Running prisons with purpose

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“They need to change the regime in this prison. This place is run like a remand prison or a B-Cat. Prisoners need more time out of cells. The OMU or offender management unit don’t do anything in this prison… it’s like they don’t exist here. There are also no courses for prisoners to engage in… There is no thing for a prisoner to focus on or use as a qualification on the out.”

Prisoner at HMP Brixton

Recent independent inspections have raised serious questions about the degree to which our prison system is giving sufficient priority to providing prisoners with genuinely purposeful ways to spend their time. This lack of purposeful activity is particularly concerning in category C training and resettlement prisons, which, according to the prison service, should be giving prisoners “the opportunity to develop their own skills so they can find work and resettle back into the community on release”.

This blog explores purposeful activity findings from inspections of four category C prisons: Rochester, The Mount, Brixton and Coldingley. Only Coldingley was providing reasonable time out of cell, and even then the education provider was poor and too many prisoners were hanging round on the wings rather than getting to work or education. At Rochester, Brixton and The Mount, prisoners were locked up for 22 hours or more a day, workshops and classrooms stood empty, and prisoners were losing out on the chance to start going to work in meaningful jobs outside the prison wall.

In the blog, Charlie Taylor, Chief Inspector of Prisons, says:

“It costs taxpayers approximately £45,000 to keep someone in prison for a year. It is in all our interests that our prisons, particularly category C jails, invest more effort in giving prisoners the skills to resettle successfully when they are released.”

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Notes to editors

  1. Read the full reports on HMP Brixton and HMP The Mount (both published 30 June 2022), HMP Rochester (published 1 February 2022) and HMP Coldingley (published 20 April 2022).
  2. Read the press release on category C prisons.