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18 Nov 2016

Failing prisons resort to draconian punishments as crisis behind bars deepens

More than 215,000 days – or 590 years – of additional imprisonment were imposed on prisoners found to have broken prison rules last year, a report by the Howard League for Penal Reform reveals today (Friday 18 November).

Prisons across England and Wales, under growing pressure due to overcrowding and a lack of staff, are increasingly resorting to draconian punishments in a desperate and counter-productive attempt to keep control.

The findings have been published in a Howard League report, A Million Days: The world of prison discipline, which states that more than 1million additional days – equal to almost 3,000 years – have been imposed on prisoners since 2010.

The report looks at how prisons operate disciplinary hearings called adjudications, where allegations of rule-breaking are tried. These mainly concern disobedience, disrespect or property offences, which increase as conditions in prisons deteriorate.

Ministry of Justice (MoJ) data show that, across England and Wales, the number of additional days’ imprisonment imposed has increased by 30 per cent in a year – from 165,856 in 2014 to 215,348 in 2015.

Private prisons generally hand down more additional days of imprisonment per prisoner than public prisons. Of the 14 private prisons in England and Wales, all but two imposed more additional days in 2015 than in 2014.

The report marks the start of a new Howard League campaign to reduce the number of people in prison by reforming The 3Rs – rules in prison; release from prison; and recall to prison.

The campaign aims to get immediate behaviour change by authorities that would ease the pressure on the prison estate by reducing the population.

The campaign begins in the week when up to 10,000 prison officers stopped working during a day of protest at the intolerable conditions behind bars.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “The system of adjudications has become a monster. Originally intended as a way to punish incidents of unacceptable conduct, it is now routinely used as a behaviour management technique by prisons that are out of control.

“Instead of solving the problems, these punishments feed a vicious cycle, piling more pressure on the prison population and worsening overcrowding, which in turn creates conditions for drug abuse and violence.

“At the same time, rules to incentivise prisoners’ behaviour have been made more punitive, which is also contributing to the poisonous atmosphere behind bars.

“The government has acknowledged that there are problems in the system, but warm words are not enough. The imposition of additional days should be seen as a sign of a poorly performing prison and included in new measures being proposed to monitor safety and order. The rules around incentives and earned privileges must also be revised, as ministers have now promised.

“The Howard League 3R campaign will ask governors to deal with infractions instead of referring to external adjudicators, and the judges to exercise self restraint by not bloating prison numbers even more.”

Governors have a choice in the way they deal with rule-breaking. They can manage it themselves or pay for an external adjudicator (a district judge), who has the power to impose additional days of imprisonment.

The number of cases sent to external adjudicators soared by more than 80 per cent between 2010 and 2015.

The report states that new guidance, issued by the Chief Magistrate in 2015, to impose more severe punishments for rule-breaking has contributed to an “explosion” of additional imprisonment.

The Howard League estimates that the extra days imposed in 2015 has cost the taxpayer £19million, on top of what has been spent on running the adjudications.

The MoJ has recognised that the prison disciplinary system is problematic and in need of reform.

Earlier this month, the MoJ published a white paper, Prison Safety and Reform, which states that governors will be encouraged to take a restorative approach.

The Howard League legal team has supported hundreds of children and young people in prison who have been accused of misbehaving and faced additional days in prison.

Adjudications account for the majority of calls to the charity’s free legal advice line for young people.

