How to reduce prison overcrowding – some practical solutions A Cumberland Lodge Forum, Monday 8th October, 2007
Summary and bullet points for action
Speakers at the forum:
Phil Wheatley, Director General, H.M. Prison Service
Anne Owers, H.M. Chief Inspector of Prisons for England and Wales Dr Chloe Chitty, Head of Unit, Research, Development and Statistics, National Offender Management Service Dr Nicky Padfield, Senior Lecturer, University of Cambridge
The Rt. Hon. The Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales David Scott, Chief Officer, London Probation
Rob Lyman, Director Offender Services, Reliance Secure Task Management Service Dr David James, Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist, North London Forensic Service Olga Heaven, Director, Hibiscus
Helen Edwards, Chief Executive, National Offender Management Service Juliet Lyon, Director, Prison Reform Trust and Secretary General, Penal Reform International
Since 1995 the prison population has risen by over 30,000 from 49,542 (end Jan 1995) to 81,245 (October 2007). Over 24% of prisoners are in overcrowded conditions. Negative consequences:
population churn, prisoners moving from place to place, is difficult for prisoners, staff and courts. a marked increase in self-inflicted deaths.
education and drug or alcohol treatment programmes are impeded. a shortage of constructive activity for one third of prisoners. prisoners are forced to share cells, increasing the risk of violence and unrest.
The prison population can be understood roughly as follows: just over 10% of prisoners, over 8000, spend under one year in prisons; this is quite a low number, historically speaking. 12% are serving either Indeterminate Sentences for Public Protection (IPP) or life sentences, a significantly increased proportion. 31% serve four years to life; ‘long, thick’ sentences.
28% serve between 1 – 4 years, a medium term sentence.
7% of the prison population are recallees, having failed their licenses. 2% of the population are foreign nationals awaiting deportation. overall, there is a 2% growth, year on year, in the prison population.
Between 1995 and 2005 there has been an average increase in the length of crown court sentences by 24% and a 28% increase in use of custody for indictable offences. The increase in the number sentenced to immediate custody and the imposition of longer sentences are the two key drivers behind the increase in the prison population.
Other, less significant, factors causing the increase in prison population are: the introduction of Indeterminate Sentences for Public Protection (IPP) or Suspended prison sentences (SSOs) greater enforcement of breaches of community orders with recalls for breaching the conditions of licence fewer releases on parole
a fall in the use of Home Detention Curfew, and a rise in foreign nationals of 6,500 or 140% from 1997 to 2007.
The Criminal Justice Act 2003 increased the starting point for the minimum term for murder. This has had the effect of raising substantially the terms of imprisonment to be served, not merely for murder, but for a whole range of other offences that must logically bear a relationship to the sentences imposed for murder. This is a major reason for an increase in the prison population. Was this consequence intended and planned for?
The Indeterminate Sentence for Public Protection (IPP), introduced in 2005, is one that the judge must impose where, according to the terms of the statute, the offender is dangerous and poses a serious risk of harm to the public. There is the view that IPPs are being imposed in respect of offences which are not, in fact, very serious and which carry a relatively short minimum term.
Statistics show that those who receive short prison sentences are particularly likely to re-offend, of those discharged after short sentences in 2001, 67% were reconvicted within two years. It is estimated that...
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