The Chief Inspector of Prisons, Peter Clarke, has warned that jails had become “unacceptably violent and dangerous places”. Rates of violence and self-harm have increased significantly in recent years, with assaults on prison staff increasing by 43% over twelve months and self-arm by over a quarter. Prisons are facing new security challenges with a sharp rise in the number of drones used to fly and drop contraband over prison walls and nearly 17,000 mobile phones and SIM cards found in prisons in 2015 alone. The performance of prisons appears to have worsened, with six jails given “serious concern” by inspectors compared with only three in 2014-15. Currently nearly half of all prisoners go on to re-offend within a year with an estimated cost to society of £15bn a year. The Secretary of State for Justice has had prisons are not working, so what needs to be done to make our prisons places of safety and reform?
To tackle the most pressing threats to safety and security in prisons the government have set plans to invest in staff, strengthen search capability to stop contraband entering prison and reducing supply and demand for drugs and illicit mobile devices. The Crown Prosecution Service, police and others in the criminal justice system are expected to work together to ensure a robust response to tackling criminality in prisons. Alongside the announcements to boost staff numbers investment will aim to further improve capability by providing the right tools, training and support for existing staff to enable them to do their job more effectively and take on new responsibilities such as one-to-one support to prisoners. Campaigns for new talent include a direct entry scheme for managers, a new graduate recruitment scheme and a target to increase the number of former armed forces personnel working in the prison system.
Significant reforms set out in the White paper aim to transform how our prisons are run and aim to give prisoners the skills they need to become law-abiding citizens when they are released. To help raise standards new performance measures for every prison will be set from April 2017 and an annual league table for prison performance published. Alongside this greater accountability prison governors will be given greater devolved powers to determine how their prisons are run, including how to prioritise and deliver services within their prisons. Greater decision making is set to include authority over workforce planning, budgets and a range of service provision. Devolving control over healthcare, education, work, family ties, offender behavior and resettlement programmes will allow governors to decide how their budget will be spent to deliver a strategy focused on safety and sustained improvement. More empowered governors will be tasked to implement tangible improvements by 2020 introducing new ways of working and modern technology to improve regimes, support reform and combat security threats.
A quarter of our prisons were built before 1900 and around 25% of prisoners are held in crowded conditions. Over the next four years £1.3 billion has been earmarked to reform the prison estate and build up to 10,000 new adult prison places. The vison is to ensure the estate becomes less crowded, better organised and more effective. The aim is for prison staff and prisoners to work and live in a safe and secure environment that is modern and fit for the purpose of helping prisoners reform. It was also announced that there will also be a major programme of closures over the next five years for old and inefficient prisons. This will require significant planning and reform of the estate and could create further stresses on the system at the same time services are tasked with delivering the biggest structural and cultural change in a generation.
Prison Safety and Reform: Restoring Stability, Transforming Lives will explore how to implement the proposals for prison reform and help drive forward improvements in prison and supporting services. The challenge of transforming lives and creating purposeful centres of reform requires a huge structural and cultural change, this conference agenda will support those working within and supporting the prison system to raise standards and make our prisons places of safety and reform.
Diane Curry OBE, Chief Executive Officer, Partners of Prisoners and Families Support Group (POPS)
Diane Curry OBE is the Chief Executive of POPS and has worked for the charity for 19 years. Diane has vast experience in working within the Voluntary Sector of the Criminal Justice System and is also a qualified social worker. POPS was founded by families with experience of supporting somebody in custody and continues to be needs-led in its approach. Diane has been at the forefront of promoting the needs of offenders’ families and encouraging an innovative response to the provision of services for them that are reflective of their needs.
Diane has made outstanding contributions to the Criminal Justice Sector and is a significant pioneer and remarkable leader with regards to her work with offenders’ families and Black and Minority Ethnic Offenders. In 2002 Diane developed and implemented the Black Prisoners Support Project (BPSP) group work programs and has had a pivotal role in setting up the charity National Body of Black Prisoner Support Group now the Coalition for Racial Justice (CRJUK). In 2006 Diane received an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list, in recognition for her outstanding work in this area.
