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 276.

    Just another easy target for this idiotic government. They reduce prison resources, then start proposing policies that will only lead to trouble in the Prison system. I feel sorry for the Prison Officers who'd have to bear the consequences

  • rate this

    Comment number 275.

    I can see a rehabilitation argument for books, but tv and video games? The prisoners will become bored? - if only that were the worst fate they prepared for their victims

  • rate this

    Comment number 274.

    "Prison is about two things - punishment and rehabilitation"

    and protecting the public?

    Every time this man opens his mouth/puts pen to paper he proves his incompetence. Ignoring his attacks on access to legal representation in personal injury cases and the rights of the evey day man in criminal cases, this man proves every day why he should not be let loose near anything to do with law!

  • rate this

    Comment number 273.

    I can't help but read this report and comments and see the parallel between prisoners and children

    .. You can have a TV/XBox in your room if you show you can be trusted

    .. A ban on films with an 18 certificate

    .. You don't need to pay for your TV license, your guardians will pay

    .. Everything's unfair, I don't deserve this

    .. You just don't understand

    .. Lights off? oh, why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 272.

    The prison authorities like to believe they are being pragmatic. Give the prisoners food which costs more than the sum allocated for soldiers, one person cells with TV, a nice free gym, and a mere token action to stop the drugs inflow, and there won't be any riots. The penal reform league says prison doesn't cut reoffending rates. Can't say I'm surprised.

  • rate this

    Comment number 271.

    Do they have amusement arcades and fairground rides too? they always say prison is a holiday camp.

  • rate this

    Comment number 270.

    Prison is for punishment and rehabilitation. It is not somewhere that you can go and have better facilities than those hard working law abiding people on a low income. Prison is not a deterrent for most criminals. I work and cant afford cable or Sky. We are far too easy on our law breakers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 269.


    "Many are in prison for non-violent, victimless crimes".

    I'm sorry, what does that change? They've still committed a CRIME.

    By the way, there's no such thing as 'victimless crime'.

    "What the law says isn't always right"

    No. But there must be law. A world without is doomed.

    Death penalty? Some perspective: we're talking about TVs here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 268.

    Uniform to be a demeaning pink.
    Chain gangs to tidy up litter - on their hands and knees.
    No gym or weights for any prisoners - the scallys shouldn't use prison to muscle-up to help them mug people when they get out.
    The only available perk should be a cell with a window.
    They should have to work for the privilege of oxygen.


  • rate this

    Comment number 267.

    We've put most of our efforts into rehabilitation for decades now with statistically pathetic results. What this approach does do (in conjunction with laughably light sentences) is remove any deterrent for would be criminals.
    Prison should be harsh but safe. Rehabilitation is most important after prison and that's where resources should be directed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 266.

    Whilst I'm not against austere prison conditions, the reason TV were introduced in the first place was to bring down suicide rates, bullying and violence (most of which were extremely high amongst young prisoners). What other changes will they bring in to counteract this? It's also interesting that the changes are only targeting men? Should female prisons not be similarly austere?

  • rate this

    Comment number 265.


    That's where you are very very very very very very wrong. Nobody has been sent to prison for not paying their TV License. They have been sent to jail for not paying the fine which is completely different. These are victimless crimes, they have hurt nobody. Actually know what you are talking about before spouting absolute and utter drivel.

  • rate this

    Comment number 264.

    There are cuts being made elsewhere so why not in Prisoners rights. Remove TVs, hard labour, cut the heating a,d give them one meal a day. A lot of pensioners have similar to this and have laboured all their lives. While we are at it, bring in Texas style laws for murderers and drug dealers and then watch huge change of attitude from cons and ex cons who tell us doing time is easy.......

  • rate this

    Comment number 263.

    Let's ask Jeffrey Archer - he should know

  • rate this

    Comment number 262.

    Well this week we have the BBC propaganda mouth piece Easton telling us the U.K. is more peaceful. Then I see 10.000 violent crime go without charge Next yet another bunch of Muslim Terrorist Convicted of wanting to blow to bit men women and kids. Lost count of how many that is this month. Then I see the Socialists hand wringing on here again about prisoners ! oh dear oh dear what a mess leftys

  • rate this

    Comment number 261.

    Another government policy to punish and humiliate the poor for being poor. It is extremely popular amongst the self hating tabloid masses.

  • rate this

    Comment number 260.

    The global financial crisis has caused as many as 10,000 to take their own lives and still climbing, the Governments around the World will use Austerity for this very thing and a shot was never fired to depopulate the People.
    Those asking for a change in politics will need to think a little bit harder, you really think UKIP will help?

  • rate this

    Comment number 259.

    This is probably the typical prisoner
    "A Nottingham man has now been held in custody for two weeks after he was accused of “threatening behaviour” due to comments he allegedly made during his Atos benefits assessment."

    This is a man who has mental health problems and suffers from Paranoid delusions, what did they expect?

  • rate this

    Comment number 258.

    193. wrighty
    Something for people to think about...
    How many Officers on a Wing? 3-4
    How many Inmates on a Wing? 100-110"

    The latest UK figures I can find (from 2006) are 84,000 prisoners and 26,000 prison officers. There are 3 shifts, so that's about 1 officer on duty per 10 prisoners. Not 1 per 30.

  • rate this

    Comment number 257.

    I agree with this idea in general, I have spent time behind the door , I would be interested to know how, the prison service would cope with say 400 prisoners from a wing all out at the same time, also what jobs would they all do ? in moving men to other places in prison takes 10 officers,
    I spent time in Leeds where i could not work unrill 28 days past for assesment,
    I cant see it working,


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