Prisoners 'must work harder' for privileges


Chris Grayling: "Prison is about two things - punishment and rehabilitation"

Related Stories

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.


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 1016.

    You can apparently be sent to prison for not paying a fine if you do not have a valid TV license....but presumably if you are good and work hard in prison, you get a free TV, without needing a TV license (because the rest of us are paying for it)?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1015.

    a lot of young people see by lead, if it looks good they will do it, sometimes they do some things without really wanting to as it is not in their nature, these are the kids that have a good rate of doing well in later late, if they can just resist those who find it easy to go off the rail, these are the kids we ned connect with and quide a little better to finish education and find work

  • rate this

    Comment number 1014.

    Was not Chris Grayling the subject of intense scutiny by the Daily Telegraph during the MP's expenses scandal? Did not several Peers & MP's end up in Prison over this shameful epsode? Perhaps Mr. Grayling could seek their advice on the first two weeks of incarceration?
    Did he not come close to discovering that for himself? Is Grayling fit to be Justice Secretary?
    Is it a Justice or Legal System?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1013.

    Grayling is always putting his foot in his mouth. Remember the Christian Hoteliers vs Gays?

    It's election week and the "tory attack poodle" has been told to talk tough.

    What a joke.

    I wonder if the Prison Guards will actually take any notice of Grayling's edict? They appear to take no notice of the drugs being sold freely.

    Their main objective is to keep the prison population docile.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1012.

    There is a misunderstanding around what the function of prison are.

    Courts punish, through ‘depravation of liberty’. Prisons exit to rehabilitate offenders.

    That isn’t to say that prisoners should be maintained in the ‘lap of luxury’ but the emphasis ought to be to equip them with the skills and support to prevent re-offending.

    Otherwise, it’s simply a ‘revolving door’ policy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1011.

    If there's evidence that doing this sort of thing works in terms of preventing reoffending or rehabilitation - fine. If there isn't - it's just politics! And politicians playing with anyone's lives in the absence of evidence why generally turns out for the wrose rather than the better, because their motives are to benefit themselves not society.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1010.

    He is 100% against State execution. However ironically he can tie a proper hangman knot or noose, with either 11or13 turns on the rope. When people commit suicide by hanging they just use a slip knot. This ends up with the person causing Asphyxia and taking over 20 minutes to die. The right knot breaks your neck and paralysis you causing death quickly.

  • Comment number 1009.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 1008.

    1000 paul.

    Such wonderful places that more that almost three quarters of male inmates have two or more recognisable mental illnesses and the suicide rate is fifteen times that on the outside. They are obviously having such a good time they kill themselves! Genius!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1007.

    "actually helped reduce violence in prisons, because it gave inmates who could not read or write a way to occupy their time."
    Would it not be better to give them an education, so they can fuction when they get out of prison? Prison is hardly conducive to a straight career. In the spirit of rehabilitation surely no prisoner should enter and leave illiterate!?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1006.

    1002.Machiavellian Hamster

    "The wrong Community Chest card, roll 3 doubles, or land on the "go to jail" square."

    Don't forget, there's one in the Chance deck as well"

    That's true

    I read somewhere that the Orange properties are the most landed on simply because so many people start a go from jail. Vine Street and so on

    Has Chris Grayling taken THAT into consideration?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1005.

    995. MoutardeDeDijon

    "After all, politicians in this country belong to a very high risk group for ending up in prison."

    That's why they're so keen to privatise them, so that they can enjoy a few luxuries at places owned by their friends

  • rate this

    Comment number 1004.

    One thing people may be shocked at is the number of foreign nationals who are sent to our jails and then released back into the UK to re-offend rather than be deported as they can be under the 1971 immigration act and other legislation.
    Foreign nationals are also being rehabilitated at the UK taxpayers expense, including residential rehabs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1003.

    The Isle Of Man had some strict rules about prison.They jailed gays & flogged (birched) Vandals.The last flogging was to be 1978.The EU interfered in its judicial system. It was as bad as Singapore is now.When MR.TRUCULENT went to Singapore he had to contact the embassy about his prescription medication,or he might have had the National tie,and Long Drop on Friday morning

  • rate this

    Comment number 1002.


    "The wrong Community Chest card, roll 3 doubles, or land on the "go to jail" square."

    Don't forget, there's one in the Chance deck as well.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1001.

    It's actually pretty easy to go to jail.

    The wrong Community Chest card, roll 3 doubles, or land on the "go to jail" square.

    There for the Grace of God......

  • rate this

    Comment number 1000.

    And I have been in one (as a visitor).
    Satisfied Anglerfish.
    What is so hard about taking education or working for a privelage, why is this so brutal ?
    They are fed, warm, tended to, have TV, a gym, now how does that compare with our poor homeless ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 999.

    Must work harder for TVs?

    What if you don't want one?

  • rate this

    Comment number 998.

    Having done some work in prison I would make the following comment. I just wonder how many of your 'hang'em flog'em' brigade have ever been anywhere near a prison? If they had they certainly not use the word 'Ritz' in any description. Do I feel sorry for the prisoners? No, by and large they deserve to be there but being there is the punishment, deprivation of their freedom.

  • rate this

    Comment number 997.

    Judging from some of the ratings going on here, I'm guessing that the criminals have their fair share of computer privileges as well.

    Me? Let's just say I'd rather save my sympathy for the victims of crime than the perpetrators of it.
    No, there are just a lot of perfectly normal people who think you're comments are ill-informed, simpliatic, self-righteous, claptrap.


Page 1 of 51


More UK stories



Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.