Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Board of Visitors, HM Prison, Blantyre House

  Further to the Board's earlier letter regarding the progress that has been made at Blantyre House since last year, we would like to voice our concerns about some points in the Resettlement PSO which appear to have an adverse affect on the regime at Blantyre. We hope that this is in order.


  The Board of Visitors at HMP Blantyre House welcome the publication of the long awaited Prison Service Order on Resettlement. There are bound to be some "teething troubles" as the PSO is implemented but it will hopefully help to establish a successful Resettlement Regime throughout the Prison Service.

  There are already a number of points that are causing concern. The main one is that Stage One prisoners are only allowed out for 12 hours per week. This applies to those eligible for Facility Licence and is inclusive of any ECV (earned community visit) which itself could use up all the weekly allowance.

  At Blantyre House, Stage One prisoners work with the Project Party and then do Community Work as preparation for progressing to paid work when they reach Stage Two. The Project Party undertake supervised work helping with projects that are of benefit to the local community such as redecoration and refurbishment of village halls, community centres, schools etc.

  The current practice of prisoners going out on licence will no longer be able to operate and it may be necessary to stop the Project Party. Community Work involves men working on their own or in a small group and giving help where needed within the local community. With only 12 hours available the current schemes in operation will have to be phased out—will they ever be restarted? Will it be possible to find community work placements that can take a different prisoner each day of the week? Most unlikely.

  It has taken many years to build up the excellent relationship that Blantyre House has with the local community and this is due to the Prison playing an active part within that community. It is important that this relationship is not jeopardised now by the loss of either the Project Party or of those doing Community Work.

  The 12 hour restriction also affects the prison van which is driven by selected Stage One prisoners. The van takes the prisoners to and from work, to and from the railway station and is in constant use from early morning until late at night. The number of drivers required to drive it without breaking the 12 hour per week maximum will prove impossible to meet and the current system will not be able to continue operating. There is no local bus service and it is essential to get the prisoners out to their work placements.

  The 12 hour restriction also means that prisoners will spend more hours inside Blantyre House which should be an excellent opportunity for them to take advantage of the Education Department. Unfortunately the proposed cuts to the Education Department will actually restrict access at a time when it is most needed.  

  Another cause for concern relates to chapter 7 page 45—7.20. " In Stage 2, once past their resettlement ROTL eligibility date, prisoners who do not hold a current full driving licence . . . will be eligible for consideration for applying for a provisional driving licence, taking lessons and a test." Resettlement leave entitlement date is eight weeks prior to PED if parole decision is acceptable or six months after PED if the decision is adverse. If parole is achieved initially eight weeks is insufficient time for a prisoner to successfully pass his driving test. It is unusual for prisoners at Blantyre to receive a "Knockback" and therefore the six months after PED will seldom apply.

  We have an overriding concern that ,whereas the new resettlement regimes will at first require both tight and limiting rules during the establishments' learning curve such limiting restrictions should not have an adverse impact on the very low re-offending rates that have been achieved by Blantyre House.

  We do however note that in Annex 7a, para 1.3 that there is authority provided for "Exceptions" to these National Requirements for Resettlement Regimes, and we ask for your support in this regard. We shall be writing to the Director General seeking his reassurance that these powers will be implemented by his Area/Operational Managers in all cases where it is foreseeable that the detail Requirements will diminish the standard, effectiveness and economics of existing Resettlement Regimes.

  We believe most strongly that Area Managers' confidence in applying the rules will benefit greatly from the Director General issuing clear and encouraging guide-lines on the implementation of "Exceptions".

November 2001

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