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Best practice working with recalled prisoners
Prison van bringing prisoners from court
New HMPPS best practice guide on working with recalled prisoners sets out 9 key principles.

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Last week (1 April 2019) Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service published a new best practice guide on Working with Recalled Prisoners. The recent Chief Probation Inspectors report revealed that while approximately 6,000 people are released from prison every month, about 2,000 are recalled.

 The guide sets out nine best practice principles which are reproduced in full below.

1: Clear information and communication – simple and transparent explanations of recall decisions, the criteria for recall types and necessary steps to achieving re-release. This aims to enhance the recalled prisoner’s understanding of their recall and perceptions of fairness, mapping their path to release, identifying specifically what progress needs to be made and how this can be achieved; enhancing their feelings of control over progression and giving hope and clarity.

2: Frequent communication and interaction – regular communication and interaction between recalled prisoners and the staff involved in their management assists in supporting progress, overcoming barriers to progression when needed and mitigating against the experience of feeling abandoned. Having a named individual whom prisoners can approach regarding their case is important. For staff based outside of prisons, keeping in contact with recalled prisoners could be through letters, telephone calls as well as visits and greater use of facilities such as video-conferencing.

3: Collaborative working between managers, supervisors and recalled prisoners – determine together what recalled prisoners need to address or demonstrate and include them in the process of assessing their risk and progress whilst on recall. Aim to make the recall process one that is ‘done with’ rather than ‘done to’ the prisoner. Making recalled prisoners active participants in this process may enhance their sense of control over their future, offer them chances to develop self-efficacy and reinforce progress that is made, as well as ensuring the recommendations are seen as meaningful and beneficial to them.

4: Recognise, reinforce and protect progress – this includes rewarding and reinforcing success and progress made in the community prior to recall as well as any progress made in custody whilst on recall. Taking a strengths-based approach may help to counteract the punitive experience of recall and instead engage prisoners in a rehabilitative process.

5: Ensure chances to succeed – seek alternative methods and opportunities for recalled prisoners to address the areas of concern, wherever possible (as interventions, for example, can be hard to access), as well as, providing recalled prisoners with the opportunity to practice and implement new skills once it has been learnt/intervention completed and encouraging recalled prisoners to show motivation to learn new skills. Close working links between staff in prison and in probation is needed to facilitate this, and creative thinking is required.

© Andy Aitchison

6: Recognise the loss and emotional distress experienced by being recalled – this cannot necessarily be avoided, but acknowledging this, empathising and supporting effective coping is recommended in order for recalled prisoners to feel less alone, feel cared about and invested in and continue to engage. This may go some way to protect against the pains of imprisonment, and recall specifically.

7: Instil hope – communicating a belief that recalled prisoners can achieve change and have positive fulfilling futures is powerful and vitally important. This can support future orientation for recalled prisoners, enhance self-efficacy and motivation, and support the development of an identity as someone who has a valuable place in society.

8: Develop therapeutic relationships – these recommendations may all contribute to developing therapeutic relationships with recalled prisoners that are based on trust and are open and rehabilitative. Research findings have highlighted how important relationships are by demonstrating the potential disengagement when relationship quality declines.

9: Procedural justice – there is good evidence to show that fairness in the application of processes and procedures, and how decisions are made, make a big difference to prisoners’ behaviour and how they view authority. This is called ‘procedural justice’. The best practice principles, in addition to being valuable in their own right, are likely to help improve how procedurally just recalled prisoners feel they are treated. When the four principles of procedural justice are present, prisoners are more likely to see authority figures positively, see their authority as legitimate, and they are more likely to comply, cooperate and accept decisions, even if the outcome is not in their favour.

  • Voice: people need to feel they have had a chance to tell their story, feel heard, believe what they say will be given serious consideration, and that they get to participate.
  • Neutrality: prisoners need to see authority figures as open, transparent, unbiased and consistent in how they use their authority. The processes and assessments that prisoners are subject to also need to be experienced as clear, relevant and free of bias.
  • Trustworthy Motives: prisoners need to see authority figures as being principled, sincere and caring, and as genuinely trying to do what is right.
  • Respect: prisoners need to feel that they are being treated with respect, dignity and courtesy, and that their rights are respected and protected.

Thanks to Andy Aitchison for kind permission to use the photos used in this post. You can see Andy’s work here.

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