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 516.

    @501 Matt Bowes.

    Nope. Been honest all my life.

    But I work around the criminal justice system every day and that includes visiting prisons and dealing with ex-cons.

    What about you? Vested interest in keeping luxuries available in prisons hence the reluctance to let the truth out?

    Which of Allan's comments would you refute (apart from the phones and iPads)?

  • rate this

    Comment number 515.

    478. StVitus
    Murderers should be put to hard labour, IMO. Why try to rehabilitate?
    Most murderers are of limited threat to the general public because they know their victims. Its rarely random, even when one drug dealer kills another. Ironically its the dangerous drivers who get 18 months if that who are more likely to kill you or me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 514.

    Typical daily Mail reading idiots- have you any idea how it is in jail? Really? Have you been inside? Do you know anyone who works there or has served time? I doubt that. You read the Conservative press and believe the complete bull manure that is written in them as gospel. Its not the case. 23 hrs behind your door. In an 8*10 cell. Luxury eh? Really? You have no concept of the reality of it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 513.

    "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"

    Maybe he can ask Chris Huehne if he enjoyed the strip search.....on second thoughts those Westminster types probably would enjoy it. Probably asked if he could wear a football shirt and stick an orange in his mouth whilst they did it

  • rate this

    Comment number 512.

    I didn't think it was possible to get sent to prison these days. No bankers/benefits fraudster's/ knife carriers/kiddie fiddlers in there. Until recently some peeps that robbed a train 100 years ago were the sole inmates. Nice safe enviroment

    Prison looks to me like a good choice for a student that cant afford the uni fee's or an oap that doesn't want to give up there house to pay care fee's.

  • rate this

    Comment number 511.

    people stop saying if you commit a crime you have deprived someone of their human rights so they should be deprived of theirs, the petty kind of crimes they send people to prison for are not violent and haven't deprived anyone's human rights. I understand some crimes people commit are deplorable but what about people who have committed a small petty crime that shouldn't be in prison in first place

  • rate this

    Comment number 510.

    The solution seems obvious to me, I don't understand why no 1 else can see it. If new prisoners are bullied for being in the lower tier for 2 weeks, set 1 or 2 prisons aside for new in mates then after the 2 weeks are up, move them into the main stream prisons for the rest of their sentences. If they successfully make it into the middle tier then good for them, if not then it's their own fault.

  • rate this

    Comment number 509.

    Have any of the previous contributors (who seems to advocate a bread and water Dickensian style prison) stopped to consider how much more this would cost? Locked up for 23 hrs a day with no distractions would cause more violent and destructive behaviour requiring more officers to contain and higher security standards. The punishment is loss of liberty, priveledges aren't luxury, freedom is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 508.

    @485 ha ha seeing as Jesus is a fictional character no I don't agree with him..!! Considering the number of atrocities that a lot of religious people and their ridiculous unfounded beliefs have caused they should all be in jail..

  • rate this

    Comment number 507.

    Do what we did a few hundred years ago.... Send them all to Australia.

  • rate this

    Comment number 506.

    I am of the opinion that the prison system is mostly a failure. We accept that some offenders such as child sex offenders need removing from society perhaps even going so far as banishing them forever to a penal colony of some sort but the wider prison population desperately needs more in the way of work and education. Let them have TV by all means but use of the power of the box for education.

  • rate this

    Comment number 505.

    @ 497

    for people who have no security or direction in their lives, dont know where next meal is coming from, sleeping in bad conditions with no heating in the winter etc... im sure prison is like a 5 star hotel, its a better live than many live on the outside!

    criminals complaining about fairness and justice, and people defend them... we are a joke nation

  • rate this

    Comment number 504.

    Another piece of government Daily Mail-pleasing PR disguised as a policy, Isn't it better to offer inmates a bit of human comfort when they first enter prison, especially if it's their first time? If they abuse this, you can take it away. But to make them feel more miserable than they already do will create resentment, boredom, and bad behaviour, and you'll never get them back.

  • rate this

    Comment number 503.

    Irony! Like most of my views come form 'The Sermon on the Mount'!
    Like "let he WITHOUT sin CAST the first stone"!
    That's what Jesus also said!
    So many 'dislikes' when all i'm writing is based on what Jesus said!
    So many people on HYS 'dislike' the teachings of Jesus!
    Kool! A dividing line of the role of prison! If you belive/like Jesus = you want 'kind' prisons! and vice versa! Simples :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 502.

    Appendix 3 (above)

  • rate this

    Comment number 501.

    2 Minutes ago

    463 Matt Bowes
    414 Allan

    so you have served time as a prisoner have you??

  • rate this

    Comment number 500.

    Ah, the armchair hard men who wouldn't survive a day in jail are out in force again. You think you are Charles Bronson, but in reality you are more Phil Mitchell - a character in a soap.

  • rate this

    Comment number 499.

    Your Editors' Pick might generate lots of support, 17789 (201) - but unlike you, prisoners have to be seen as human beings rather than numbers.

    Sadly, no government will do what's needed: knock down old prisons and invest massive resources in new ones; dramatically shorten sentences, and pass each prisoner through solitary confinement to 're-education' and then socialisation before release.

  • rate this

    Comment number 498.

    And before I'm judged on my previous comment I've done time behind the door, after my wife and son were battered by a drunken idiot and I defended them and paid the price.They will not deter people from offending. As said, made by politicians who have no concept of jail or how bad it really is. It is not a holiday camp. The threat of violence every minute of the day is real, not a holiday at all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 497.

    463 Matt Bowes
    414 Allan

    Don't listen to Matt. Allan is spot on apart from the iPads and iPods (apart from those smuggled in) - everything else, and more, is readily available.

    Is it 5 Star luxury? No. But it's not bad by any stretch of the imagination.


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