Examination of Witnesses (Questions 120-139)|
MP, MR MARTIN
TUESDAY 4 DECEMBER 2001
120. The second point the Board of Visitors
make is that the proposed cuts to the education department will
restrict access at a time when it is most needed.
(Mr Narey) I do not believe in that, Mr Chairman.
I am very happy to send you details
but if you looked at the education provision even after the reductions
at Blantyre compared to that which I have at the other resettlement
prisons, you will find that Blantyre is, if anything, very generously
provided for. At Latchmere, for example, we spent something less
than £20,000 on education in the prison, but a very large
number of prisoners go out every day to FE colleges, and that
is the shift which I hope we will see at Blantyre.
121. The third point the Visitors made is that
their reoffending rates are already very low and that therefore
they ought to be allowed exceptions from the national requirements
for resettlement regimes.
(Mr Narey) We have put in hand this framework which
I think is broadly right in terms of managing risk, and there
is a reality for managing risk. The world will fall around me
and prison governors if someone is released at an early stage
in a long sentence and something very serious happens. I well
recall the way everything shuddered to a halt in 1995 when security
concerns caused an absolute about-turn from the then agenda set
by Lord Woolf. I am trying to make those improvements while keeping
an eye on security. I have already said, though, in the New Year
I will revisit the stage one and stage two arrangements, and if
there is a case in individual prisons for giving them some flexibility,
then I would be happy to do that.
122. Just going back to this inquiry which is
about to conclude, it has interviewed Mr Murtagh, has it?
(Mr Narey) Yes, it has. Although I have had nothing
to do with the inquiry, for quite proper reasons, I do know it
123. I ask because up until fairly recently
it had not.
(Mr Narey) I am quite sure it has. I think the investigating
officer, Miss Loudon, was at Blantyre last week interviewing staff,
and I understand she has one more interview to complete and she
will be writing up the report.
Chairman: Can we turn now to young offenders
124. Minister, can you clarify in my mind that
when we are talking about the record number of people in prisons,
it does include those in young offenders institutions in that
total nudging 70,000?
(Beverley Hughes) Yes.
125. Is the rate of young offenders being locked
up increasing in the same way as the adult population is?
(Beverley Hughes) I think it is increasing proportionately,
yes, with the general increase.
126. You mentioned earlier, or Mr Narey did,
the fact you are budgeting or planning for two new prisons, and
then went on to talk about the next round. In the next round does
that include further young offenders institutions if the prison
population continues to rise?
(Beverley Hughes) Yes. We are looking across the board
at the prison population generally, about particular groups within
thatwomen and young offendersand we are making contingency
plans in relation to the trends, including for young offenders.
127. So we can expect, from what you are saying,
some more young offenders institutions to be provided at some
(Beverley Hughes) That depends on the numbers and
on how we choose to apply a range of options which will be open
to us, whether that is an institution or the ready-to-use units
I talked about. We have various different means of increasing
capacity if we need to.
128. Mr Narey, in reply to an earlier question
you mentioned that we can change people's lives if we can get
to them early, and you said that some of them had not been at
school since the age of 13. Mr Sutton gave some quite detailed
knowledge of young offenders' backgrounds and prisoners' backgrounds.
Have you done a survey amongst the young people just at one YOI
to see how many of those have been members at any stage of recognised
(Mr Narey) I do not
know if we have those figures, although I would be very confident
in saying that the numbers would be extremely low. Characteristically,
the sort of person in a young offender establishment at the moment
is not only excluded from school but largely comprehensively socially
excluded from any sort of activity of that nature.
129. Can I suggest as a pilot scheme at one
institution over a three month period that question be added to
all the other questions which clearly are being put, otherwise
you would not have had that detailed information?
(Mr Narey) I am very happy to give that commitment.
I might add at one or two prisons, the YMCA do come into the prisons
to try to get young people involved and help them to carry on
their participation after release, but for most prisoners they
have never heard of organisations like that until we introduce
them to them.
130. Mr Narey, when you spoke to us on 13 February
you said there was nothing more important in the whole of the
service than reducing suicides, and you repeated that comment
to Bridget Prentice earlier. Amongst those suicides I understand
that 16 were of young people in the last year, can you tell me
what the current figures are?
(Mr Narey) I cannot give you the figure
for young people. For those aged under 21 I think the figure is
something like 21 or 22and I can give it to you specificallyout
of the total of 62.
131. Can you tell me how many safe cells there
are in young offenders institutions?
(Mr Narey) I cannot
give you a full figure, the answer though is very few.
We have just started a process of trying to provide more safe
cells in every establishment which receives prisoners from the
courts, both young offenders and adults. The total number of safe
cells is a very small number indeed relative to the population
and the risk of suicide.
132. You also said, Mr Narey, that there was
greater investment in providing more safe cells without ligature
points. You may be interested to know an oral question I have
been lucky to have down for Monday 17 December asks what progress
has been made in the installation of safe cells for remand prisoners,
so I give you advance warning of that.
(Mr Narey) I think I will be able to record significant
progress, not least in the fact that new cells we build at any
prison where there is likely to be any vulnerability are all safe
cells. A lot of that is very expensive but it is the backlog in
locals which is worrying.
133. Can you confirm that, to the best of your
knowledge, no suicide has yet taken place in a safe cell?
(Mr Narey) I am quite certain that no suicide has
taken place in a safe cell. Somebody in a safe cell may have been
successful in taking their own life outside that cell.
134. But so far as young offenders institutions
are concerned, what plans do you have to instal more safe cells
so we do not have any more young people committing suicide?
(Mr Narey) I managed, although it was very difficult
to do, to find about £9 million to dedicate towards not only
the provision of safe cells but improving reception areas and
appointing 30 full-time anti-suicide co-ordinators in the 30 prisons
where we are most vulnerable to suicide. Although clearly the
fact we have 62 suicides up to now this year is still a frightening
number, and we are near the end of the year, that is a significant
reduction on the 91 two years ago when the population is now significantly
135. Has the Prison Reform Trust's paperI
understand it is called Troubled Insideprompted
you to take new steps to reduce self-harm by young people?
(Mr Narey) I do not think they prompted me. In the
first speech I made to the Prison Service as Director General
I said this was my number one priority, and I have always had
the support of ministers in doing that. It has taken longer than
I would have hoped to start to turn the trend around. Even now,
I have to tell the Committee, I am not convinced we will maintain
it. Levels of mental illness, levels of previous drug abuse and
the numbers of prisoners who have previously tried to take their
own lives, are so high that the burden we face is sometimes near
136. But hopefully in your bidding proposals
you will be arguing the case for more safe cells to prevent any
prisoner committing suicide but particularly those on remand and
(Mr Narey) I was so agitated about the rise in the
number of deaths to 91 in 1999 that I did not wait for the bidding,
I found £9 million by taking it away from other areas of
prison budgets to put into this what we call the Safer Custody
Initiative. The meetings are chaired by the minister but it has
the involvement of the Prison Reform Trust, the Howard League
and other bodies.
137. Can I just ask you one or two questions
about privately managed prisons, Mr Narey?
(Mr Narey) Absolutely.
138. How many are there in the system?
(Mr Narey) There are seven.
139. Are we planning to expand that or keep
it about the same, or what?
(Mr Narey) The two new prisons which we have announced
that we will build at Ashford and Peterborough will be both built,
financed and managed by the private sector.
19 Ibid. Back
See Appendix, Ev 26. Back