The Howard League for penal reform has called on the new government to act as the recall of prisoners spirals out of control. The charity states that an extra 13,000 people have been sent back to custody since the government introduced its Transforming Rehabilitation programme in 2015. This is an increase of 4,300 %. This has heaped pressure on a prison system already struggling to cope with an increase in prisoners. The Howard League is calling on the new government to stop the widespread use of recall.

What does the Howard League recommend?

It recommends that the Secretary of State for justice should retain a power to recall only to be used in exceptional circumstances. The Howard League believes that technical breaches are better dealt with in the community.

It is also reported that 13,000 people have been sent back to prison since the Ministry of Justice introduced its Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) programme in 2015. The number has increased at an alarming rate from 150 in June 1995 to more than 6,500 in March 2017 – an increase of almost 4,300 per cent.

In one example given by Howard League a 20 year old man was recalled to prison for spending one night away from his approved premises after receiving some difficult news about his late sister resulting in him being recalled to prison for 7 months.

What are the potential solutions for reducing the pressure on the prison system?

It is estimated that this week there are over 85,500 people in prisons and young offender’s institutions. Many people are recalled for either 14 or 28 days , but this time is not sufficient for any rehabilitative work to be completed but puts in jeopardy their housing, jobs and personal relationships, all of which increases the rates of re offending . So perhaps it's time for a rethink? Howard League proposes a three pronged (the 3 Rs) solution is reducing the pressure on the prison population:

  • Prison Rules
  • Release from prison
  • Recall to prison

Unfortunately nowadays we live in times of such accountability that probation officers and others will feel under enormous pressure when deciding whether to recall a prisoner or not. The licence conditions are clearly put there to monitor the prisoner and protect the public. To some extent there are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

In the example above, I feel that recall seems to be completed unnecessary and I dare say that most members of the public would feel recall would agree. But what if the prisoner wasn’t recalled and then went on to commit a dreadful crime against us or one of our loved ones, who would we point the finger at then.

Balancing the need for sensible and rational decision making against the need to protect the public especially in times of government cuts in public services, higher work loads and increased regulations and accountability, is it no wonder that Offender Managers are erring on the side of caution. Perhaps if more funding was provided to resources on the outside, it might actually save money on resources on the inside.