Notes to editors

  1. The Howard League for Penal Reform is the oldest penal reform charity in the world. It is a national charity working for less crime, safer communities and fewer people in prison.
  2. A Million Days: The world of prison discipline can be viewed on the Howard League website.
  3. The report is based on statistics supplied in May 2016 by the then Prisons Minister, Andrew Selous, in response to a Parliamentary Question asked by the then shadow justice minister, Andy Slaughter.
  4. Details about the Howard League 3R campaign can be found on the charity’s website.
  5. The total number of additional days imposed on prisoners at each prison is stated in the table below:
Prison Additional days given in 2014 Additional days given in 2015 Average population as of June 2015
Altcourse (G4S) 1,344 2,255 1,090
Ashfield (Serco) ** 48 391
Askham Grange ** 32 87
Aylesbury 9,428 8,413 383
Bedford 203 245 489
Belmarsh 229 240 867
Birmingham (G4S) 3,767 4,138 1,426
Brinsford 3,288 5,098 386
Bristol 1,738 1,414 594
Brixton 1,891 2,620 795
Bronzefield (Sodexo) 1,058 953 491
Buckley Hall 111 888 446
Bullingdon 903 571 1,097
Bure 81 191 622
Cardiff 1,229 1,683 815
Channings Wood 709 2,699 720
Chelmsford 545 985 690
Coldingley 510 511 516
Cookham Wood 207 784 173
Dartmoor 1,287 467 633
Deerbolt 2,818 4,679 360
Doncaster (Serco) 753 3,420 1,107
Dovegate (Serco) 1,099 4,012 1,103
Drake Hall 1,274 1,225 300
Durham 85 267 948
East Sutton Park 0 0 94
Eastwood Park 943 582 330
Elmley 2,932 3,160 1,152
Erlestoke 694 2,894 514
Everthorpe* 240 * *
Exeter 869 1,136 524
Featherstone 2,491 3,608 677
Feltham 2,163 1,526 496
Ford 993 1,891 512
Forest Bank (Sodexo) 3,427 5,276 1,434
Foston Hall 236 1,420 290
Frankland 305 237 834
Full Sutton 497 423 585
Garth 354 797 795
Gartree ** 0 710
Glen Parva 2,343 1,726 554
Grendon/Spring Hill ** 82 529
Guys Marsh 1,189 3,296 564
Haverigg 0 2,310 622
Hewell 1,954 1,613 1,261
High Down 354 1,036 1,147
Highpoint 4,366 5,790 1,298
Hindley 1,543 2,134 436
Hollesley Bay ** 10 391
Holloway 721 540 518
Holme House 969 2,205 1,199
Hull 84 583 995
Humber* 1,137 1,639 1,008
Huntercombe 126 246 427
Isis 3,629 2,346 614
Isle of Wight 281 443 1,079
Kennet 709 2,260 290
Kirkham 176 1,577 606
Kirklevington Grange 98 86 274
Lancaster Farms 2,801 6,461 535
Leeds 260 186 1,189
Leicester 1,247 906 340
Lewes 1,698 1,915 649
Leyhill 167 36 494
Lincoln 1,063 425 643
Lindholme 3,013 3,931 990
Littlehey 1,513 512 1,210
Liverpool 4,265 2,874 1,193
Long Lartin 310 311 616
Low Newton 411 653 297
Lowdham Grange (Serco) 525 1,727 914
Maidstone 35 49 599
Manchester 754 1,397 1,090
Moorland 612 575 970
New Hall 934 1,002 386
North Sea Camp 0 20 307
Northumberland (Sodexo) 4,640 7,661 1,329
Norwich 1,265 2,044 737
Nottingham 1,186 2,621 1,049
Oakwood (G4S) 4,934 5,404 1,599
Onley 2,075 4,235 720
Parc (G4S) 4,224 5,891 1,687
Pentonville 5,538 5,536 1,297
Peterborough (Sodexo) 681 907 1,188
Portland 2,489 4,406 486
Preston 2,010 1,829 707
Ranby 2,531 2,315 1,065
Risley 408 933 1,081
Rochester 7,409 7,317 735
Rye Hill (G4S) 417 95 625
Send 208 146 278
Stafford 1,002 570 738
Standford Hill 85 63 456
Stocken 1,633 1,216 683
Stoke Heath 3,693 5,216 748
Styal 733 1,124 471
Sudbury 1,594 751 447
Swaleside 3,894 4,080 1,108
Swansea 1,584 1,412 429
Swinfen Hall 3,216 4,024 578
Thameside (Serco) 63 432 1,009
The Mount 2,333 2,441 1,020
Thorn Cross 14 111 339
Usk/Prescoed 0 0 499
Wakefield 368 302 722
Wandsworth 3,525 4,761 1,593
Warren Hill ** 49 157
Wayland 2,086 4,044 1,000
Wealstun 3,358 946 807
Werrington 1,054 912 114
Wetherby 517 361 278
Whatton 0 24 838
Whitemoor 107 107 447
Winchester 497 844 681
Wolds* 131 * *
Woodhill 916 562 706
Wormwood Scrubs 2,615 4,662 1,241
Wymott 835 1,304 1,130
TOTAL 165,856 215,348 84,532

Operators of private prisons are indicated in brackets.

*Humber prison was created by an amalgamation of Everthorpe and Wolds prisons in 2014.

**Data not available.

Contact

Rob Preece
Campaigns and Communications Manager
Tel: +44 (0)20 7241 7880
Mobile: +44 (0)7714 604955
Email: robert.preece@howardleague.org

ISDN line available on 020 7923 4196 – uses a G722 system

For enquiries outside normal office hours, please call +44 (0)7918 681094.

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