The incentives and earned privileges scheme was introduced in Britain in 1995 to encourage prisoners to demonstrate good behaviour and full engagement with the prison regime. It has been revised many times, to a greater or lesser extent, over the years and, most recently, there was a major overhaul of the scheme in 2013 which led to wide scale complaints and the now famous legal challenge to the prohibition against prisoners having books sent in from friends and family. That campaign was successful and the prison service instruction has been amended, but the intricacies of the system are still largely unknown to most of the population. Over the next few days I will try to break down the rules in this PSI focusing today on what the differences between the various levels are.
There used to be three levels to the IEP scheme: Basic, Standard, and Enhanced. Now there are four, with the addition of Entry level. Over the years some prisons have used their discretion to offer ‘Super Enhanced’ regime too, but this has been rare and almost always unofficial.
Prisoners begin on Entry Level. From there they can be demoted to Basic or move sideways over to Standard. After spending some tine on Standard they may apply for Enhanced.
Although prisoners start off on Entry level, it is easier to explain what life is like on Basic first. Basic level prisoners are not allowed to wear their own clothes and are expected to wear prison issue clothing instead. The exceptions to this rule are female prisoners, transsexual prisoners, unconvicted prisoners on remand, civil prisoners such as those held only pending deportation, prisoners who have to wear specific clothing due to disability, and prisoners who have to wear specific clothing which is unavailable as prison issue due to religious observance, such as a turban. There is no explanation of why female prisoners are any more in need of wearing their own clothes than male prisoners and this is often complained about by male prisoners who have their clothes taken away. Basic level prisoners are still allowed to attend their religions service, a weekly library session, and a maximum of one hour in the gym per week. They can also use the shower and make telephone calls, but time out of cell is kept to a minimum. If they have money sent in from outside (which is added to their prison account and known as ‘private cash’ to spend on the canteen) they can gain access to a maximun £22 per week if they are on remand and just £4 per week if they are convicted. But they can save this week on week if they wish to. They can receive only the minimum number of visits which is one hour every two weeks. They cannot receive higher rates of pay for their work in the prison (such as in the prison kitchens) and they cannot have access to in cell televisions unless there are serious self harm concerns which would he exacerbated by withdrawing the stimulation offered by a television.
Prisoners on Entry level are allowed slightly more. Each prison may decide for themselves on how many visits to offer above the basic minimum but, most commonly, prisoners on Entry level can get two to four visits per month of two hours each. However, unconvicted prisoners can receive unlimited visits. Like prisoners on Basic, entry level prisoners cannot receive higher rates of pay, but they can access more of their private cash – £35 per week if unconvicted and £10 per week if convicted. They may have an in-cell television, but they may not purchase a games console. The same restrictions on clothing apply to Entry level prisoners as to Basic level prisoners. Entry level prisoners may have extra time out of cell which is commonly spent on association, playing pool or just relaxing on the wing. However, they may not access the gym any more than those on Basic.
On Standard level prisoners receive the same number of visits as those on basic, can have a TV but no games console, and spend the same amount of time out of cell as those on Entry level. On the other hand, they can earn higher rates of pay for their prison work, they can wear their own clothes (unless the local prison policy is not to allow this), and they can access £47.50 of their private cash per week if unconvicted or £l5.50 if convicted. Standard level prisoners may also access the gym for additional sessions, as long as these are outside of work time.
On Enhanced prisoners can receive even more visits (usually up to six a month). They can also earn even higher rates of pay than those on standard and nay access up to £51 of their private cash per week if unconvicted or £25.50 if convicted. They may have both a TV and buy a games console (but only if it does not have WI-FI). Also, they can wear their own clothes (but again, unless the local rules dictate otherwise). Like those on standard, enhanced level prisoners may have increased gym access and get even more time out of cell, though in some prisons enhanced prisoners get no more time than standard level ones.
These “privileges” are at the heart of what a prisoner will value most on a day to day basis. Longer and more frequent visits with family and friends. Higher rates of pay for their work and better access to their own money, enabling them to buy more phone credit and stamps to stay in contact with those friends and family as well as better food end toiletries than those given out by the prison. The means to distract themselves from their incarceration with a television, games console, and activities out of cell. An opportunity to manifest their personal identity by wearing their own clothes and accessing the gym. These are the basics which make a massive difference to every prisoner’s day to day life.
But how do you earn these privileges and transition between levels? I’ll be focusing on exactly that tomorrow.