Following the tragic incidents at Fishmongers Hall in November 2019, HMP Whitemoor in January 2020 and in Streatham in February 2020, Her Majesty's Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) put in place a number of restrictions on people in the criminal justice system and on their staff’s attendance at events.
The recent incidents, in particular the one that took place at Fishmonger’s Hall, affected many individuals and organisations in our sector. The loss of life was also a loss of two individuals’ passion and belief in the potential in everyone and in the power of working together to help people to change. But this passion and belief lives on within our sector and we are therefore concerned that any response to these events from either the criminal justice system or our own sector, must be proportionate and not undermine access to services that support desistance and enable people to improve their lives. We are talking to HMPPS to help minimise the impact of these restrictions while also keeping people safe.
The restrictions imposed by HMPPS
1. Temporary suspension of Release on Temporary Licence (ROTL) for the purpose of attending public events celebrating offender achievements, and a corresponding suspension of permitting offenders on licence from attending such events.
2. Any such events hosted by HMPPS in a public setting, with planned attendance by prisoners on ROTL or offenders on licence, should not go ahead until further notice.
3. In cases where such an event in a public setting is hosted by a partner organisation, the decision about whether to cancel is for that organisation. However, where events do take place, HMPPS staff should not attend.
4. Internal HMPPS events within prison establishments may go ahead, subject to local risk assessment.
It is possible for Prison Group Directors or Probation Divisional Directors to request permission for events/event attendances to go ahead, by exception, by making a request of their Executive Director, who will liaise with the Joint Extremism Unit ahead of a recommendation going to the relevant Director-General.
Clinks understands that these restrictions are based upon intelligence and assessments by the Security, Order and Counter Terrorism Directorate and the Joint Extremism Unit. HMPPS’ purpose is to reduce the risk of further incidents as far as possible and to keep people safe. We are, however, concerned to ensure that they do not limit access to rehabilitative opportunities across a wide range of people within the criminal justice system or have implications which present a challenge to the sector’s commitment to involve experts by experience in the design and delivery of services. In particular, we are concerned that under these restrictions it is unclear what constitutes “public events celebrating offender achievements” and that this may impact a wide range of criminal justice voluntary sector activities, even if not the intention. We know from discussions with members and partners that there is a lack of knowledge of the restrictions and what may be required of organisations. Furthermore, there is confusion as to how these restrictions may be interpreted, reports of inconsistencies in interpretation and concern as to the longer-term impact if they remain in place for much longer.
We have raised these concerns with HMPPS and are in ongoing discussions with them to pass on feedback from our sector, help them to understand the impact of the restrictions and limit that impact wherever possible. We understand the restrictions will be reviewed in March and we will keep the sector updated with regards to this. Both I and Richard Nicholls, Clinks’ Head of Operations and a member of the Reducing Reoffending Third Sector Advisory Group (RR3), are meeting with the Director General in the next weeks to discuss concerns and seek further clarity.
HMPPS has assured us that they are absolutely committed to supporting rehabilitative activity in our sector and working with organisations facing barriers to their work in this period when restrictions remain in place. Colleagues at HMPPS understand that the restrictions articulated above can’t account for every eventuality so they are happy to receive queries and referrals about events from the sector. If you have questions or concerns about how these restrictions might affect your activities please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
If you have concerns or questions you can also get in touch with us. Richard.firstname.lastname@example.org is leading on issues around working safely in the sector and is the best first point of contact.
Notes from the Reducing Reoffending Third Sector Advisory Group (RR3) Special Interest Group on Covid-19
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We are extremely disappointed that the JCVI advice on phase 2 of the COVID vaccination programme does not prioritise people in prison and those who work with them, including voluntary sector staff and volunteers https://gov.uk/government/publications/priority-groups-for-phase-2-of-the-coronavirus-covid-19-vaccination-programme-advice-from-the-jcvi/jcvi-interim-statement-on-phase-2-of-the-covid-19-vaccination-programme