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 716.

    Perhaps the entire prison poulation of Britain could pedal static cycles which generate electricity, thus solving both the issue of what to do with 'them' all day - and providing renewable energy for the nation. I should be Home Sec, I really should.

  • rate this

    Comment number 715.

    Maybe television programming should set an example...instead of glamorizing the criminal and the crime (although I appreciate Jason Stratham) , produce something inmates and would be inmates can watch which would be 'rehabilitating'. I know, that is ridiciulous, but so is the topic, and most comments including mine. lol

  • rate this

    Comment number 714.

    The cause of crime is upbringing, housing, employment, drugs, alcohol, the list goes on. How do you suggest addressing this? Wipe out a generation?

  • rate this

    Comment number 713.

    I like how people are assuming that ALL prisoners will have their tvs and such removed instantly.

    No, if people read the story they are proposing BAD behaviour in prison gets punishments which last longer, such as tv removal for longer than a day or so. To encourage people to behave themselves.

    After all if you reward bad behaviour it only reinforces it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 712.

    #35 "They are in prison because they have committed a crime. As far as I'm concerned, prisoners shouldn't get privileges, especially at the taxpayers expense."
    If they are so dehumanised that they do more crime when they are released, it will cost the taxpayer even more.
    Severe punishments don't seem to deter criminality. Capital punishment countries have highest murder rates.

  • rate this

    Comment number 711.

    dont read the mirror! but you can rely on me and anyone else brave enough to comment alike, that the common denominator in reoffending is that a custodial sentence is no real punishment! whilst people are fed, educated and entertained, everyone else is worrying whether they can keep the heating on! FACT

  • rate this

    Comment number 710.

    I'm afraid this is just window dressing from Grayling, he is responsible for slashing prison staff closing prisons in an already overcrowded estate, and now is advocating something 'new'. Well not new at all really the IEP system is already used constructively. This will not make one iota of difference to reoffending.

  • rate this

    Comment number 709.

    won't affect bankers - they dont watch TV

  • rate this

    Comment number 708.

    @691 Essexbelle

    I also had to work for my TV, the only difference being my uniform is a ski mask, and the tools of my trade are screw drivers and bolt cutters

  • rate this

    Comment number 707.


    Data for reoffending records in both the UK and America has shown a significant decrease when successful rehabilitation programs have been employed. Sadly there isn't an overwhelming amount of data concerning this as these programs are often vastly underfunded or completely disregarded. Punishment doesn't treat the cause of crime - if the cause isn't treated how can crime be prevented??

  • rate this

    Comment number 706.

    If they don't want to get bullied in prison then perhaps they shouldn't have committed a crime. They've got nobody to blame but themselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 705.

    700. I was on a short sentence, in a local prison. I wasn't allowed to apply for anything because of the waiting lists - I would have been out by the time I got to the top of the list. In terms of association, as I say, half of the time it didn't happen. Programmes do work - sometimes. You can't put all offenders in one bag. And not all people in prison either. I was cleared.

  • rate this

    Comment number 704.

    What is it with some people that they want to see others suffer? Of course criminals should go to jail and it should feel like a punishment (personally I can't bear being stuck in an office 8 hours a day, so jail would be torture for me) but why do some people enjoy others being punished? There is something unhealthy about that, like torturing insects as a child.

  • rate this

    Comment number 703.

    People who think that TV is some kind of privilege have clearly never been to prison. Try to cope with being locked up in a tiny cell with someone else (not of your choosing) for 20 hours a day with nothing else to do. It's not being in control of the locked door that gets you. Loss of liberty is the real punishment, this TV debate is purely the Government (appearing to) act tough.

  • rate this

    Comment number 702.

    "Officials are still working on possible changes to the privilege scheme for female prisoners."
    for everyone who hasn't read the article fully.

  • rate this

    Comment number 701.


    Open prisons are where white collar/Mp's get sent, or prisoners finishing their sentences. The working class prisoners don't have such 'luxury'. They get crammed 3 in a cell designed for two or even one.

    Depriving someone of their liberty is the punishment. When prisons erupt and they will, you and I will foot the bill. Don't forget that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 700.

    694 Programmes do NOT work, they are merely another hoop that prisoners jump through to get Tag, HDC etc.
    696 22.5 hours??????
    Take it you never attended workshops/ educatio or had assosh

  • rate this

    Comment number 699.

    669 Gyles

    'Expenses fiddling is their version of nicking office stationery. Both aitken and Archer went down for perjury and perverting the course of justice. Now that is serious crime.'

    So stealing hundreds of thousands of pounds is just 'nicking office stationery'.


    How about setting fire to a hotel.

  • rate this

    Comment number 698.

    Apparently, there is a saying used frequently in the criminal fraternity. "If you can't do the time, don't do the crime". There are many pensioners who have not committed any crimes, have paid all their taxes and NI contributions, and are living in worse conditions that many prisoners. Through ill health they are confined to home for many hours a day/week/month; so freedom is not a luxury.

  • rate this

    Comment number 697.

    What next I wonder? Return of the stocks? Debtors prisons? Prison ships? Hanging perhaps?
    Seems that we get a "New Initiative" weekly....sometimes daily... from the brainboxes in Westminster.
    Looks like the Etonians have got together over a glass of wine, and written their ideas on the back of their cigar packets!
    Are there now "targets" on policy ideas?
    They could pass one or two on to Milliband!


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