A Joined-Up Sentence? - Offender Management in Prisons in 2009/2010
Offender Management in prisons - not joined-up enough
Prison and Probation Services need to work better together to manage prisoners, said Andrew Bridges, Chief Inspector of Probation, and Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, publishing the report of a joint inspection into offender management in prisons.
The National Offender Management Service (NOMS) aims to provide a structure to manage certain more serious or prolific offenders through their custodial sentence with probation staff in the community acting as offender managers. An offender manager's role is to assess the risk of harm to others each offender poses and the likelihood of them reoffending, and then to produce a sentence plan accordingly. By the end of 2006, offender management units had been created in prisons to manage those arrangements in custody.
Today's report, A Joined-Up Sentence?, reflects findings from the first 13 prison establishments inspected. Inspectors found that, even taking account of the different nature of the 13 establishments, some common themes emerged:
- despite considerable progress, there is still too much variation in the way in which prisoners are managed by the Prison and Probation Services;
- NOMS envisaged that offender managers in the community (probation officers) would be responsible for assessing the prisoner and for driving the management of the case, but this was rarely happening, and some offender supervisors (prison officers) were expected to take on this role, often without appropriate training or guidance, and sometimes with competing operational duties;
- some prisons had worked hard to ensure that all relevant prisoners had an OASys assessment, even where these should have been prepared by the offender manager, but the quality of these assessments varied, and they were rarely seen as a key document within the establishment;
- sentence planning was often driven more by the availability of activities than by the assessment;
- few establishments made strategic use of the OASys database to identify and provide for key areas of need in the prisoner population, which was disappointing; and
- information about prisoners was held in different locations within the establishment and, worryingly, public protection information was sometimes kept separate from offender management, which impeded the safe and effective management of prisoners.
The chief inspectors said:
"Despite these criticisms, we found some Offender Management Units which were well integrated into the establishment and where core custodial functions sat effectively alongside offender management. However, there needs to be considerable progress across the custodial estate before the NOMS vision of a 'joined-up sentence' is realised and Offender Management Units operate as a hub within the establishment."
We recommend that NOMS should work with custodial establishments and providers of probation services to ensure that:
* an up to date OASys assessment, of sufficient quality, is in place at the start of sentence; where available this should be used in the process of categorisation and allocation, and to determine sentence plan objectives
* sentence plan objectives are outcome focused, and reviews identify progress in reducing the Likelihood of Reoffending and the Risk of Harm to others
* classifications of Risk of Harm to others indicate the level of risk posed by the offender were they to be released into the community immediately
* details of significant contact and communication relating to each case are recorded in a single record within the prison; this should be available to any subsequent prisons following a transfer and should contain copies of all assessments undertaken and details of all interventions delivered
* individual prisons make better strategic use of OASys and other assessments in their analysis of the prisoner population; this would enable the profile of accredited programmes and other interventions to match the identified needs
* in the light of these inspection findings, the role of the offender supervisor in offender management is clarified, and supported by appropriate training in assessment and interviewing.
Notes to editors
1.Download the report A Joined-Up Sentence.pdf
2.A Joined-Up Sentence? is the first report to be published from our joint Prisoner Offender Management Inspection programme. This report draws on the findings from inspections undertaken between September 2009 and March 2010 at the following H.M.Prison establishments: Brinsford; Bristol; Exeter; Feltham; Foston Hall; Guys Marsh; Hewell Cluster; Kirkham; Liverpool; Nottingham; Swansea; The Mount; The Wolds.
3.Inspectors examined how well prisoners are being managed under phases II and III of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) Offender Management model, as well as a number of cases which fell outside the model.
4.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.
5.The original idea of the NOMS Offender Management Model was to provide a structure within which every sentenced adult offender (18+) would be managed through either their custodial or community sentence. An offender manager who was employed as either a probation officer or probation service officer in the community would have responsibility for planning and managing both community and custodial sentences. Their role in each case included making an assessment of the offender's Risk of Harm to others and Likelihood of Reoffending, and producing a sentence plan based on the assessment. However, the Model had to be introduced in stages, and at the time of these inspections not all sentenced prisoners were 'in scope' of the Model.
By the end of 2006 Offender Management Units had been created in prison establishments to manage the custodial end of the new arrangements. At the time of this inspection the following prisoners were deemed as 'in scope' of offender management: those adults serving 12 months and over who were classified as posing a high or very high risk of serious harm to the public, Prolific and Other Priority Offenders and those serving indeterminate periods of imprisonment for public protection.
For those prisoners in scope of offender management, an offender supervisor was appointed in the custodial establishment to act as a link between custody and the offender manager in the community. The idea of the Offender Management Model was that the offender manager would 'drive' the sentence, and the supervisor would carry out day to day work with or concerning the offender.
Source for this page:
HM Inspectorate of Probation and
HM Inspectorate of Prisons