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  • Every prisoner is encouraged to improve him or herself and given the opportunity to do so through purposeful activities

  • Every prisoner is enabled to maintain contact with their family and prepare for release, thereby reducing the likelihood of their re-offending.

(HM Chief Inspector of Prisons 1999)

The office of the Prisons Ombudsman was set up in 1995 to investigate complaints from individual prisoners who have tried the channels of complaint within the system and have failed to get a satisfactory response. The largest single category of eligible complaints has been the fairness of prison disciplinary hearings.

Each prison has an Independent Monitoring Board (formerly known as Board of Visitors) (10–20 people) appointed by the Home Secretary from the local community. They must ‘satisfy themselves as to the state of the prison premises, the administration of the prison and the treatment of the prisoners’ (Prison Rules 1999) They are volunteers who can visit any part of the prison at any time without giving notice and they also hear complaints from individual prisoners. They meet once a month and report any concerns to the Governor of the prison or to the Home Secretary.

Since 1991, there has been a formal internal procedure for prisoners’ grievances. Prisoners making formal requests or complaints should receive a preliminary answer within seven days. They can also have confidential access to the prison governor. Independent Monitoring Boards monitor the procedures.

Discipline in prison Offences against prison discipline are governed by Prison Rule 47 and include offences which outside of prison would not normally be charged under criminal law. Most disciplinary charges are adjudicated by prison governors and punishments include, loss of earnings, loss of privileges, cellular confinement and additional days in prison. More serious charges are referred to the Police for further investigation.

Women commit about twice as many offences against prison discipline as men, but they tend to be minor infringements such as being disrespectful, disobeying an order, being absent from any place where they are required to be and having possession of unlawful articles.

Main in-prison and post-prison measures and programmes for women ex-prisoners

  • Prison Routine

Her Majesty's Prison Service serves the public by keeping in custody those committed by the courts. Our duty is to look after them with humanity and help them lead law-abiding and useful lives in custody and after release. (Prison Service Statement of Purpose)

The Prison Service has a target to ensure that adult prisoners are engaged in ‘purposeful activity’ for at least 24 hours a week. This can include: work, education and training; induction and resettlement activities; physical education; religious activity; and visits. Purposeful activity must generally take place outside a prisoner’s cell and therefore requires some supervision by prison officers. In 2004 the Prison Service failed to meet this target on average overall for all prisoners, both men and women (Prison Reform Trust 2004), and within the women’s prisons time spent on purposeful activity varied


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