COMMITTEE OF PUBLIC ACCOUNTS: PAROLE (PAC
Home Office Memorandum providing additional
information together with Annexes
Home Office Research Study 202 "The parole
system at work; a study of risk-based decision-making", by
Professor Roger Hood and Dr Stephen Shute of the University of
Oxford Centre for Criminological Research, was published in May
The researchers calculated a prediction model
of parole decision-making, based on seven variables. These were:
Actuarial Risk of Reconviction (ROR)
of a serious (ie imprisonable) offence during the parole period.
(The ROR is estimated from the past offending records of a very
large number of prisoners. It takes into account the offender's
sex, age at conviction, number of youth custody sentences, number
of previous adult custody sentences, number of previous convictions,
and type of offence);
The prisoner's security category;
Whether the seconded probation officer's
(SPO) report indicated that offending behaviour courses had been
Whether the seconded probation officer
Whether the home probation officer
The number of adjudications in prison;
Whether the prisoner had previous
conviction of a sexual or violent nature.
All these are factors which it is entirely lawful
and proper for the Parole Board to take into account. The researchers
found that this model accurately predicted some 85 per cent of
the Parole Board decisions covered by their study.
They used this predictive model to explore whether
apparent differences in parole rates for different groups of prisoners
can be explained by legally relevant factors.
In their sample, the parole rates for different
ethnic groups were:
|Asian (Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi)
|Black (Caribbean and African)||28%
The researchers found that Asian prisoners were more likely
to be in the lowest ROR risk band (because they had on average
less serious criminal histories); more likely to have no adjudications
in prison; more likely to have finished any courses mentioned
in the SPO's report; and in consequence, to be more likely to
be recommended for parole by both probation officers.
The predicted parole rate for Asian prisoners in the sample
was 65.5 per cent compared with the observed rate of 73 per cent.
This is not a statistically significant difference given the small
number of Asian prisoners in the study. The researchers concluded
that the differences in parole rates appear to be well explained
by the extent to which prisoners in the different ethnic groups
met the criteria used by the Board.
More recent data on parole and ethnicity is given in Annex
A, which shows that in 1999-2000 the overall parole rates for
white and black prisoners were broadly similar (the rate for black
prisoners being slightly higher than for white), while those of
Chinese and, as would be expected from Hood and Shute's study,
South Asian prisoners were markedly higher.
QUESTIONS 71 AND
The Parole Board does not organise panel meetings on a regional
basis. All DCR panels (responsible for dealing with parole applications)
meet in London, and comprise three members drawn from the Board's
membership across England and Wales. As there are 85 members who
sit on DCR panels, the same three members will rarely sit together.
Each panel considers 24 cases which are not allocated by prison
or area. Panel decisions may be unanimous or by majority, and
individual panel members' initial views may change as a result
of discussion during the meeting. It would therefore not be practicable
to collect data on individual Board members' decisions.
The Prison Service does not classify or record prisoners'
social class, and the Home Office is not aware of any research
evidence regarding the interplay between social class and the
operation of the current parole system.
The Prison Service is, however, actively addressing the social
inclusion agenda. Prison staff have recently started to record
housing and employment status on reception and Prison Service
Instructions require establishments to seek to take action to
prevent avoidable loss of home or job; planned housing and employment
status at discharge is also being recorded, with a view to setting
targets to improve outcomes. The planned joint prison-probation
offender assessment system, OASys, will collect information systematically
on factors relating to the individual's offendingincluding
housing, education, training, employment, family relationships,
lifestyle and associates, drug and alcohol useas a basis
for planning appropriate inteventions to reduce likelihood of
re-offending and risk of serious harm.
The Prison Service has also worked closely with the Cabinet
Office Social Exclusion Unit on a number of studies and on the
implementation of their conclusions. For example:
The Prison Service is working with the Rough Sleepers
Unit (set up to implement the Social Exclusion Unit's first report)
to reduce homelessness among those discharged from prison, including
producing user-friendly leaflets on social security for those
entering or leaving custody; and pilot schemes with voluntary
The Prison Service initiated an inter-departmental
scoping study of barriers to housing and employment for offenders,
which is feeding into the current Social Exclusion Unit study
into the resettlement of prisoners.
A "custody to work" Unit has been set up, with
additional investment of £21 million planned for 2002-04,
to co-ordinate achievement of the Service Delivery Agreement target
of doubling the number of prisoners securing jobs on release from
The Prison Service is seeking to implement the Government's
commitment to providing constructive regimes through a comprehensive
package of measures designed to improve and expand opportunities
for prisoners to tackle their offending behaviour. Through the
Comprehensive Spending Review, an extra £226 million has
been provided for regimes initiatives.
In addition, funds have been provided to take forward other
work (including resettlement of short-term prisoners, and the
development of new offending behaviour programmes) through the
Crime Reduction Programme.
Key priorities are:
An expansion of existing Offending Behaviour Programmes
in terms of the overall number of prisoners involved, and the
number of establishments able to offer programmes.
Other regime activity to engage prisoners in constructive
activity and to make them face up to their offending behaviourprimarily
educational programmes which will improve and develop basic skills
and enhance the employability prospects of prisoners on their
Taking forward the commitment to provide access
to voluntary testing unit places ("drug-free" wings)
for all prisoners wishing to prove they are drug free and build
upon the drug treatment programmes and services established thus
Establishment of a distinct juvenile estate within
the Prison Service with improved quality of care and regime activity.
Developing joint initiatives with the Probation
Service to ensure better and more consistent management of offenders
before and after releasewith a focus on "what works"
and developing commons tools and standards.
