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 536.

    "[...]must work harder for priveliges...[...]"

    But isn't that just what this toxic government of oppressors told the general UK population as well, everybody must work, work.

    This is just more toxic ideology, more of same,except this time is the prisoners.

    Millionaire oppressors with their nightmare vision of life for the plebs.
    That is what this is about,not prisons.

    Election soon.

  • rate this

    Comment number 535.

    If bankers who caused the global financial meltdown were sent to prison, I have a feeling the government would be approving a sauna for every wing, and an en-suite for every cell.

  • rate this

    Comment number 534.

    This seems to miss the point that everyone out in the real world has always had to work pretty hard to be able to afford a TV!

  • rate this

    Comment number 533.

    1.grumpy old man
    3 Hours ago
    "Male prisoners in England and Wales must work harder for privileges..."

    What about female prisoners?

    They are too busy sorting out free child care for the ladies as the BBC thinks Child care is a female issue not a Family issue...

  • rate this

    Comment number 532.

    I would love to see some of the venomous little Conservative toads on here convicted and actually have to serve time in HMP. The looks on their faces when the stark reality of their situation comes crashing in would be literally priceless. Luxury, being banged up for 23hrs? Violence on tap. Beatings. Muggings. Rape. All on the wing. Food you wouldnt feed a dog. Yes sounds like the Ritz to me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 531.

    Some of the comments on here reminded me of this..which has been bouncing around the interweb for a while now...Pensioners v Prisioners.
    Please note, I have no affiation to this's just I couldn't fit the text in this little box!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 530.

    This plays well with ill-informed hangers and floggers. Prison is deeply unpleasant and would drive most of us mad.


    It's a punishment, it is supposed to be unpleasant.

    I agree with this idea in principle; inmates start with none and have to earn privileges over time through good behaviour and hard work. That is how planet real world works too, welcome to it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 529.

    Women shouldn't be exempt from prison reform - they should have to spend their time on the inside learning about the offside rule......that should keep them occupied for a couple of years.

  • rate this

    Comment number 528.

    Gotta love it. All of you that read the "Papers" and believe that prison is luxury. Isnt it funny that the best prisons are in Norway, very well treated prisoners and very few re-offend. Hardest prisons are in Russia - 90% re-offend. Clueless Britain listening to the rags that are full of propoganda and nothing else.

  • rate this

    Comment number 527.

    What excellent vote winning proposals to make just before an election!

    Expect privatisations to raise money for Osbourne's election give-aways in time for 2015.

    They really do think prisons are like holiday camps

  • rate this

    Comment number 526.

    4 Minutes ago

    @501 Matt Bowes.

    ahhh an outside "prison worker" i have served time in a prison yes - however i was inside a lot longer than a day visit.

    the punishment is removing libery, nothing more. you will be the first person to comment if we went back to the old days of rooftop protests etc.

    get in the real world mate - all this from Grayling is merely bluster!

  • rate this

    Comment number 525.

    2 Hours ago

    67.Gyles Mitchell-Rose
    ....get a proper job then.
    Mofro, you'll find Mr Mitchell-Rose enjoys stirring things up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 524.

    514 Robo
    your remarks relate to open prison's do they and day release? They should build a cat c prison in your garden so you can get to know the low risk sex offenders better. Or the bruiser/stabber that is ready to come back into the real world. Go and offer him a pint of stella and chum it up. Get real sonny these folk had a shot at life ruined it/not just for them but the poor victims.

  • rate this

    Comment number 523.

    @ David_H
    Well that explains your views! But ..based as the 'law' built around 'Christianity' in England .and as MOST ideas of 'right'/'wrong' come from the bible (not killing/stealing 2 of the '10 commandments')
    Like your answer weakens your argument! For-without 'religion' no one sins! and thus no one deserves to be punished!
    Do you only ..believe in 'vengeance'?

  • Comment number 522.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 521.

    Make it compulsory to watch TV 23 hours a day. Enough of The Voice, Britain' Got Talent, Strictly Dancing on Ice etc., will soon make 'em see the error of their ways

  • rate this

    Comment number 520.

    They should have tv's and they should play PMQ's on continuous loop.
    It will teach these miscreants just how upstanding, well educated individuals should behave.
    In fact beeb I put this proposition to you, the country damn well needs it.
    You can of course put strictly back on once we are on the straight and narrow.

  • rate this

    Comment number 519.

    There always seem to be three threads to these things. The left wing 'this is all the bankers' fault and this is just distracting us from that - bloody government', the 'I read the Daily Mail and I am seething the BBC would even dare exist on this of all days' and the peculiar 'I am a Christian and you should all be too' ones that always get blasted on the rating system.

    This is no different

  • rate this

    Comment number 518.

    498 robo
    I hear you man.
    This is what I've been saying, anyone one thats spent 23 hrs in a 'peter' will know its punishment enough. Its time we we're more like the rest of Europe, but with a UK spin on it (to satisfy the ang em and flog lot), drug wise if your bad you have to smoke 'home grown' and watch vanila porn. If your good you get skunk/coke (whatever) and 'European strength' porn.

  • rate this

    Comment number 517.

    TV should be disallowed in prisons. Imagine some petty criminal, in jail for some burglary who sees big time criminals on TV all the time, the politicians, tax evaders... They must think: "Why aren't they in here? They are bigger criminals than me!" So, when they come out, they will have a huge sense of resentment and turn from a petty criminal into something more serious.


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