Examination of Witnesses (Questions 180
MONDAY 11 FEBRUARY 2002
180. That is helpful. I was not sure about the
extent to which the emphasis on security was crippling efforts
to reduce reoffending. You are indicating that while it might
have in the past it is not the case now.
(Mr Narey) My personal view is that if we had not
got security sorted out we would not have gained the limited measure
of public and parliamentary confidence which has led to the investment
we have had in making prisons decent places.
181. I want to come on to that. Given that one
of your purposes is to reduce reoffending, a success rate, or
a failure rate rather of 58 per cent is probably about the worst
statistic I can think of in Government. I cannot think of anywhere
else where there is an objective to achieve something and the
failure rate is over 58 per cent, which does tend to make me think
that the system is shockingly ineffective. I take the point that
you made earlier on about being more efficient but it just seems
to be shockingly ineffective. I wonder why that is tolerated.
I wonder whether or not you can share your thoughts with us as
to the extent to which the Prison Service is the Cinderella service
and only gets publicity if there are high profile escapes or there
is a riot or something similar.
(Mr Narey) To answer your last question, I think it
is a Cinderella service in terms of public investment. I do not
think it has been recognised until very recently, and we have
not yet won this battle, that prisons can be genuinely constructive
and decent places. I passionately believe that they can. If I
may qualify the 58 per cent failure rate. It is true, and it is
very disappointing, that 50 per cent of people leaving our prisons
are reconvicted again within two years. They have all failed Community
Service and probation 100 per cent, they have all failed social
worker supervision 100 per cent, they have all failed school.
People who come into custody have failed everything else along
the way and any improvement we can make on that is a significant
improvement in terms of stopping their reoffending. The hurdles
we face, the unemployability of the population that comes to us,
the extent to which they are already very, very significant and
serious offenders makes our job with the time we are able to spend
with the rising population in doing something to stop the reoffending
182. That is a generous gloss on it but I am
reminded that 100 per cent of divorces start with marriage and
depending on how you follow the statistics through it is a question
of cause and effect. I am just working off this figure of 58 per
cent. Presumably there is a percentage of 42 per cent who are
too old, too ill or dead after a couple of years and therefore
will not reoffend. There is a percentage who are unlikely to reoffend
because it was crimes of passion and similar things. Presumably
there is also a percentage who have been caught but not yet convicted.
(Mr Narey) Absolutely.
183. There is a percentage who have not yet
been caught but will be caught in a subsequent period. I am not
clear, therefore, what percentage should be considered to be successes,
as it were, after prison that do not reoffend for reasons that
are connected with prison and what has happened? I very much take
the point my colleague made about the fact there is a certain
age that youngsters are unlikely to commit offences after. Therefore,
once you take all of these explanations out, how many people,
or what percentage, have actually been reformed by their experience
(Mr Narey) Reformed by their experience in prison,
a very small proportion. I think prison stops offending through
incarceration and with those prisoners for whom we are able to
properly engage with the sorts of activities we have discussed
today I think we can make a difference. I think that is one reason
whyI accept that reconviction is only a proxybut,
for example, the proportion of prisoners who are serving sentences
of four years or more who are reconvicted is about half the headline
rate of 58 per cent. The proportion of life sentence prisoners
who are reconvicted is three per cent. I think when we have the
proper investment and the time to make a difference prison can
reform people but I would accept entirely for the majority of
people coming into our care we do not touch them.
184. Let me pick up that statistic, if I heard
you correctly, that the percentage of life prisoners who reoffend
is three per cent. By definition they are only released when they
are no longer considered a danger, are too old and all the rest
(Mr Narey) Absolutely, yes.
185. That is a circular argument. In terms of
being judged against what is reasonable to be judged it seems
to me that there is such a horrendous failure rate in all of this
that it is undoubtedly the worst area of Government in terms of
meeting the objective that it has been set. Does that seem fair
(Mr Narey) Not surprisingly it does not seem fair,
Mr Davidson. I think for the reasons which I have explained, we
inherit a prison population with huge problems and the hope that
we can make a significant difference to people in a short period
186. I will come on to the question of what
you get fed in initially, and I accept all of that. I am not unsympathetic
to that position but in terms of one of your targets being to
reduce reoffending, it is a horrendous failure and it must be
about five or six per cent surely that are reformed in some meaningful
way and have a constructive experience in prison which results
in a life change. Does five or six per cent not seem reasonable?
(Mr Narey) I honestly do not think anybody knows.
