Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60
MONDAY 11 FEBRUARY 2002
60. I understand that. Where you have something
that looks almost like it is cast in stone for 25 years you are
in a limited situation. I was looking at the list on pages 52
and 53 of prisons that are providing effective work with prisoners,
unless I have misread it, there seems to be three private prisons,
Rye Hill, Dovegate and Forest Bank which are not listed. Are they
specialist prisons? Has there been any particular problem getting
them to adopt this regime?
(Mr Narey) I had not opened Dovegate in the period
of this Report. I do not know why Forest Bank should not be there,
Forest Bank was certainly open and so was Rye Hill. They are just
absent from this table I am afraid.
61. Does absent mean they are not doing it?
(Mr Narey) They are doing it. I would be very happy
to supply those figures.
62. That would be helpful. Thank you very much.
You made a throwaway comment which was rather interesting, because
it reflected into policy areas outside the Prison Service, when
you said something like 75 per cent, I may have misheard, of the
young offenders you were dealing with had been permanently excluded
or they maybe re-offended and had been permanently excluded from
school. Was it 75 per cent?
(Mr Narey) Typically 75 per cent, in some places more.
On the juvenile site at Feltham, according to figures produced
by David Ramsbotham last year, 90 per cent of the boys there had
never been to school beyond the age of 13.12 per cent of the boys
in Stoke Heath had never been to school beyond primary school
and, overwhelmingly, they have never got a qualification in their
63. So one does not draw a wrong conclusion
from this, clearly it would not be sensible to say, therefore,
if they were not excluded from school this might not happen. If
you cannot cope with them it is hard to see how a teacher with
them in the middle of 30 other children could cope. Does it not
possibly raise the issue of whether we should reconsider something
like the special needs units, which were abolished in most schools,
which used to concentratemy wife used to work as a volunteer
in oneon helping youngsters with literacy problems to reach
minimum standards. Do you think the frustration of being outside
the education loop contributes at all to this or are these malfunctioning
(Mr Narey) I do not feel qualified to comment on educational
policy and how these young people should be dealt with. I do know
if you are excluding a young man from schooland overwhelmingly
we are talking about young black men hereyou may as well
give them an appointment to come into custody,because that is
where very many of them come in. I think the Prison Service gets
properly criticised sometimes for not doing enough with these
young men. The burden that is inherent when every other agency
has failed is simply immense. I can take you to institutions where
parents come in to prize giving, to where we present people with
certificates, it is the first qualification they have ever earned,
the first time their parents have ever heard anybody say anything
good about them and, frankly, it is very moving. We should not
have to face that deficit and start putting things right only
when people get sent to prison.
64. Something needs to be done, it is not as
simplistic as saying, let them stay in school because they disrupt
all of the other children.
(Mr Narey) I do understand that. We are literally
captive, and we have very small class sizes, our literacy and
numeracy classes are typically no more than six or eight strong.
Sometimes with very, very difficult young men we do not put them
in classrooms at all we put them in the gymnasium and we teach
them numeracy almost surreptitiously by teaching them how to compute
how to use the weights, and so forth, we have had some success
with that with some of our most difficult young men. I am not
suggesting that schools can do it, I realise the problems they
face are immense. The problem is that the deficits facing us when
people come into custody with the lack of education qualifications,
their addiction and the general chaotic lives they lead make our
challenge sometimes overwhelming.
65. I can understand that. I go back to the
days of National Service, I remember friends who went to the Army
in the education branch who said they were astonished with the
gratitude they came across from youngsters, young 18 year olds,
when they could finally begin to read a bit. I know the reality
of what you are considering. Does it not seem a bit absurdI
know there are not all that many places available, I will come
on to themto maintain the rule as referred to in paragraph
3.8 on page 29, that prisoners who maintain they are innocent
of the offence for which they have been convicted are excluded
from these programmes to help ease the re-offending problem just
because they will not admit their guilt? That seems a nonsensical
(Mr Narey) It is not completely the case. There are
programmes which address cognitive skills and thinking skills,
such as ETS, and all prisoners can do those programmes and are
accepted on to them. Participation in the sex offender treatment
programme, which is the area of the greatest controversy here,
requires the offender to admit his guilt, it is focused very much
on his own offence, his motivation behind it in a group with other
people. It means that sometimes somebody can deny a particular
offence of which he has been convicted but if he accepts he has
previously committed sexual offences he might still be able to
participate. Generally speaking because programmes are focused
on the offence of the individual, and research is very, very strong
on this, you cannot impose these courses on people, you cannot
make people change if they do not want to. If somebody will not
admit their guilt then sadly we do not have a programme which
we think will be effective in reducing their dangerousness.
