Incentives and Earned Privileges (Part Two)

After taking a look at the differences between the different regime levels yesterday, today I’ll be focusing on how prisoners rise and fall from one level to another.

First and foremost, there are some things which are expected of all prisoners on all levels. These are to treat others with respect, avoiding violent, intimidating, threatening and abusive language and behaviour, respecting the diversity of others, acting with decency (including remembering that cells are not private dwellings so not engaging in sexual activity), keeping noise to an acceptable level, co-operating with staff, behaving honestly, complying with compacts, rules, and regulations, only having permitted items in possession, following safer custody and violence reduction policies, avoiding trafficking or taking items from other prisoners, co-operating with drug and alcohol testing, avoiding trading, taxing and gambling, staying within designated boundaries, having due regard to hygiene and health, maintaining cleanliness, respecting prison property and that of others, complying with fire safety procedures, and demonstrating a willingness to build good relationships with others. These are all expected even of those on the lowest regime level and yet I have to admit, although I am on the highest regime level I have breached around 60% of those expectations at least once in the past year. It simply isn’t practical to maintain those expectations consistently in an environment such as this. For example, just recently I had a full tub of hair wax which is no longer sold on the canteen. I keep my hair short now and have no use of it any more, yet there is someone else on the wing who said he needed some. Strictly speaking I should have thrown it away (a waste) or kept it despite not needing it (also a waste). I could have given it away, or I could have sold it. Either would have been against the rules. I did sell it. For the same price I paid for it. And yes I therefore broke the rules. But even the staff are fairly realistic about these expectations most of the time. They know when you are really out of line and when you are just trying to get by.

When a person arrives in prison they start off on Entry level. This could be after being found guilty, after being sentenced, being recalled to prison for breach of license conditions, or after being remanded into custody to face trial. On Entry level you have all of the basic expectations as well the expectations that you will participate in the induction process, engage with the offender management procedures, engage in purposeful activity and sentence planning, and co-operate with drug and alcohol treatment as required. If these expectations are met then, after 14 days the prisoner may progress to the Standard regime. If a prisoner fails to meet an expectation, they may he given IEP warning. Two warnings will trigger a review and usually lead to being downgraded. if you are on Entry level, this means being downgraded to Basic. If a prisoner is involved in a single serious incident (such as a fight) they can be immediately downgraded without the need for two IEP warnings.

If a prisoner is downgraded to Basic they have much the same expectations as with Entry level. The PSI states that those placed on Basic should be reviewed within seven days and, if not suitable for progression, informed of the steps they need to take to progress and thereafter are reviewed at least every 28 days. In my opinion many prisons often interpret this wrongly to mean that they may hold a local policy that anyone placed on basic must spend at least 28 days on basic, and need only be told to keep their head down after seven days. This was how it was done consistently during my time at Frankland, and how it is sometimes done here at Wakefield too.

If a prisoner on Basic satisfies all of the necessary expectations they should revert back to either Standard or Entry level (if that is what they were demoted from). If they are restored to Entry level, they must restart their 14 days on the Entry regime and complete them in full before being allowed to progress to Standard level.

On standard the basic expectations and entry level expectations still apply, with the addition of demonstrating a willingness to engage in offending behaviour courses. Failing to satisfy this expectation can also lead to downgrade. Further, if a prisoner can show a commitment to their rehabilitation, demonstrate a proactive engagement with both their sentence plans and offending behaviour courses, help other prisoners or staff, and demonstrate an exemplary behaviour towards staff, they may progress from Standard to Enhanced. If they then fail to meet these expectations they can be downgraded again.

But there are also a couple of anomalies. Firstly, lets say that two prisoners are remanded into custody to await trial. One exhibits model behaviour, the other breaks every rule in the book. The first progresses from Entry to Standard and then on to Enhanced, the second is consistently demoted to Basic. Months later, they are both sentenced. The TEO scheme sets out that the model prisoner must be demoted back to Entry level and start their way through the system from scratch, regardless of how helpful and well behaved they are. However, prisoners on Basic level aren’t returned to Entry level regardless of their behaviour. They have to complete their time on Basic first and only then return to Entry level. There is ample recognition of any bad behaviour, but absolutely no recognition of any good behaviour.

The second anomaly is what happens if you are downgraded in light of a single serious incident. A prisoner who is placed on adjudication for fighting will often be demoted under this rule and can be demoted not just by a single level, but straight from Enhanced at the top to Basic at the very bottom. There is no need to wait for the prisoner to be found guilty on the adjudication first because the PSI claims that “The disciplinary system and IEP scheme are two separate systems. […] However, there may be occasions when behaviour results in both a disciplinary punishment for a specific act [on adjudication] and a review and downgrading of privilege level because the prisoner’s behaviour falls significantly below expected standards. So for example a prisoner who assaults someone may be adjudicated against for the offence and also have his IEP level reviewed.” In reality though, even prison staff themselves know that the IEP scheme is used as a disciplinary tool. In a comment attached to my post about prison adjudications Steve, who would appear to be either a governor or ex-governor, wrote “I have […] dismissed charges where other disciplinary options should of been explored ie IEP before escalating to a formal adjudication.” The truth is that the PSI only differentiates between the two systems in order to facilitate what have become ‘off the hooks punishments’. So what does this mean for those who are downgraded for a single serious incident, which they also face adjudication for? Well the anomaly lies in the fact that “The downgrading of prisoners from Enhanced to Basic is reserved for the most serious cases of misconduct e.g. where the misconduct would warrant an adjudication charge being laid.” So before the charge is even laid, the prisoner can be demoted straight from Enhanced to Basic. However, “If the adjudication is subsequently quashed, dismissed or not proceeded with [i.e. the prisoner is not found guilty of any wrongdoing], a further review should take place to determine the prisoner’s appropriate IEP level” and “Prisoners must not he progressed directly from Basic to Enhanced”. This means that a prisoner can be automatically downgraded from Enhanced to Basic for an allegation, found not guilty, have a further review, and even then be retained on Basic or moved to Standard, but certainly not have their Enhanced level returned to them!

And it is exactly these kind of wrongful decisions I will take a look at in part three tomorrow, focusing both on the appeals process and on how the system is applied to those who maintain their innocence.

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