The Prison Service's development of cognitive-behavioural,
drug treatment, and education programmes designed to reduce re-offending
has been based on research evidence of "What Works".
The Home Office Research Studies 171 and 187 (1997, 1998) included
literature reviews of what works to reduce re-offending. This
research is discussed in detail in What Works: Reducing ReoffendingGuidelines
from Research and Practice edited by Dr James McGuire (Wiley:
1995: ISBN 0-471-95686). Much of the research evidence is from
North America and meta-analytical studies of generic programme
types. Where available, emerging evidence on the effectiveness
of the new programmes introduced by the Prison Service has been
200,000 prisoners pass through prison in a year and around
60,000 are estimated to have a drug problem (based on the ONS
Psychiatric Morbidity Study, 1997, which found around 50 per cent
of remands admitted drug dependency prior to coming to prison).
All will receive some form of treatment. The impact will vary
depending upon the intensity of the intervention. The drugs strategy
includes a range of approaches, ranging from supply reduction
to intensive treatment programmes and post release support.
The Prison Service is planning to ensure that 5,700 treatment
places are available in therapeutic communities and similar treatment
programmes by March 2004. The Prison Service has estimated a reduction
of 15 per cent in reconviction rates may be achieved for the more
serious offenders going through such programmes. This is based
on the finding of Lipton's CDate Database (international meta-analysis),
which found a 16 per cent reduction, and a recent review of four
further US/Canadian studies which found an average of 15 per cent).
Interim interview and self-report data from offenders in three
DTTO pilot sites in this country are generally positive, indicating
substantial reductions in both offending and illegal drug consumption.
(Turnbull and Hough, 2000), although few seem to give up drugs
or offending completely. Overall it is estimated that 25 crimes
may be prevented for each reconviction avoided, based on the drug
arrest and referral results.
Offending Behaviour Programmes
Cognitive skill programmes10
The research literature on the effectiveness of cognitive
skills programmes suggests a 10-15 percentage point lower reconviction
rate compared to similar offenders who did not attend such programmes.
It also suggests larger reductions (20 percentage points lower
than controls) for programmes which follow effectiveness principles
closely and are targeted at high risk offenders (Vennard and Hedderman,
1998). However, evidence also shows that programmes which are
not run efficiently and effectively can lead to increased reconviction
No significant data is available on results in this country
yet. The only recent results currently available for 153 inmates
who went through unaccredited cognitive skills programmes, in
1993-96. The adjusted one year reconviction rates were 22 per
cent for the 46 offenders who completed the Reasoning and Rehabilitation
course, and 34 per cent for the 107 completing Thinking Skills
(a comparison group had a reconviction rate of 36 per cent). The
numbers are too small to be significant but encouraging in relation
to R&R (a well-established programme which had been running
successfully for some time in Canada). The relatively poor result
from TS is put down to its pilot status at that time.
Sex offender treatment programmes11
Reconviction data is now available for 1,910 offenders who
completed an early version of the sex offender treatment programme
and have been discharged for two or more years, and has been compared
to a comparison group (not a true control group in that the samples
are not matched on all relevant factors). The sample though are
compared within bands for risk of reconviction for a sexual offence
on the basis of static (historical) risk predictor*. The table
below shows two year reconviction rates for treated and comparison
groups stratified by risk. Because reconvictions for sex offences
are very low, the table shows rates violent or sexual offending
and all types of re-offending. The treated offenders have lower
reconviction rates than the comparison groups.
|Violent or sex reconviction||Treated
Basic Literacy and Numeracy
The Prison Service's strategy for improving basic literacy and
numeracy skills is aimed at increasing employability and hence
reducing the likelihood of re-offending. There is also some evidence
that improving basic skills to a level that enables offenders
to function more effectively in day to day living may further
reduce re-offending. The programme will also help meet the Government's
objectives in reducing basic skills deficiencies among the population
Hollin and Palmer (1995) in their literature review concluded
that recent studies suggested that programmes targeted at education
for work would be most effective. The latest data from the CDate
project (Lipton, 1999) indicates that courses teaching reading
skills have an average effect of reducing re-offending by 6 per
cent and the best educational based intervention can produce reductions
of 14 per cent.
In this country the effective regimes study analysed the
reconviction data for a sample of 284 prisoners who were discharged
between 1995-97 after serving sentences of at least 18 months.
Prisoners with educational needs at the start of sentence who
attended educational courses had reconvictions rates of 32 per
cent compared to 40.5 per cent for those with educational needs
who did not attend (adjusting to take account of the differences
in age and criminal history).
10 Cognitive skills programme
The information provided at the second paragraph of this
section is incorrect.
The emerging findings, as at October 2000, of an on-going
study of offenders who had been on Cognitive Skills Offending
Behaviour Programmes (694 offenders) has shown a significant improvement
in re-conviction rates among ex-offenders who were assessed as
"medium" risk. For this particular group of offenders
re-conviction rates were reduced by between 10 and 14 percentage
points. Findings for prisoners who were assesssed as low, or high
risk whilst showing some improvement were judged not to be statistically
11 Sex Offender Treatment Programme
The first paragraph of this section should read:
"Reconviction data is now available for 647 offenders
who completed an early version of the sex offender treatment programme
and have been discharged for two years or more, and that has been
compared with a comparison group of 1,910 offenders. (Whilst not
a true control groupas it is not possible within the prisoner
population to assign on a truly random basisevery effect
has been made to match on relevant factors wherever possible.)"
On the basis of these findings, the Prison Service assumes
at least a 5 per cent reduction in the likelihood of re-offending
for each offender received into custody with basic skills deficiences
who leaves custody with literacy and numeracy skills at level
4 December 2000