66. Would that then exclude them from the other
courses, drug rehabilitation, and so on?
(Mr Narey) Certainly not, neither drug rehabilitation
courses or education or the thinking skills courses. It is the
sex offender treatment programme and one other course.
(Mr Newcomen) CALM, which is an anger management course
which works under the same assumption, which is that research
is very clear that if we do not have prisoners who have come to
terms at least with was recognising an offence has occurred that
we have very little to work with and there is simply no research
at an international level that allows us to move forward with
a prisoner who refuses to accept guilt.
67. I will tell you what came over to me reading
this reportyou referred to Swansea in my constituencywas
the feeling that for so long the attitude has been one stage off
lock them up and throw the key away, you do not really have to
do anything much to or for them. It refers in the Report to the
resistance from some members of staff to the introduction of courses,
how widespread is that? Does the POA, Prison Officers Association,
cooperate with you in encouraging members of staff to cooperate
in these schemes?
(Mr Narey) Yes, they do. There has been some resistance
and we are trying to affect a cultural change in the Prison Service.
I have seen prisons which are radically better than when I joined.
Swansea is a much better prison than it was two or three years
68. It has just had a major investment in a
new building as well?
(Mr Narey) Yes, it has and it has a charismatic Governor,
and staff who are very, very keen on making improvements. We are
trying to change the approach. I remind the Committee, it is only
a few years since the mantra was that prisons should be decent
but austere. There was little or no investment in offending behaviour
programmes. We increased the population, that is the number of
prisoners, without any investment in regimes. In the last 10 years
my annual budget has risen by 29 per cent, the population by 45
per cent. There has been a rebirth of optimism relatively recently,
that is what I joined the Prison Service for nearly 20 years ago,
proper investment and proper management could become decent and
constructive places where you can give people another chance,
some staff have found that difficult, it is easier for prisoners
to be treated as some sort of subspecies and not to be considered
as people you can help. The Service is changing fast and there
has been no opposition in recent years amongst the POA to the
sort of programmes we are introducing.
69. We recognise there are some beyond salvation
in any form whatsoever, some because of IQ and some because of
psychological problems but to find that still, according to paragraph
2.17, it says, at least 6,000 prisoners a year are being put through
accredited programmes. 6,100 is out of 68,000, that is 1 in 11.
It really does help to underline the degree to which you referred
to the neglect of the equal role of punishment, the equal role
of trying to reclaim people and how it has been neglected for
a long, long time?
(Mr Narey) It has been neglected, 6,000 is not enough,
it is seven times higher than the figure some seven years ago.
The growth in drug treatment programmes and education shows a
similar very, very significant increase in recent years. I would
like much more, I believe passionately that prisons can be decent
and constructive places, but I need the investment and I need
some end to the madness in the prison population, which is hurtling
70. I agree entirely with the views you are
expressing and I applaud them and wish you well with them. Looking
across that page do you see at the very top of the next page,
the tail-end of paragraph 2.18 we know, I think it is something
like three quarters of young offenders are reconvicted, it is
far higher than the general figure amongst prisoners, it about
50 per cent in general and 76 per cent amongst the young offenders.
Here we find that the Prison Service is also developing programmes
to meet the specific needs of young juvenile offenders serving
detention and training orders, that is almost a misnomer of what
I think we were getting in the past. The Service does not expect
these programmes to be accredited until 2003 or 2004 at the earliest,
that is pathetically slow, is it not?
(Mr Narey) The programmes will be up and running and
they will be having an impact. I am not suggesting that we are
going to make a huge adjustment to the reconviction rate. There
are things which determine whether somebody re-offends which are
way beyond my control. The current reconviction rates are based
on prisoners who were released before we had any of this investment.
I believe that the accumulation of what we are doing on education,
drug treatment training, and so forth will improve that reconviction
rate. For those serving detention and training orders I think
that is a demonstration to anyone who visits a prison of what
we can do with what is still relatively modest investment. I would
welcome anybody to visit any of the 13 institutions holding those
aged 17 and under, we spend a fraction of the money which local
authorities spend on that age group or secure training centres
run by the private sector, a fraction of the money. I am very
proud of the work going on there. Even in places once notorious,
like Feltham, the Youth Justice Board are full of praise for what
has been done with young people. I think we can do that with all
prisoners with the right sort of investment.
71. I was listening to your answers Mr Narey
and I find it very interesting because historically the transfer
of prisoners was used as a method of control, was it not, rather
than allocating for accommodation, as you nicely put it?
