Fourfold Increase In Recalls To Prison

The Home Secretary’s prison crisis could be alleviated if he returned professional judgement to probation staff when dealing with parole decisions.  At least 380 prisoners per month are returned to jail for technical violations of their orders.

Between 2000 and 2005 there was a fourfold increase in the number of individuals released from prison and subsequently recalled for breaching their parole conditions.  At the same time the work of the Parole Board has increased by over 100%.  Statistics gathered by the Home Office show that two-thirds of the persons recalled to custody were not recalled for re-offending but for technical breaches. In 2000/1, 2,457 prisoners were recalled.  This had risen sharply to 9,320 by 2004/5.  During the same period, the number of long-term prisoners recalled rose from 267 to 712.

Evidence collected by Napo from prisoners and from union members shows that many of the recalls were for technical reasons such as not following rules, or missing appointments. In the majority of the cases of those recalled for technical reasons there was no evidence of risk to the public.  Cases published by Napo include individuals who were recalled for not getting up in the morning, for reporting to the wrong probation office, for losing their permanent address, for being late for appointments, for going absent without leave following a bereavement, because of tags not working, for being arrested but later not charged, for being out after curfew times and for a failure to keep appointments.

Offenders released on licence are subject to 6 standard conditions including: not to commit an offence; to report to the Probation Service; to reside at an approved address; and not to travel outside the UK without permission.  Additional conditions may be added according to individual circumstances, such as addressing drug dependency, psychiatric treatment and not to associate with people of a specified age.

Harry Fletcher, Assistant General Secretary of Napo said: “Six years ago the Home Office removed the discretion from probation officers to decide whether a breach warranted a recall to custody.  As a consequence the number of recalls has spiralled out of control.  Commonsense decrees that professional discretion is returned to staff.  The return of discretion could free up to a thousand prison places. A reduction in recalls by half would equate to the monthly increase in the prison population and go a long way to solving the Government’s prison overcrowding problem.”

The current prison population stands at record levels.  In contrast in 2000 it stood at 65,164.  The prison population rose, between 2000 and 2004 by 14%.  The increase in the number of persons recalled was nearly 300%.

Napo will be sending copies of its briefing paper ‘Recalls to Prison’ to all MPs who are members of the all party Justice Unions Parliamentary Group.