Prisons: Efforts to cut reoffending 'not working'

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Media captionLiz Calderbank, the chief inspector of probation, says more must be done to challenge the behaviour of prisoners

Efforts to stop prisoners reoffending are "not working" and should be the subject of a major policy review, two senior inspectors have said.

A joint report by the chief inspectors of prisons and probation said the lack of progress on offender management in England and Wales was "concerning".

It said its findings from 21 prisons cast doubt on the Prison Service's ability to deliver required standards.

Justice minister Jeremy Wright said "ambitious" reforms were under way.

The inspectors recommended a fundamental review by the chief executive of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), which commissions and provides services for the Ministry of Justice.

Chief Inspector of Probation Liz Calderbank and Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick said they had reached the reluctant conclusion that offender management in prisons was failing.

'No longer sustainable'

"The majority of prison staff do not understand it and the community-based offender managers, who largely do, have neither the involvement in the process or the internal knowledge of the institutions to make it work," they said.

"It is more complex than many prisoners need and more costly to run than most prisons can afford."

Offender management involves the assessment, planning and implementation of work with offenders in the community or in custody to address the likelihood of them reoffending and the risk of harm they pose to the public.

Community-based offender managers and staff in prison offender management units have joint responsibility for work with prisoners to address the attitudes, behaviour and lifestyle behind their offending.

The Prison Service is required to make changes under the government's Transforming Rehabilitation strategy, which includes an extension of "through the gate" help where most offenders should be supported by one service provider as they move from prison to the outside world.

But the inspectors said they doubted whether the Prison Service could meet these and other NOMS expectations.

"We therefore believe that the current position is no longer sustainable and should be subject to fundamental review," they said.

Image caption The report said rehabilitation and resettlement of prisoners had not improved

The report, which covers the period from April 2012 to March 2013, is the third of its kind.

The inspectors said they were "disappointed" that recommendations published in the previous report in July 2012 had resulted in "little progress".

The new report said "outcomes for prisoners" in terms of rehabilitation and resettlement were no better than one year ago.

As well as calling for the major review, the report made recommendations for immediate action to improve the situation "until more far-reaching changes can be made".

'No apology'

It noted that offender supervisors in prisons lacked "guidance and supervision about what their role should entail", and called on NOMS to produce a "practice guide" for them.

It said offender management was "particularly poor" at two prisons accommodating foreign prisoners, and said NOMS should ensure foreign nationals were managed to "address their risk of harm and likelihood of reoffending".

The report also suggested NOMS should work with prisons and offender management services on improvements - such as all prisoners having access to an "adequate range of programmes to address their offending behaviour".

Mr Wright said the government realised "some time ago" that management of prisoners must be improved.

He said the system of help for people leaving prison was also being reformed as part of the government's "radical" Transforming Rehabilitation scheme.

"These reforms are ambitious and I make absolutely no apology for that," he said.

"I want rehabilitation at the heart of what prisons do, so we can reduce reoffending and better protect the public."

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