Prison Service Order on use of force against prisoners is a restricted document, meaning that only authorised staff are permitted to access it. However, there is a redacted version available to prisoners and the public. Over the next three days I’ll be taking a look at the rules surrounding this topic.
Having looked at the differences between the different regime levels and how a prisoner can be moved between them, today I’ll focus on how you can appeal against an unfavourable decision, what that means for the prisoner, and how the whole scheme can affect a prisoner who maintains their innocence.
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.
After explaining the intricacies of the prison adjudication process last month I was unsure which PSI to delve into next. I toyed with the idea of following up with the Incentives and Earned Privileges scheme since this is often used as a secondary disciplinary measure (despite stating in itself that it is separate and distinct from the disciplinary system), but then the answer fell right into my lap. A fellow blogging prisoner (who I cannot name for reasons which will become clear) tried to send out a letter containing his latest posts for his people to put online for him, but it was stopped by security. This directly contradicts not just the Prison Service Instruction on prisoner communications, but also the one on access to the media. So it is this PSI I will focus on today, with specific focus on blogging in particular.
I have said many times that, in theory, there are enough Prison Service Instructions, Standing Orders, Prison Rules, Regulations, and Prison Service Orders to provide for a system which, by and large, works. However, the reasons that the system, by and large, doesn’t work is because all of the rules set out in those documents are re-interpreted, twisted, and sometimes even blatantly ignored by staff at ground level. In short, prison works until the screws get involved.
In ‘Porridge’ there were only two rules: Don’t write on the walls, and obey all the rules. In real life the ins and outs of the rules in prison are extremely complex. Even more so when you come to realise which ones you can expect to see implemented and which ones will be implemented in a very different way to how they are written, if they are ever implemented at all.
With that in mind, I thought I’d start a series of posts, breaking down one Prison Service Instruction at a time in an attempt to explaing how things are meant to work, and how they actually work, from personal experience. First up, Prison Discipline.