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 256.

    234. dublove
    Prison should not be a place where perpetrators of crime go to be rehabilitated. It is a place where they are to be punished.
    And what then? When they are released from prison with no skills, no money, no support and a criminal record to boot, do you honestly expect them to walk into a job? a home? Or will you smugly whine when they re-offend and end up back in prison?

  • rate this

    Comment number 255.

    In 20 years I suppose the basic privilege will be a bunkbed in a shared cell, and the standard privilege will be a private cell with double bed and ensuite bathroom while the enhanced will be a king sized bed with goose feather eider down, ensuite bathroom with whirlpool bath, chocolates, champagne on arrival and prison warden butler service.

    It's evolving that way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 254.

    Facts show that many inmates have been inside before.

    So, if we want to decrease the prison population, wouldn't it be best to concentrate on rehabilitation?

    The revolving-prison-door is pointless.

    It is useless for everybody and it is expensive for the taxpayer.

  • Comment number 253.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 252.

    I understand why a lot of people say that they should not have any privileges in prison at all...but you are missing the fundamental element of 'rehabilitation'.

    Privileges are a way of pushing prisoners into compliant and 'reasonable' behaviour as part of the rehabilitation process.

    Simply locking them up and throwing away the key has proven not to work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 251.

    Throw every last one of them into a filthy bare concrete walled damp un-lit cage. Let them fester in their own filth. Douse them down every morning with freezing water from a fire hose. Give them rocks to break. Any dissent - 10 lashes with a whip.
    Yes, make it a place that's not 'very nice' to be in.

    Bring on the PC do-gooders........

  • rate this

    Comment number 250.

    There are thousands of women locked up for not paying the TV licence every year a complete waste of time"

    You should tell TV Licensing. They think you cannot be sent to prison if convicted of an offence under section 363 of the Communications Act 2003.

    Your hysterical and inaccurate rabble rousing statement sounds like something the Daily Mail might print. Do you read it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 249.

    #239 Did you not see #103 demanding prisoners not be fed? or #183 "
    Prisoners should be shackled to a treadmill producing green energy for the national grid. There's no point trying to rehabilitate lifers, we should also re-introduce the death penalty"

    A little more extreme than no playstation I think......

  • rate this

    Comment number 248.

    I cant see that being given access to endless repeats of Top Gear or Friends is a perk.

  • rate this

    Comment number 247.

    @223, prison being a punishment is a Tory view?

    As opposed to what? The holiday camp that it currently is?
    Food, clothes are a necessity obviously, but Sky TV and XBox?

    We're 'punishing' these prisoners by supplying them with better amenities than a lot of honest, hard working people in this country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 246.

    Haven't had the time to read all the comments - too busy working.

    Many yet from criminals saying taking away their games consoles, cable and satellite etc won't do any good? OF COURSE THEY'D SAY THAT!

    (to 6yr old son) William, if I take away your DS will you behave nicely?

    No Daddy.

    Bet he bloody does. IT DOES WORK!

    You know they get protein supplements to bulk up in the gym don't you?

  • rate this

    Comment number 245.

    Nu:labour's plan is to give prisoners minimum wage for the time they spend inside and a job when they get out before the long term unemployed. No surprise they don't like a Tory idea when handouts are their plan.

  • rate this

    Comment number 244.

    Denial of liberty is the punishment. Prisoners will only reform when they reach the stage in their life when they want more than a life in prison. We need to provide good job education for prisoners ready to transition to normal life and treat the rest with very basic but humane time away from society. TV in cells is no big deal, i mean, jeremy kyle all day is enough punishment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 243.

    Should not the same be said about people on benefits? Surely if you are on long term benefits then why should you be entitled to multiroom sky TV, 2 holidays a year, latest iphone/ipad etc.

    Before people comment, i have a couple both 20, straight out of college, baby and not done a days work since, 3 bed semi, - £1400 a month and have all the above!

    Surely watching Xfactor is punishment

  • rate this

    Comment number 242.

    "So I ask you, What are 100-110 Inmates going to do when they get bored?"

    If they are kept in their cells and provided with provisions through a hatch, absolutely nothing that can't be ignored with suitable earplugs

  • rate this

    Comment number 241.

    Tory minister wanting to be seen as hard on criminals and crime and playing to the fears of voters just prior to local elections..... It might be more valid to find out why this country locks up such a large percentage of its population.

  • rate this

    Comment number 240.

    We need new railway lines, wider tunnels on the London Underground, tram and monorail systems in our car-clogged cities, repairs to buildings etc.

    Why are prisoners being allowed to idle in front of Sky when they should be forced to work for their country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 239.

    @211. Peter_Sym
    "That well known lefty-liberal Winston Churchill once said "you can judge a society by its treatment of prisoners"."

    What are you on about. We are talking about limited access to things like TV & games consoles. Afterall, they are there for a crime and its their punishment

    We are not talking about beheading prisoners because they are a bit slow in building the new HS2 line

  • rate this

    Comment number 238.

    Another cosmetic exercise by a cosmetic Govt. This is all slight of hand stuff as most of it already happens, so most prisoners behave themselves as a consequence. This Govt is a disgrace. They massage the economic stats and are more concerned with the perception rather than the facts and reality. They are driven by opinion polls.lately by UKIP and the elections on Thursday. This is a smokescreen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 237.


    Keep your racism to yourself.


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