In 2013 Diane was invited to become an independent scrutiny panel member for the Greater Manchester Police and Crime Commissioner and is now a member of the GMP public protest panel and the AGMA Executive Steering Group. Diane also chairs the Greater Manchester BME Roundtable and represents POPS as a member of the Criminal Justice Alliance. Diane is also a member of the national RR3 (Reducing Re offending Third Sector Advisory Group)
Diane also sits on the following committees: Reducing Reoffending Third Sector Advisory Group (RR3), Greater Manchester Police and Crime Steering Group (PCC), The Farmer Review, The Young Review and is Chair of the BME Roundtable Manchester.
Diane is committed to developing the involvement of families in the Troubled Families agenda and nationally, desistance.
Steve Gillan, General Secretary, Prison Officers Associations
Son of a Shipyard Worker from Greenock, Scotland. Married with two adult children. Lives in Basildon, Essex.
Left school in 1979 and had a variety of jobs including banking and Ford Motor Company before joining the Prison Service in 1989 as a Prison Officer at HMP Chelmsford and promoted to Senior Officer in 1997 and transferred to HMP Bullwood Hall. He held positions on the local branch committees at both prisons as the POA Branch Secretary. In 2001 he worked at HMP Pentonville as a Senior Officer and temporary promoted Principal Officer.
POA National Official
2000 – 2001 Assistant Secretary
2002 – 2003 National Vice Chairman
2003 – 2006 Re-elected to National Vice Chairman
2006 – 2010 Elected National Finance Officer
2010 – Present Day Elected General Secretary
Christine Kelly, Assistant Head of Health and Justice Commissioning, NHS England
Chris Kelly is Assistant Head of Health and Justice for NHS England National Team, a post she has held since 1st April 2013.
Chris had a long career in the National Probation Service serving in Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire (1988-2004) moving from a management position in Nottinghamshire Probation Area in 2004 to commission the Drug Interventions Programme (DIP) on behalf of Nottinghamshire Drug and Alcohol Action Team.
Whilst with this team, Chris worked with the Home Office to support the strategic development of this programme and led a nationally acclaimed programme in this area for Nottinghamshire.
During her tenure with Nottinghamshire Chris also worked with the University of Central Lancashire in the Centre for Ethnicity and Health leading on a short programme of work sponsored by the Home Office. This was to develop BME access to DIP services by training and supporting service users from BME communities to manage their own research and develop services fit for purpose across the country for those in the community and in custody.
She was also part of the working group run by the Home office on developing the Around Arrest Beyond Release suite of documents, offering national guidance for the delivery of engaging family and carers in supporting recovery, and was at the forefront of developing the recovery capitol agenda in respect of managing substance dependants to be better supported in their recovery.
Chris became the manager of the DAAT in Nottinghamshire and then in 2009 moved to a Deputy Director position in CRI, a provider organisation delivering substance misuse services in both community and custodial settings.
In 2011 Chris led the Drug and Alcohol Action Team in Worcestershire and left there when she took up her position with NHS England.
Recently Chris completed a 6 month secondment to support the direct commissioning of community substance misuse services for Northumberland working for Northumberland County Council in the Public Health directorate.
Rod Clark, Chief Executive, Prisoners’ Education Trust
Rod Clark joined Prisoners Education Trust in February 2013. He came from an extensive career in social policy in the Civil Service. Much of his early career was in the field of Social Security including work on policy, strategy, planning, operational management and a spell as Principal Private Secretary to the Rt Hon Alistair Darling MP as Secretary of State for Social Security. He was on the Board of the Department for Constitutional Affairs as Director General Strategy when the National Offender Management Service merged to create the Ministry of Justice. He was also Chief Executive of the Civil Service’s internal training organisation, the National School of Government. Rod was pleased to have been a member of the expert panel for Dame Sally Coates review of prison education commissioned by the Justice Secretary. He is also a member of the Reducing Reoffending Third Sector Advisory panel.