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31 May 2016

Over a million additional days of imprisonment are locking in a vicious cycle of punishment

Over a million days – or 2,890 years – of additional imprisonment have been imposed on prisoners found to have broken prison rules in the past six years, Ministry of Justice figures have confirmed.

Analysis by the Howard League for Penal Reform also shows today (Tuesday 31 May) that the number of additional days handed out increased by almost 38 per cent between 2014 and 2015.

The Howard League previously published a report in 2015, Punishment in Prison: The world of prison discipline, which looks at how jails in England and Wales operate disciplinary hearings called adjudications, where allegations of rule-breaking are tried.

The hearings, which cost between £400,000 and £500,000 a year in total, mainly concern disobedience, disrespect or property offences, which increase as prisons lose control under pressure of overcrowding and staff cuts.

A prisoner found guilty at an adjudication can face punishments ranging from loss of canteen to solitary confinement and extra days of imprisonment.

The latest figures were provided in answer to a Parliamentary Question. In 2015 there were 13,000 adjudications where additional days were given. A total of 215,348 additional days were handed to prisoners – compared to 156,070 the previous year.

The rise in additional days of imprisonment has come at a time when prisons across England and Wales are struggling to overcome problems caused by a growing prisoner population, chronic overcrowding and cuts of almost 40 per cent to frontline staffing.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “Punishing misbehaviour by prisoners languishing in slum conditions is creating a vicious cycle of troubled prisons and troubling prisoners and these figures reveal that this cycle is now spinning faster than ever.

“Our prison system is overcrowded and yet the system of adjudications simply feeds further pressure on the prisons. It is also a capricious system as the punishment of additional days can only be handed down to some prisoners and not others – for example those on remand or serving short sentences.

“The Howard League’s concerns on this issue arose from our legal work with children and young adults. Since we published our report last year, we have held meetings with the prisons minister and the Chief Magistrate sent copies of the briefing to every visiting district judge who presides over prison adjudications. Given the level of interest in our work, it is disappointing to see no action has been taken to curb this growing problem.

“In Scotland the system of imposing additional days of imprisonment has been abolished and this has not resulted in a deterioration of behaviour. If the Ministry of Justice is serious about reforming prisons, then this is one area that must be tackled.”

Most adjudications are tried by a prison governor who has no power to impose additional days but before whom there is no right to legal representation. Cases that are sufficiently serious to attract the risk of additional days may be referred to a visiting district judge.

Additional days will extend a prisoner’s date of release, but they cannot be imposed beyond the final end date of the sentence. This means that the most challenging prisoners could be released without any period on licence in the community.

The new figures include prison-by-prison data and reveal private prisons in particular feature among the highest users of additional days of imprisonment. This raises concerns as the companies involved will benefit commercially from prisoners serving more time in their jails.

Prisons with the highest numbers of adjudications awarding additional days of imprisonment in 2015*


Prison Adjudications
Aylesbury 562
Oakwood (G4S) 514
Northumberland (Sodexo) 433
Stoke Heath 424
Parc (G4S) 423
Brinsford 396
Rochester 375
Lancaster Farms 313
Deerbolt 299
Birmingham (G4S) 289

Prisons with the highest numbers of additional days awarded to prisoners*


Prison Additional days imposed Average population
Aylesbury 8,413 428
Northumberland (Sodexo) 7,661 1,334
Rochester 7,317 752
Lancaster Farms 6,461 542
Parc (G4S) 5,891 1,662
Highpoint – North and South 5,790 1,302
Pentonville 5,536 1,276
Oakwood (G4S) 5,404 1,590
Forest Bank (Sodexo) 5,276 1,407
Stoke Heath 5,216 756

*where the prison is privately run, the company operating it is indicated in parentheses


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.
  1. Copies of Punishment in Prison: The world of prison discipline can be downloaded online.
  1. The figures were provided by Andrew Selous, the Minister for Prisons, Probation and Rehabilitation. They were provided in an answer to written questions tabled on behalf of the Howard League by Andy Slaughter, Shadow Minister for Human Rights, on 18 May 2016.


Rob Preece
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