An inclusive approach to prison reform
In October 2016, the RSA completed the first stage of its Future Prison project with a report, A Matter of Conviction, which set out a blueprint for a community-based rehabilitative prison and a policy framework to support such models. Many of the report’s recommendations were reflected – to some extent –in the Prison Safety and Reform white paper, including creating a rehabilitation requirement, a more integrated inspection regime and greater freedoms and clearer accountability for governors.
This week’s announcement that NOMS will be replaced by Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service was intended to reflect Justice Secretary Liz Truss aim to have a smaller centre and devolve more powers to governors. The announcement was accompanied by details of an expansion of the prisons involved in the Reform Prison ‘Early Adopter’ scheme with more, and eventually all, prisons to be included over the next two years.
The ‘New Futures’ Network
Now, the RSA is helping the MoJ and the new Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service to establish a new body to make reform a reality on the ground.
The New Futures Network (NFN) aims to be a practical resource for prison leaders and those working in and around prisons: brokering new and deeper relationships, unblocking barriers to innovation, and spreading successful practice. The development period (between now and early summer) will scope the new body’s shape and priorities, in detail and in consultation with others. This initial phase will be led by Rachel O’Brien who ran the Future Prison project and Pamela Dow, former MoJ Director of Strategy who has been supporting the ‘early adopter’ reform prisons from a base at HMP Wandsworth over the last 6 months.
They are keen for the NFN to provide the tools and answers to the Why, the What and the How of reform. How can prison leaders and managers work more closely with employers, how do leaders build a team and culture where security, safety and rehabilitation are mutually dependent and reinforcing, should I spend my budget in this intervention or that one? The potential collective contribution of all organisations (from the voluntary, public and private sector) involved in rehabilitation is immense, and the NFN wants to be the platform to make them more than the sum of their parts. It will not duplicate or replace any existing successful programme and will continue to prioritise (as the Future Prison project has already done) the engagement of prison staff and prisoners from its inception
A clear aim is that the NFN should learn from the experience of Transforming Rehabilitation which promised but failed to deliver proper engagement with the voluntary sector and has already involved Clinks, the CJA, St Giles Trust and Prison Reform Trust in the network’s development, alongside successful employers and social businesses like Catch 22, Bounceback, Prosper4, Virgin and Timpsons.
What the NFN does on the ground will depend on the views of local prisons, prisoners and agencies but it is likely to focus on such issues as developing an external leadership programme; linking prisons more with their local communities, particularly in terms of job markets; and incubating new social enterprises.
- The network is in the process of being developed over the next few months and is starting to set out its main features:
- Rather than being a provider of services or representing any particular group, its primary objective is to secure better rehabilitative outcomes for prisoners and their communities through:
- Acting as an informed and honest broker between prisons and potential external partners;
- Driving new approaches to prison leadership and innovation;
- Providing a bridge between practice development and policy.
- Developing mechanisms for sharing impact, outcomes and learning across justice services.
While the incubation and test period will shape the final body, the concept for the network started with some assumptions based on the work already done for Future Prisons where feedback highlighted the need for a body that:
- Would provide practical hands on work to empower establishments to adjust to the new policy landscape.
- Would enable governors to strengthen the culture of rehabilitation within and around their establishments.
- Would not duplicate the work of organisations such as Clinks (who have specific sector interests and a campaigning role).
- Would not be run by an organisation holding contracts with NOMS/HMPPS.
- Would not morph into another NOMS/HMPPS function or another London-based think tank or campaign group.
The aim was to create a body that would work beyond prisons and for the RSA to design and test the proposed model working with prisons and actual/potential partners (including the NPS, CRCs, PCCs, local authorities, employers, business and NGOs).
The key challenge is obviously how the prison service can reform at exactly the moment where it is going through one of its worst ever crises (heavily documented on this blog as elsewhere).
We all know that staffing levels have to improve, and quickly. We also know that the prison service will not succeed in retaining its experienced staff or in making good new recruits unless those staff can feel (again) that they are doing a useful and constructive job and are making a difference.
The New Futures Network is aiming to be a key catalyst to this change and to ensure that governors can be supported to make the most of their new powers.
If you would like to know more about the development of the NFN and want to have your ideas and views heard, please take 5 minutes to fill in this survey.
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