In this blog, we provide an update on what the prison regime now looks like after the lifting of national restrictions in England on Wednesday 2nd December. The blog is based on a briefing produced by Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) for partners, as well as information gathered at a recent meeting of the Reducing Reoffending Third Sector Advisory Group special interest group on Covid-19 (RR3 Covid-19 SIG). To request the full HMPPS briefing and weekly updates on the situation across the prison estate, please email email@example.com.
The regime model up to Christmas
England has now reverted to a revised tier system to manage the outbreak of Covid-19 in the community. Similarly, prisons have reverted to their pre-lockdown system of operating within different stages as set out in the National Framework for Prison Regimes and Services. Some prisons have been forced to move into stage four to manage local outbreaks or staffing shortages, but most prisons have reverted to stage three. Governors and Directors will determine locally how much of their previous Local Operating Procedures can now be delivered, depending on local outbreaks and staffing. To receive weekly updates on the situation in each prison, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Social visits can now be reintroduced in prisons located in tier 1 and tier 2 areas.. Prisons in tier 3 cannot run social visits, and people that live in tier 3 areas cannot visit any prison in England and Wales (though exceptions will be made for compassionate visits).
Prisons in Wales will continue to operate their existing regime model which has been in place since 9th November, when firebreak restrictions formally ended. Establishments reverted at this point to pre-lockdown regime levels, subject to any regime restrictions and live outbreak controls. Prisons in Wales are able to deliver social visits for visitors from Wales (subject to any local outbreaks) but visitors from England cannot visit prisons in Wales, except on compassionate grounds. Those resident in Wales are similarly not able to visit prisons in England, except on compassionate grounds.
The regime model for the Christmas period
Many people in prison will want to have increased contact with loved ones over Christmas, and expectations will be heightened after the government’s decision to loosen restrictions over Christmas for people in the community. HMPPS is aware of the need to manage expectations, as it is likely that Christmas will continue to be very challenging for many in prison this year. Instructions for the Christmas period include:
- The provision of social visits will largely continue as above. The only change will enable social visits across national borders to happen December 23rd – 27th.
- Prisons have been encouraged to operate a programme of faith services akin to the community over the Christmas period, and are encouraged to enable religious leaders to visit prisons to deliver services, providing this can be done in a Covid-secure way.
- Prisons can work with family support service providers to deliver additional services over the festive period without an expansion to their Local Operating Procedures.
- ‘Regime mitigations’ have been further extended until January 2021 to provide additional support during Christmas, these include:
- £5 additional PIN credit, mobile PIN Phones where in-cell telephony is unavailable, free video calling
- All people in prison including those normally unemployed will continue to receive at least their basic rate of pay
- Provision of free TV and free supplementary food packs.
Winter Regime Review
Prior to the national lockdown, the RR3 Covid-19 SIG submitted feedback to HMPPS gold command on how exceptional delivery models (EDMs) could be revised to allow for greater activity within stage three regimes. This formed part of a wider winter regime review conducted by HMPPS to explore how regimes could be improved through the winter months and to ensure EDMs reflected new guidance around testing, contact tracing and face masks.
HMPPS has made a number of minor amendments to EDMs in light of the review, including restarting Through the Gate Services, enabling one-to-one education and small group work, and allowing prisons in tier 1 areas to consider access to Resettlement Day Release (RDR) and Resettlement Overnight Release (ROR). Establishments wanting to consider expanding regimes under the amended EDMs must conduct local risk assessments conditions and consult with stakeholders before they do so. Many of the amends will be subject to local conditions and consultation with stakeholders. For full details on the amends to EDMs, please request the HMPPS briefing from email@example.com.
Testing, face masks and face coverings
A weekly testing programme has been rolled out in all prisons. Prisoner-facing staff in prisons across England and Wales should have access to weekly Covid-19 tests, including those directly employed by HMPPS, health staff and voluntary sector partners. HMPPS is currently exploring additional testing capacity, to be able to test all people who come to work in a prison.
All contracted organisations and agencies in prisons will be treated as staff for access to clinical grade face masks and so should be routinely able to access masks in prisons. Everyone leaving prison should be issued with a face covering. Organisations can request a copy of the HMPPS face masks and coverings strategy by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Information to people in prison, their families and voluntary sector partners
At the RR3 Covid-19 SIG meeting on Wednesday 25th November, attendees asked HMPPS how these changes will be communicated to people in prison and their families. HMPPS confirmed that prisons are required to have a communications plan in place to give clear and up-to date information to people in prison. SIG members recommended that full information be provided to voluntary sector advice and information services, and for prisons to use various routes of communication, from Prison Radio Association, Inside Time and via HMPPS Covid-19 leads that are now in place in each prison.
HMPPS has said they will use many of these channels and are working to make better use of Covid-19 leads and peer support workers in prisons to improve communications. There is also a programme of evaluation internally to gather insight to build on HMPPS communications to service users and families.
Voluntary organisations can request access to the full HMPPS briefing on the guidance issued to prisons by emailing Covid19@clinks.org. We will continue to keep the sector up to date on the changing situation across the criminal justice system over Christmas and into the new year.
Cover photo: Anawim © Ian Cuthbert cuthbertdesign.com
Notes from the Reducing Reoffending Third Sector Advisory Group (RR3) Special Interest Group on Covid-19
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