of commons.

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    What is included in that basic incentive programme in prisons sums up my life on the outside, minus the TV privilege. I hope to work harder to achieve the standard status, but I don't expect to achieve the enhanced programme, I may need to commit a crime and go inside for that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    I see the Tory/Daily Mail propaganda unit's in overdrive to try and avert the upcoming disaster at the polls on Thursday. Attemps to link the vote-splitting UKIP to EDL/racism, and now falling back on the old 'tough on crime' heartland issue. Well done Beeb for spreading the muck like a good little puppy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    Surly being made to watch The X-Factor, Britten’s Got Talent, The Voice and Strictly is a punishment ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 147.

    Like everyone else I couldn't understand why it was only men who may be barred ( pun intended ) from watching tv but I've since found out that the only programme the women prisoners will be able to watch is ' Loose women' and as most men would deem that as 'Cruel and unusual punishment' maybe it's for the best that they lose their Tvs, though a prisoner might appreciate the sight of any women....

  • rate this

    Comment number 146.

    With right-wing, 'look at me I'm tough' announcements like these coming out you'd think that the there were elections coming up.

    Good grief - politicians think that we are all dumb.

  • rate this

    Comment number 145.

    my wife worked in prisons for her thesis, she was verbally and physically asaulted. which you might expect. the punnishment ,no xbox for 1 day . prisoners are treated like kings, heat, food, cigarettes, training, education, treatments, councelling, degrees, and then in each suite they get a tv and xbox if they are good ..our prisons are a laughing stock

  • rate this

    Comment number 144.

    hmmmm cooked meals, Tv, 18-rated movies, games of pool, money, adult education, a bed, no bills, and a gym........and the reason to fear prison is?

  • rate this

    Comment number 143.

    Television should be restricted soley to educational programs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.

    We're all suffering from austerity measures so why should prisoners (who cost us in excess of £40k per year to keep) be protected? I know this article is a slightly different topic but who in their right mind thought prisoners' deserved free Sky TV, DVDs & a choice of 5 or so meals at dinnertime? Talk about throwing money away with zero effect at rehabilitating. No wonder a minority prefer prison

  • rate this

    Comment number 141.

    My comment comparing the assertion that it is impossible to descriminate against males with the Nazi belief that descriminating against jews was warranted, was moderated. I'm absolutely astonished and intend to complain. The BBC has to be made accontable on the issue of their biased moderation decisions

  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    Perhaps whilst we're making our prisons less comfortable, any chance of deporting all the foreign nationals cluttering up our cells Mr Grayling?

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    As it goes I am having a problem wth my TV aerial at home. How will I get my TV privileges back? I will phone an installer - at my cost, book him to call in - at my cost, stay at home whilst he fixes it - at my inconvenience, pay him, then when I am free from work - the job that paid for my TV, TV Licence, and repair man, I will hopefully get to enjoy it. Until this time I will do without.

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    There are many innocent people in prison and many rich fraudsters conmen who went to the right school, know the system and can afford slick lawyers and walk free.

    If prison is so cushy, what would be amazing is if Grayling went back to the floor and spent 4 weeks as a new prisoner and learnt something.

    Instead what we get is damaging political rhetoric that helps no one, shame on him

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    Wake up people! It's just another pointless headline grabber a couple of days before the local elections.

    Pointless (lack of) government with no policies except the wrong ones.


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