(Mr Narey) That is correct. Difficult prisoners were
moved on and on in what was called the roundabout, they were moved
every 28 days as a means of controlling them. That no longer happens.
72. In fact they could be moved so often that
parents in the case of youngsters found it difficult to know where
they were, like the Prison Service had lost them, and they would
not be told where they were. Is it not the case today that we
still have an element of people in the Service who believe that
the only way you can maintain control of prisoners is to make
sure they do not build up networks, you move them on.
(Mr Narey) We are doing much better now. We still
move prisoners a lot because of the population pressures. Today
we have been trying to fill a few vacancies we have in open prisons,
there are about 150, and that will mean cumulatively the move
of about 600 prisoners as we move people down a category to fill
every bed. I desperately wish I did not have to do that but I
have to otherwise I would be locking out, which is something that
I cannot countenance. The practice which was the case of routinely
moving prisoners as a means of ordering control, which was only
done for a small number of badly behaved prisoners we no longer
do that, we have much more successful methods of retaining order
and control, not least rewarding good behaviour as well as punishing
73. I think I may be the only one on the Committee
who has done time in a prison. I have done numerous programmes
with prisoners in prisons but I have done them with the more able
and I found they were the only ones put on a programme, allowed
on a programme in that day.
(Mr Narey) When was this?
74. A while ago.
(Mr Narey) It does not surprise me. When I served
in prisons in the North-East, 15 or 16 years ago, it was entirely
typical that the education block would be full of the more able
prisoners, typically terrorist prisoners doing a second degree
in international relations, and the illiterate would be in the
laundry and we have completely turned that around now.
75. The Prison Service were very proud they
got somebody through a degree course but they completely ignored
the 80 per cent who could not get to level one.
(Mr Narey) We still have degree courses and we still
do a lot with Open University and we have a very exciting course
called Autobiography, which was developed for us by the Ruskin
College at Oxford, which prepares prisoners for Open University
or for university offers entrance on release. The main emphasis
has been to attack the reality that most of our prisoners are
unemployable and there is no chance of them going straight unless
we do something about that.
76. One of the things that always comes to mind,
I am sure you have the figures, maybe you do not have them to
hand, I did ask a question at one time about former care in the
community patients, when they were released from one institution,
spent some time on the streets, then were re-established in another
institution and when they were released from there completed a
crime because they thought they could not live outside an institution.
How many people do you have in prison who were formerly in the
Care in the Community programme?
(Mr Narey) I can answer it in this way, which I hope
is helpful. Since the introduction of Care in the Community the
proportion of my populationnot the number, the proportionwho
suffer from medium or severe psychosis has risen seven fold.
77. These people, no matter what the programme
is, are going to feel so insecure when they leave prison that
the only place they can feel secure again is back in prison.
(Mr Narey) Sadly, we are sometimes getting people
sent into custody because the courts despair of anywhere else
to send them. Frequently these poor people are desperately ill
and while in our care they get worse. For example, those who are
mentally ill in psychiatric hospitals can be medicated against
their will; they cannot be medicated against their will in prisons
and if they do not co-operate with medication there is nothing
that we can do. At any one time I have 300 men and women who are
waiting for a bed in a secure psychiatric hospital and some of
them, as I have witnessed myself, I have spoken to them, are getting
desperately worse and they should not be in the Prison Service.
78. It has been estimated that 25 per cent of
the prison population does not belong in prison but belongs in
some form of mental health institution. Would you think this figure
is approximately right?
(Mr Narey) I certainly think the levels of mental
illness are so high as to suggest that there needs to be a radical
shift in the way people are cared for and it is, in my view, a
direct consequence of the closure of the large psychiatric hospitals
which are no longer there. Beyond the mentally ill, my personal
view, although it is not for me to say, I am not a sentencer,
is that I also believe that there are too many people who are
sent to prison for very short sentences where we cannot do anything
constructive for them but those sentences are sufficient for them
to lose their tenancies and their jobs.
79. I was going to come on to the next level.
We used to refer to them as "educationally sub-normal"
and now they have become special needs youngsters who would not
and could not succeed at work, become unemployable and finish
up once again as your clients, in effect. What percentage do these
make up of the prison population?
(Mr Narey) A huge percentage, Mr Jenkins. About two-thirds
of my population are essentially ineligible for about 96 per cent
of all jobs. Crucially there is no evidence, and you used the
expression "sub-normal", which is an old-fashioned expression
but I think it is the right one, there is no evidence that they
are sub-normal, they are just uneducated. That is why investment
is so worthwhile in this group of people.
7 Ev 25, Appendix 1. Back