Certainly my colleagues in research in the Home Office do not
know. I think it is a significantly higher failure rate in terms
of reoffending than 58 per cent. Those who do not reoffend within
two years is rather higher than five or six. I do believe that
nevertheless the evidence shows that properly targeted the sort
of interventions we are talking about today make a difference.
We are not yet measuring, we will not have for some time yet the
effect of the sort of programmes I have described. I believe the
cumulative effect of those will be to, for the first time in living
history as far as I can remember, change that reconviction rate
and achieve some improvement.
187. I think it would be helpful if there are
statistics available for the category of not yet convicted so
we could have those.
Could I then turn to the question of what you are getting in,
so to speak. You mentioned about those who have various mental
difficulties who ought in other circumstances to be in psychiatric
hospitals, those who would generally be described as maybe social
and educational cripples in some way for whom prison is not the
answer. I am not quite clear what percentage of your intake that
covers. I wonder if you could give me an indication of what you
think it would be?
(Mr Narey) I think it is impossible to
give an indication. I can try and dig out some figures and my
colleague has already given figures for the proportion of the
population who are currently suffering one form of mental illness.
I think the most telling statistic I can give, as well as the
one about educational deficits, is the one I have already given
which is that 90 per cent of the population when they come to
us are either abusing substances or are mentally ill or have both
those problems. I can tell you that, for example, a very significant
proportion of those who come into custody, for women it is a case
of something approaching 40 per cent of them have previously tried
to take their own lives and a very significant number of men have
also tried to do so. Levels of mental illness are very, very high
indeed on top of all the other chaos in their lives.
188. I wonder whether or not your success rates
for reducing reoffending ought not to be drawn up in such a way
that there are some groups who are not measured? It would be unrealistic
perhaps to expect prisons to cure medically those who have got
mental illness and therefore should not your success in reducing
reoffending be measured against the remainder in order that those
where sheer success can be achieved are identified and those where
it is considered beyond you to resolve their difficulties are
not counted against you? Has any work been done along those lines?
(Mr Narey) I think the problem with that, Mr Davidson,
is that some of those people, mentally ill or not, are some of
the most dangerous people. They are coming in and out of custody
fairly frequently and I do not think we can ignore them. Indeed,
we have had help from the NHS in recent months, for the first
time we have now had a significant investment of psychiatric nurses
coming in from the community to look after the mentally ill and
I think that will have a benefit in reducing their dangerousness.
It is tempting to say I would move to one side the groups who
are most dangerous and who will reoffend the most but actually
in terms of public protection they are the ones who I should be
concentrating on so long as they are coming in to prison.
189. Can I come on to the question of literacy
and the issue of employment. I am not certain from what has been
said what the process is by which literacy or illiteracy is identified
and tackled. Are people tested within a relatively short period
of coming in? Is it compulsory in some way that they have to take
tests and undertake some sort of course? I can see that it might
very well be macho amongst certain groups of young men in particular
to refuse to have anything to do with the education process in
any way. Can you clarify how that is handled.
(Mr Narey) All prisoners are offered the basic skills
screening test. You cannot force them to do it but overwhelmingly
the prisoners co-operate and do the test. Later on if a prisoner
is found to have very low literacy and numeracy levels and is
offered a place in education and refuses to take that place he
will not get any pay, so the only pocket money he will have for
the week, typically about £7 a week, he will not get. He
will lose privileges and he might not, for example, be allowed
a tv in his cell and might have less time on association, fewer
visits, less access to sport. We try to do a great deal and I
think we are relatively successful at encouraging co-operation
with activities such as education.
190. Presumably providing incentives can allow
those who want to do education but do not want to be seen to be
volunteering to be given the opportunity to do it. Presumably
they could also put into classes with those who are likely to
be disruptive and I can accept that there is a difficult balance
to be struck there. Can I just clarify, are the incentives for
education greater or lesser than the incentives, say, for going
to a workshop?
(Mr Narey) It depends. Broadly speaking, in most places
the rewards for education are roughly in line with workshop activity.
In a handful of prisons, particularly where prisoners work out
in the community, they can earn something approaching real wages.
In some workshops engaged in serious production, particularly
commercial activity for outside firms, prisoners are paid nearer
to a going rate. We do not find that there is any difficulty in
filling our education classes with the current incentives we have
which go beyond the wages that somebody is paid, as I have explained.
191. It would seem fairly obvious that if you
are paying more to do workshops or work rather than educationI
presume it is an either/orthen people would choose to do
the one that pays more.
