Prisoners Who Break the Rules To Face Community Payback-Style Punishments

Craig MacKenzie
Craig MacKenzie

Published: May 24th, 2024

4 mins read

For the first time, Governors can impose "payback punishments" on prisoners who misbehave in jail, such as damaging prison property or disrespecting staff.

Punishments vary from prison to prison but could include repairing broken items, clearing shared or disused spaces, and picking up litter. Offenders who refuse to carry out their payback punishment could have their prison work earnings blocked or privileges forfeited.

These new powers will build on the action Governors can take if an offender commits a crime while behind bars.

It will remain the case that in the most serious incidents, for example, sexual assault or selling drugs, tougher prison punishments could be handed out. In these cases, the crime will be reported to the police, and perpetrators face the prospect of new convictions and time behind bars.

Prisons and Probation Minister Ed Argar said:

"Discipline is the cornerstone of a prison that is safe for staff and where offenders are put on track to become law-abiding citizens.

Unruly behaviour is unacceptable, and these new punishments will force prisoners to realise that disruptive actions have tough consequences."

How are these new measures enforced?

The government has revised prison guidance via Prison Service Instruction 05/2018, with amendments effective from 13 May 2024.

Suppose the charge against the prisoner is proved. In that case, the adjudicator must consider the appropriate punishment(s), taking into account the seriousness of the offence, local punishment guidelines concerning that type of offence, the prisoner's previous disciplinary record, the likely effect of the punishment/s on the prisoner (including any health or welfare impact), any mitigation the prisoner may offer and if the punishment and the location of punishment would have a detrimental effect on any member of staff.

Adjudicators must consider the risk factors in an open assessment, care in custody, and teamwork (ACCT) plan or an ACCT closed within the last three months.

Any punishment must accord with the punishments listed in the Prison or YOI Rules and be proportionate to the offence. The punishment and reasons for any departure from the local guidelines must be recorded on the record of the hearing and explained fully to the prisoner, along with the means by which a review of the guilty finding or punishment may be requested.

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