29 April 2013
Last updated at 20:13 ET
Under new rules, films with an 18 certificate will be banned in prisons
Male prisoners in England and Wales must work harder for privileges such as TVs in cells, the government has said.
From November, under changes to the Incentives and Earned Privileges scheme, inmates must “actively earn privileges” – “a simple absence of bad behaviour will not be enough”.
Satellite and cable TV channels, currently available in some private prisons, will be banned altogether.
Critics say it is better to do what is effective rather than what seems tough.
But Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said that “in the past, we’ve sent the wrong message”.
Other changes to the scheme will include:
- A longer working day for prisoners
- A ban on films with an 18 certificate
- Extra gym time being dependent “on active engagement with rehabilitation”
- Restricted privileges, including access to private cash, for prisoners in the first two weeks of their sentence. They must also wear uniform at entry level
- Prisoners then put on either basic or standard “IEP level” depending on how they “co-operate with the regime or engage in rehabilitation”
- Those on basic level no longer allowed TVs in cells
The Ministry of Justice said there would also be a change to prison rules “increasing our power to recover money from prisoners to pay for damage to prison property”.
The changes follow a review of the prison incentives scheme.
Officials are still working on possible changes to the privilege scheme for women prisoners.
Mr Grayling said: “I want a regime that sends the right messages – turn your life around and there’ll be some incentives in prisons, but if you don’t engage, if you behave badly, then you’ll lose things.”
When the new system is introduced, existing prisoners will not lose the privileges they already have unless their status is reviewed.
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It is… astounding that the justice secretary spends his time policing what prisoners watch on DVD, to the point that Scary Movie 2 or series three of The Inbetweeners will be banned”
Howard League for Penal Reform
But they will lose any cable or satellite TV in private prisons.
Prison Reform Trust director Juliet Lyon said it was “perfectly reasonable” to remove subscription TV channels as well as to stop inmates, “some of whom have committed violent crimes”, from watching 18-certificate films.
“No-one wants to see ‘doing time’ equal wasting time,” she told BBC News.
“But the world ‘privileges’ is misleading and it implies there is a lot of luxury in prison, whereas that really is not the case.”
She said the important thing was “always to focus on what’s effective – not what sounds tough”.
“There is no evidence at all to show that a so-called tough approach works,” she added.
“But to be more effective, you have to focus on employment and skills training, on making sure people have safe housing to go to and that they have good contact with their family.
“Those are the three things that cut reconviction rates… not getting rid of tellies.”
The Howard League for Penal Reform, meanwhile, said it was “bizarre” to introduce “new layers of red tape which will only add to the cost of prison and demands on staff time”.
“It is also astounding that the justice secretary spends his time policing what prisoners watch on DVD, to the point that Scary Movie 2 or series three of The Inbetweeners will be banned,” chief executive Frances Crook said.
“Instead, Chris Grayling should look at taking our prison population back to a manageable level – giving non-violent people community sentences so something productive can be done with those who remain in prison.”
Last month, MSPs warned that prisoners in Scotland’s jails were spending too much time watching TV instead of taking part in activities to cut reoffending.
The Scottish Parliament’s justice committee said it was concerned some prisoners had “unlimited opportunity to watch television” and recommended guidelines on “the appropriate amount of television viewing time”.