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 316.

    304. Steve
    You can comment on this story "Prisoners 'must work harder' for privileges" But you can't comment on on this story "Lloyds Banking Group first quarter profits rise to £2bn"

    The BBC are the pinnacle of a divisive scumbag organisation
    Look harder. Robert Peston is letting you comment on this & has done since this morning:

  • rate this

    Comment number 315.

    From Muslim Terrorists to Benefit Life Stylers to Violent Criminals to Over Seas Aid to Dictators and Bent Govnt to holiday camp prison. The list is endless which the Socialists wring their hands over while they chew their mung-bean salads and contemplate their toe nails sticking out of the end of their flip-flops. The one thing that never enters their mind. The Law abiding Tax paying victims. Sad

  • rate this

    Comment number 314.

    There is a paten forming on these HYS today

    Silly Tory storeys supported by fully paid up members of that party

    It all looks to choreographed

    You need to try harder to make it look natural

  • rate this

    Comment number 313.

    perhaps the reason reoffending rates are so high is because they can watch TV and play games hahahah I know... a radical thought LOL

  • rate this

    Comment number 312.

    "there are such things are victim less crimes. Drug taking is victim less".

    No it isn't. The entire drugs industry is evil, violent and run by more serious criminals higher up the chain.

    "and the thousands that are sent to prison for not paying fines, ARE VICTIM LESS CRIMES".

    Again, incorrect. When fines aren't paid, the missing revenue is collected from the law-abding.

  • rate this

    Comment number 311.

    No wonder criminals want to go bk to prison. I'm shocked that they get sky sports and other subscription channels while people i know working and on benefits can't even come close to affording sky tv.

    Prison is there for punishment, it's not there to act an award for doing a crime which it currently is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 310.

    @ 251.Finchy

    They do this in many countries and we used to do it decades ago, but crime rates remain high with this approach.

    Having a privilege system is not 'namby-pamby PC liberalism', but actually a commonsense scientific approach to rehabilitation which is what is required if we're going to have release prisoners at some stage.

    It obviously needs more work but is the right direction.

  • rate this

    Comment number 309.

    Personally I think we should get rid of prisons altogether and just get a tower full of naughty steps and a few supper nanny's..!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 308.


    You are talking about criminal gangs which is completely different and if I need to explain the difference It would be embarrassing. I'm talking about the person who decides to take drugs and then gets thrown in jail for it when they are doing nothing wrong. Killings and beatings happen over cars, houses and other arguments. Your point? Your argument is invalid.

  • rate this

    Comment number 307.

    Kids don't respect their parents, kids don't respect teachers, kids don't fear or respect the law....

    Those kids grow up and don't respect society, the rule of law, or anything for that matter ......and they become career prisoners.

    Bring back discipline in schools, let parents punish their kids, and bring back harsh prison conditions!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 306.

    There will always be the soft people who don't want to infringe on criminals rights, I say we do more than suggested here. No TV for anyone in prisons, regardless of some silly "ratings" system. You got put in prison for being a criminal, you've already been rated. No gym time. Bread for food, with tables for nutrients, and water to drink. You shouldn't enjoy prison, you should barely survive it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 305.

    I find the hipocracy of the public breathtaking. Everyone that I know (including vicars) breaks the law.In fact look at the establishment, MPs fiddling expenses,corrupt police,corrupt journalists,bankers fiddling rates,insider trading,farmers claiming subsidies for non existent stock, priests and vicars and TV personalities sexual predators&income tax evasion. Few get caught and go to prison.

  • rate this

    Comment number 304.

    You can comment on this story "Prisoners 'must work harder' for privileges"

    But you can't comment on on this story "Lloyds Banking Group first quarter profits rise to £2bn"

    The BBC are the pinnacle of a divisive scumbag organisation

  • rate this

    Comment number 303.

    yet they get to keep their drugs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 302.

    251. Finchy
    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.

    Bring on the PC do-gooders........
    As a ardent proponent of torture how do you classify a do-gooder?

  • rate this

    Comment number 301.

    "I usually hear cons say prison is hard, its the newspaper editors who say it's easy."

    Most of the nastiness of prison is the continuous presence of other pathologicaly unpleasant people. Prisoners could make prison quite bearable for each other simply by being remotely adequate members of the human race. I guess that suggestion ignores why they are there in the first place

  • rate this

    Comment number 300.

    Before the fireworks get aimed at me, yes I have never been in prison but surely the whole idea of sending an offender to prison is to deprive them of the privileges they would normally have on the outside so that they can remind themselves that when they get out they don't want to go back. Okay so you may miss family but some people don't have family or like them in the first place.

  • rate this

    Comment number 299.

    "Drug taking is victim less."

    Stuff and nonsense.

    What about the victims of crime who are victims only because a junkie needs money to pay for his/her fix?

    The killings and beatings that go on between suppliers and traffickers?

    The mules, so desperate they end up on death row?

    The drug takers, who are victims of a soul-less industry?

    You talk piffle Sir/Madam

  • rate this

    Comment number 298.

    Does Grayling seriously think this will have an impact on crime? I doubt it. But it might have an impact on voters in the upcoming elections. With UKIP treading hard on their heels and discontent with "austerity" economics, the conservatives desperately need something to make them an attractive proposition.

  • rate this

    Comment number 297.

    This plays well with ill-informed hangers and floggers. Prison is deeply unpleasant and would drive most of us mad. It suits posturing politicians to portray it as a holiday camp (created by the soft previous administration) which they will toughen up. We've heard all this before. If we want prisoners to reform, petty deprivations are not the way. Prison is hard enough - prisoners need help.


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