Offender management in prisons - opportunities to reform being missed

Work needed to address and change offenders’ attitudes and behaviour is not happening to any meaningful extent in many prisons, said Liz Calderbank, Chief Inspector of Probation, and Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, publishing the report of a second joint inspection into offender management in prisons.

As a result, the opportunity to help them reform before release is being missed. Work to meet the practical resettlement needs of prisoners was better.

The National Offender Management Service (NOMS) Offender Management Model is designed to provide a framework within which sentenced adults are managed through their custodial or community sentence, with probation staff in the community liaising closely with offender supervisors in prisons. Each individual should be assessed, and a plan for the sentence should be produced, based on work that will make the prisoner less likely to re-offend on release. Prisons have an important role to play in providing access to interventions or programmes designed to change behaviour and attitudes and to lower the risk of harm to others a prisoner may pose.

Today’s report reflects findings from the 11 prison establishments inspected. Inspectors found that, even taking account of the different nature of the 11 establishments, some common themes emerged:

  • many prisons paid good attention to the resettlement needs of a prisoner, such as their education, employment and health. Such work is important to reducing the likelihood of reoffending on release, but it also needs to be underpinned by work which sustains changes in attitude and behaviour;
  • there are still insufficient places in prisons on accredited programmes which deal with thoughts and attitudes. As a result, some prisoners, notably sex offenders, are not always able to access the treatment programmes they need to change their behaviour before release;
  • many staff in Offender Management Units (OMUs) were committed but were frustrated when deployed to other duties due to operational demands;
  • there was insufficient guidance for staff in OMUs, professional supervision was limited and some felt inadequately trained;
  • work on public protection and child protection issues was not of a sufficient standard, and too often the separation of public protection and offender management functions within the prison meant critical information was not used to inform decisions;
  • prison staff outside the OMU had little appreciation of its work and the electronic case record P-NOMIS was not being used effectively to support offender management; and
  • sentence plans were generally inadequate and based on interventions that were available rather than on what were required, which masked the true level of need across the prison estate.

The chief inspectors said:
‘A period of incarceration offers an opportunity to tackle a prisoner’s entrenched behaviour and attitudes, and moreover to observe and capture on a day-to-day basis whether the necessary changes are taking place prior to release. Failing to capitalise on that opportunity is a waste of an expensive resource.’

Notes to editors

  1. Read the full report (PDF, 640.65 kB).
  2. This is the second report to be published from our joint Prisoner Offender Management Inspection programme. This report draws on the findings from inspections undertaken between June and November 2011 at the following HM Prison establishments: Deerbolt, Durham, East Sutton Park, High Down, Isis, Low Newton, Maidstone, Rye Hill, Shrewsbury, Stafford and Wayland.
  3. OASys (Offender Assessment System) is the nationally designed and prescribed framework for both Probation and Prisons to assess offenders. It makes use of both static and dynamic factors. Static factors are elements of someone’s history that by definition can subsequently never change (ie, the age at which they committed their first offence). Dynamic factors are the factors in someone’s circumstances and behaviour that can change over time.
  4. The Offender Management Model covers adults serving 12 months and over who are classified as posing a high or very high Risk of Serious Harm to the public; Prolific and Other Priority Offenders; those serving indeterminate periods of imprisonment for public protection; and young adult offenders serving more than four weeks. These prisoners are described as being ‘in scope’ of the model.
  5. Plans are currently underway for all prisoners to be assessed and then allocated to different levels of offender management depending on that assessment. Offender management tasks and responsibilities will be transferred to offender supervisors in Offender Management Units, with offender managers in the community becoming involved prior to release. The tiering framework, currently only for community providers, will thus be extended to cover custody. As a result, all sentenced prisoners will be allocated a tier, based on identified Risk of Harm to others and Likelihood of Reoffending. This will support the principle of ‘resources follow risk’ when working with people who have offended.
  6. For further information or to speak to Liz Calderbank or Nick Hardwick, please contact Jane Parsons on 020 7035 2123 or 07880 787452.