Examination of witnesses (Questions 100-108)|
MONDAY 20 NOVEMBER 2000
100. I am horrified to find that you do not
have a response to that. It was my assumption that those who are
best educated are most able to work the system and most likely
to get parole than those who are not in that position or are least
likely to get it. I am astonished that you have not identified
(Mr Narey) In terms of bald statistics I am sure that
would be the case. That statistic would be a useful piece of information
if it took into account offence, for example a great deal of white-collar
101. Do you not collect this basic information?
(Mr Narey) I do not have that information at the moment.
I am not sure we collect such information.
(Mr Casey) We do not collect that on a regular basis.
(Sir David Omand) What we will establish is whether
the Statistics Directorate in the Home Office knows of research
which would shed light on that.
102. You are the three senior people dealing
with this area of work and none of you have any knowledge whatsoever
about the social inclusion aspects of parole, the extent to which
the system is unfairly rigged against those from the poorest and
most deprived background. That appalls and astonishes me. Am I
getting this wrong?
(Mr Narey) I agreed with the general proposition.
Because of the nature of offences that white-collar criminals
commit, because of the likelihood of them having a home to go
to and very frequently employment I would guess, I am quite certain
it would make their life easier for getting parole. What I do
not have available is a measure of taking those factors into account
and if there is any bias.
103. Do you have any knowledge about the general
ignorance about the way parole operates? Is there any correlation
between social class?
(Mr Narey) I would say that would almost certainly
have a correlation because, for example, 65 per cent of the prisoners
for whom I am responsible have levels of literacy below that of
a 14 year old. For many of those in the system who will be from
a modest social class they will find it very hard to understand
what is a complex system, particularly the relationship between
parole eligibility date and release date.
104. Social inclusion has obviously not arrived
in the Prison Service then in terms of dealing with issues relating
to parole. Is that a fair point to make?
(Mr Narey) It has certainly arrived in the Prison
Service. I am very proud of the huge efforts, with some success,
my Service is making to repair some of the damage caused when
people arrive with us. 42,000 of my prisoners last year got their
first ever qualification in literacy and numeracy, and in many
circumstances they have the first chance of getting a job they
have ever had.
105. I would like to switch to the question
of transfer between prisons. I am struck by the points in paragraph
2.21 where it says that you do not monitor the information, and
a wonderfully understated point here, "The Prison Service
cannot be certain that they are justified." It just gives
the impression of an arbitrary system which takes decisions which
effectively just screw up a lot of people's bids for parole without
any good and apparent reason. Again, is that assumed to be an
unreasonable view to take based on the evidence that I have in
front of me?
(Mr Narey) I think it is a very reasonable view of
the position that might have prevailed some years ago. I do not
think it is a reasonable description of what is happening now,
where we are trying very hard to keep transfers down and where
I may take further steps to have a formal approval process for
transfers. What I cannot promise is to stop transfers. Between
20 and 25 per cent of prisoners who are transferred start the
parole process when they are in a local prison. While there are
good reasons for keeping them there for the purposes of parole,
there are very good reasons for moving them on; because they may
be sharing a cell or sharing a toilet with another prisoner. 12
per cent of my male population is over crowded and in such positions.
Unless they get to a training prison they cannot do very much
in terms of
106. I am sorry to cut you off. Some of these
transfers might very well be justified, I understand that, but
the sentence here, which has been made by yourselves, is, "The
Prison Service cannot be certain that they are justified."
You presumably do not know whether or not substantial numbers
of these are, in fact, justified. This is the final point I want
to raise with you. My anxiety is that when I look at page 27,
figure 12, I see that a couple of prisons there have a policy
of refusing to accept the transfer and so on, because the parole
application is already in progress. I am struck by the extent
to which people who make this policy do seem to operate without
any general policy when a particular prison can make its own decisions
about who it does and who it does not accept, presumably at variance
with others. This does not fill me with confidence that there
is an equity across the board that there is a system that there
is some sort of administrative nice procedure going on, it does
seem a little capricious.
(Mr Narey) I think your criticisms are entirely valid.
I now think the situation is much improved and we have a grip
on transfers. As part of our auditing we ensure that if a prisoner
is transferredand you accept that sometimes we need to
do thatparole reports go with them and there is proper
linkage made between the two places. I accept that transfers are
something that we did, not casually, but because we have been
dealing with some other difficult issues as well, such as coping
with over crowding. I repeat, the levels of over-crowding and
the conditions in which some male prisoners have lived in local
prisons have been very harsh. There has been, for that reason,
and also reasons of security, a need to move people on. We have
not paid enough attention to the damage that can do to the parole
process and we are now beginning to do so.
107. If more was spent on education and rehabilitation
than currently is, would you expect to see an increase in the
number of early paroles and would that, in your judgment, lead
to an overall costing?
(Mr Narey) I would not like to try to put a figure
on it, but my belief is that that would be the case. Before I
was in this job, when I was Director of Regimes and also responsible
for parole, I asked the Basic Skills Agency to come in and see
how they built literacy and numeracy. They gave the staggering
statistic that because of the low levels of literacy and numeracy
97 per cent of my population were virtually unemployable. So,
in terms of making better candidates for parole in terms of them
being less likely to re-offend, I can make in-roads into that
quite appalling statistic. I think there will be some pay back.
I have to say I am getting some real investment in education and
we are beginning to make some improvement.
108. Would you be able to let us have any further
statistics on the effectiveness of your current programmes?
(Mr Narey) Certainly. I will be very
glad to do that.
(Sir David Omand) I will include in that our plans
for increasing expenditure.
Chairman: Very Good. Thank you very much.
8 See Evidence, Appendix 1, pages 15-16 for Home Office
replies to Question 108. Back