Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence


Supplementary information given by the Director General, HM Prison Service, relating to his evidence of 4 December

  During the appearance before the Committee on 4 December on the Prison Service's resettlement policy, I undertook to write to you on some points of detail. To make reference to the original point easier, I have indicated the paragraph number where the point originally arose.

  Paragraph 62.   Bridget Prentice asked about the percentage increase that the 12,000 level 2 literacy and numeracy represented on the previous year. Key performance targets for basic skills at level 2 were agreed at establishment level for the first time in 2000-01. This means that it is not possible to identify a figure comparable to the 12,462 achieved for 2000-01. The 12,755 national qualifications achieved at level 2 in 1999-2000 include other qualifications such as National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs). What is clear is that the 18,000 target this year, which we should reach, will provide a 50 per cent increase.

  Paragraphs 78 and 80. Humfrey Malins asked how many hours of purposeful activity per week a 19 year old would have at Feltham young offender institution and remand centre. As you know, Feltham is effectively two prisons within one. Young men between the ages of 18 to 20 are held in Feltham B and juveniles are held in Feltham A. The average amount of purposeful activity undertaken by young men held in Feltham B for the period April 2001 to October 2001 was 22 hours per prisoner per week. The increase from the 14.4 hours per prisoner per week for the year 2000-01 is due partly to extra funding I referred to (see paragraph 80).

  Paragraph 85. Mr Malins also asked how many hours a day a 19 or 20 year old would spend in a cell each day at Feltham. The average number of hours a day that a prisoner in Feltham B would spend in his cell for the period April 2001 to October 2001 was 17.2 hours.

  Paragraph 93. Mr Malins also asked how many hours of purposeful activity a prisoner at Blantyre House would undertake. The average amount of purposeful activity undertaken by prisoners at Blantyre House for the period April 2001 to October 2001 was 50.3 hours per prisoner per week. The figure for the financial year 2000-01 was 47.6 hours per prisoner per week.

  Paragraph 103. Mr Malins sought information on why there had been a reduction in family visits and why they were subsequently reinstated. Prior to May 2000, Blantyre House held up to nine "family days" each year. On these occasions, prisoners' families were able to undertake enhanced visits of extended duration. These visits were unstructured and not confined to the usual visits area, and visitors were allowed to move freely around a number of areas of the prison.

  The new Governor was concerned about the security implications of these visits and felt there was insufficient security planning. He therefore suspended family days pending a review of their purpose and management. However, families were still able to participate in normal visits.

  The Governor has now reintroduced family days but the number is likely to be reduced to about four a year, and they will be focused particularly on prisoners in the earlier stages of resettlement who do not have opportunities to meet their families in the community. The restructuring of the regime at Blantyre House has increased the number of category D prisoners able to go on community visits, which means there is less demand for family days and visits within the establishment. This has also reduced the demand for normal visits, and the number of visits has been reduced as a result.

  Paragraph 106. You asked for confirmation of the number of absconds, escapes and MDT failures at Blantyre House prison from (a) 1 November 1998 to 30 April 2000 and (b) 1 May 2000 to 31 October 2001.

  The one escape from Blantyre House in the period November 1998 to October 2001 occurred in August 2000. There have been no absconds in the same period because prisoners do not, by definition, abscond from closed conditions. Prisoners may fail to return from a temporary relase whilst they are outside of the establishment. Between November 1998 and April 2000, there were two failures to return from a temporary release out of a total 21,163 such releases. Between May 2000 and October 2001, there were nine failures out of 25,209 releases.

  Between November 1998 and April 2000, there was one positive random drug test out of 212 such drug tests. Between May 2000 and October 2001, there were five positive drug tests out of 200.

  Paragraph 120. Mr Malins also raised the point that proposed reductions in the education department would restrict access to education by prisoners. The revised education provision is now better focused on the needs of resettlement prisoners and has sufficient capacity for all the prisoners of Blantyre House. This was confirmed by a recent needs survey. The education provision for Blantyre House in 2000-01 was £197,820 and in total 3,695 education hours were delivered in the year. Data for 2000-01 show education expenditure per head at Blantyre of £1,808 compared to figures of £79 and £259 at Latchmere House and Kirklevington Grange prisons respectively.
House (£)
House (£)
Grange (£)
Education Spend200,000 14,00043,700
Average number of
111 183169
Expenditure per head1,808 79259

  The expenditure per head figures are calculated from the total education spend divided by the average annual population. Latchmere House is a pre-release prison where all prisoners become eligible for day release after three months. Some prisoners attend evening education classes, but no daytime provision is arranged.

  Paragraph 123. You asked whether Tom Murtagh had been interviewed as part of the investigation into alleged bullying at Blantyre House. Deborah Loudon, who is leading the investigation interviewed Mr Murgagh on 23 October and 8 November 2001.

  Paragraph 128. Bob Russell asked whether we had surveyed the prisoners at a young offender institution to see whether any had been members of a recognised youth organisation. No such survey has been carried out and I promise to consider doing one.

  Paragraph 130. Bob Russell asked for current data on the number of suicides by young offenders. Of the 65 self-inflicted deaths in 2001 (up to and including 12 December), three were juveniles (aged 17 and younger) and 10 were young offenders (aged 18 to 20).

  Paragraph 131. Bob Russell also asked how many safe cells there were in young offender institutions. There are currently 350 safer cells exclusively used by young offenders, 234 exclusively used by juveniles and 32 are used by both age groups.

  Beverley Hughes will write to you separately about the use of suspended sentences. I hope this information is helpful but please do not hesitate to contact me if I can help further.

December 2001

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