(Mr Narey) Sometimes, although sometimes the work
that pays more is pretty grim work. Some of the work in our kitchens,
for example, is long hours and very, very hard work in a hot and
steamy atmosphere and that is not very popular and sometimes we
have to pay a little bit more to get people to do it. What we
are trying to do increasingly to get a balance between the two
is to split provision between workshop and education. To use the
example from Mr Steinberg at Frankland Prison, prisoners frequently
work half time in the workshop and half time improving their basic
skills and that gets over the problem of making sure the wages
between the two are comparable.
192. Can I just ask in terms of drugs the same
issue about compulsion and whether or not you have gone down that
road of mandatory testing as soon as people come in, obliging
them to follow various regimes and so on and so forth, and whether
or not that has been more successful than dealing with people
on a voluntary basis? I am aware of there being drug-free wings
in some prisons and people can volunteer to go into them, as I
understand it, but are there circumstances where you almost force
people down particular routes to address their drug habits?
(Mr Narey) It is impossible to force anybody to address
their drug habit but what we have found is that for those prisoners
who are extremely reluctant to get involved in drug treatment
programmes, once they start the programmes their success rate
is every bit as good as those who were very keen to join from
the outset. You can overcome that initial reluctance. I think
that is particularly the case with very serious addicts who go
to one of our so-called therapeutic communities which are very
long-term, very intensive therapeutic environments in which peer
support is very, very important and it does make a difference.
As I have explained, we can now see evidence not just from health
benefits, that people do not return to drugs as much when they
go out, but in terms of reduced re-conviction for up to two years
after release as well.
Chairman: Thank you very much. Mr Rendel is
anxious to ask one question on people with mental health problems.
193. It is something that Mr Davidson's questions
triggered off in my mind and it relates to something you said
in answer to an earlier question about the fact you have a sort
of waiting list of people who you think ought to be in a hospital
but you cannot get a place in a secure hospital for them, is that
(Mr Narey) About 300 at any one time have been clinically
assessed as in need of a secure psychiatric bed and they are rotting
in my places.
194. Forgive me if I am wrong but I think, and
I speak as somebody who has a GP for a wife, that if somebody
is in the community and the doctor sections them and says they
need a place in a secure hospital they will go to a hospital place,
a place is found for them. What surprises me, therefore, is that
you cannot and what worries me is that you are never able to get
your 300 in because GPs in the community are putting people into
these hospitals and, if you like, queue jumping you.
(Mr Narey) The 300 that I mentioned are not all sectioned
but they are those who we believe would be sectioned. Very frequently
when I visit a prison or when I go into a hospital I will talk
to the staff about one or two prisoners there who have been sectioned
under the Mental Health Act and exactly what you have described
is happening. Two years ago I went back to being a prison officer
for the BBC programme Back to the Floor and I had a traumatic
dealing with a terribly, terribly mentally ill prisoner whose
behaviour was simply appalling, it was tragic that he was in there.
He had been sectioned for about four months and during that period
he had fallen down the waiting list to get into Rampton simply
because beds in Rampton were being taken by those who were in
the community and the view was, which I can understand, that this
person was at least not a danger to the public while he was in
Parkhurst but he was getting much worse while he was in Parkhurst.
Mr Rendel: That is appalling.
Mr Steinberg: I had a case, you will remember,
where it ended up in suicide.
(Mr Narey) Yes, I do.
Mr Rendel: That is really appalling.
195. There are a couple of notes you might give
us. There was a line of questioning on your cost benefit analysis,
three to one. Could you provide equivalent cost benefit figures
for each of the main programmes that we have discussed in this
session? We may be able to help you on that in our report in the
way we argue this going forward. Paragraph 1.1 refers to a significant
increase in the prison population. Has expenditure on education
programmes kept pace with this increase? It does not seem to have
done, which is what rather confused me about some of your evidence.
Perhaps you could just provide figures on that.
(Mr Narey) I would be very happy to do that.
Chairman: I know that we have given you a hard
time, and I particularly gave you a hard time at the beginning,
but we do realise that you have one of the most difficult jobs
in Britain and you are running what has been a Cinderella service.
We can see that you are personally totally committed to improving
matters, so I hope in our report we can help you in your task
and ensure that you are given sufficient resources so that prisons
are decent, austere and also provide some hope.
(Mr Narey) I would be very grateful for that, Chairman,
thank you very much.
Chairman: Thank you very much.
13 Ev 26-27, Appendix 1. Back
Ev 27, Appendix 1. Back
Ev 27¸29, Appendix 1. Back