Reoffenders: Coronavirus

Ministry of Justice written question – answered on 14th October 2020.

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Photo of Lyn Brown Lyn Brown Shadow Minister (Justice)

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, if he will make an assessment of the potential effect on reoffending rates of slower progression through indeterminate sentences by prisoners as a result of limited access to (a) legal support, (b) offender managers, (c) release on temporary license and (d) offending behaviour programmes during the covid-19 outbreak.

Photo of Lyn Brown Lyn Brown Shadow Minister (Justice)

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, if he will make an assessment of the potential effect on future public spending on (a) prisons and (b) probation of slower progression through indeterminate sentences by prisoners as a result of limited access to (i) legal support, (ii) offender managers, (iii) release on temporary license and (iv) offending behaviour programmes during the covid-19 outbreak.

Photo of Lyn Brown Lyn Brown Shadow Minister (Justice)

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, if he will make an assessment of the potential effect on future overcrowding within prisons of slower progression through indeterminate sentences by prisoners as a result of limited access to (a) legal support, (b) offender managers, (c) release on temporary license and (d) offending behaviour programmes during the covid-19 outbreak.

Photo of Lyn Brown Lyn Brown Shadow Minister (Justice)

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, if he will make an assessment of the potential effect on future (a) order, (b) self-harm, (c) suicide and (d) violence against staff within prisons of slower progression through indeterminate sentences by prisoners as a result of limited access to (i) legal support, (ii) offender managers, (iii) release on temporary license and (iv) offending behaviour programmes during the covid-19 outbreak.

Photo of Lucy Frazer Lucy Frazer The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

We are doing everything we can to minimise the impact of the pandemic across all responsibilities of our prisons, including on the progression of Indeterminate Sentence Prisoners (ISPs). Whilst some changes to prison regimes have been necessary due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is no evidence that the progression of ISPs has been significantly impaired. Consequently, it would be entirely premature to posit any effect on reoffending rates or future public spending on prisons and probation or overcrowding within prisons. We recognise that anxieties regarding COVID-19 and the regime restrictions required for infection control may increase the risk of self-harm and violence for some prisoners, and we will continue to work to mitigate this risk as far as possible.

Despite necessary restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, legal visits have been prioritised to ensure that ISPs maintain meaningful contact with their legal representatives.

The Offender Management in Custody (OMiC) Model continues to make transformational improvements in the way we support and manage prisoners through their sentence plan. A joint prison and probation Exceptional Delivery Model (EDM) was developed during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure key offender management tasks were completed in line with the regime level of the prison, whilst upholding the ethos of the OMiC Model.

As to be expected, most Release On Temporary Licence (ROTL) was suspended in March 2020 to help tackle the threat from Covid-19; however, we have been working with Public Health authorities to support prisons to re-introduce ROTL where it is safe and practicable to do so.

HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) is reviewing the reduced provision of offending behaviour programmes (OBPs), in order to prioritise access to such opportunities on those who present the highest risk of reoffending on release. When it comes to the parole reviews of ISPs, the Parole Board is presented with a wide range of evidence, not just completion of OBPs, in order to assess whether a prisoner’s risk has been reduced to the point where s/he might be safely release on licence.

The HMPPS Safety Team has produced a range of products to support Governors in devising and implementing local safety and welfare plans designed to mitigate risks during the pandemic of disorder, self-harm, suicide and violence. The Team has issued guidance on operating the key safety systems (such the case management models for self-harm and suicide and violence), whilst complying with infection control measures and in the context of staff shortfalls and/or the absence of trained staff. This guidance includes materials to support wellbeing at this particularly difficult time, including a range of in-cell activities.

Finally, I would like to be clear that our primary responsibility is to protect the public. We do not want to keep ISPs in custody any longer than is necessary, but we have a duty to ensure that they are progressed in a safe manner. It remains the case that prisoners serving indeterminate sentences will be released only when the independent Parole Board concludes that the risk to the public is capable of being safely managed in the community under probation supervision.

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