Band On The Run

Nothing whatsoever to do with a rather mediocre album of the same name.

More to do with serving prisoners on the run.

A recent spate of prisoners deciding not to return to their prisons after weekends out in the community inspired me to treat HM Prison Service to one of my #FOI requests.

I was curious to find out just how many serving prisoners are actually Unlawfully At Large.

Their response was to refuse my request, on the grounds that it would cost more than £600 to answer it.

Once I got over the initial shock and disappointment I continued reading and discovered that whilst they couldn’t actually give me an up-to-date figure they had sent me lots of historical information up to and  including 2013, so almost as good, and in far more depth than I had originally requested.

I’m certainly not an expert on the Prison Service but I know someone who is, so if I make any fundamental errors I’m sure that person will steer me in the right direction.

Very helpfully they have included separate information for Public and Private prisons enabling an old cynic like me to make certain comparisons.  How will the Private Sector compare?

The first little gem was ‘Mandatory Drug Tests’ (see, I told you they’d given more info than I asked for).  Most years the percentage failing these tests was approx 1-2% higher in the Private Prisons, mot an astounding difference.  In 2012-13 the percentage was 6.7% in Public Sector prisons and 8.9% in the Private Sector yielding a service total of 7.0%, so not really any great difference, but in the bad old days, well.

In 1998/99 the failure rate was 17.4% in the public sector and 27.6% in the private sector with a Service Total of 18.3%  So well done to the Prison Service and their Contracted Out partners (who knew there were contracted out prisons in 1998?).  Massive reductions achieved by both sectors which seems to have been relatively constant for a number of years now.

The prison population; has risen from 49,570 (Public) and 2,043 (Private) in 95/96 to 73,247 (Public) and 12,483 (Private) or from 51,613 to 85,895 in total since 95/96.  That seems like quite a lot to me.

Overcrowding – now that’s a subject that frequently makes the news.  The percentage of prisoners regarded as being in ‘overcrowded accommodation’ has unsurprisingly risen steadily since 1998/99. The number of overcrowded prisoners in the Public Sector has risen from 19.4% to 21.8% in 2012/13 and just fluctuated a little bit in the years between.  In the Private Sector overcrowding has risen from 27.9% to 29.3%. Quite a bit different to State Prisons, does this tell us anything??

Prisoners ‘Doubled Up’ in a cell – I must confess I thought that was the norm, but the figures show that in 95/96 16.7% of prisoners in public prisons and 11.3% in the private sector were ‘Doubled Up’.  By 2012/13 this had changed to 21.3% (Public) and 28.2% (Private), quite a change over the years, public sector coming down and private sector going up.  Does this tell us anything?

Prison Escort Escapes – these were really quite high in 95/96 with 35 (Public and 1 (Private) but by 2010/11 these figures had come down to between 0 and 2, a really good improvement, well done.

Escapes From Prison – these are the figures that everybody dreads and it’s fair to say tha the public sector did not do very well in the past, with 52,33,23, 28 and 30 respectively in the years 95/96 – 99/2000, set against the Private Sector’s 0-4 over the same period. Since 2008 both sectors have been reporting Prison Escapes between 0-2 per year.  Much, much better.

The good news is that only 5 Category A escapes have been reported between 95 and 2013.

The Really bad news for the Public Sector seems to be with Absconders – between 19995 and 1999 the Public Sector saw approx. 1,000 Absconders per year against a total of 4 in the Private Sector.  This has sort of settled at 175-250 in the Public Sector and 1 in the Private Sector.  Does this tell us anything?

The Private Sector seems to have NO Absconders still at large (not that they lost many) but the Public Sector cannot claim the same, most years seeing double figures of Absconders who successfully remain at large.

Apart from an absolutely awful year in 1995/96 when the Private Sector only had 18% of its inmates released on Temporary Licence actually come back, both sectors have reported a minimum of 94% since then, well done both.

I’m not quite sure what the difference is but the last piece of bad news for the Public Sector is Temporary Release Failures To Return. Anyone tell me the difference between this and the previous category?  Anyway the Private Sector have consistently performed well in this area, reducing a peak of 10 in 1995/96 gradually down to 2 in 2012/13.  The Public Sector, however, has figures that have increased from 356 in 1995/96 to 429 in 2012/13, although, to be fair, they did go down to 248 in 2007/08, before creeping back up again.  Does this tell us anything?

So, there we have it, much more information than I expected to receive and absolutely not the results I expected to see.  The Private Sector seems to out-perform the Public in certain areas, but by no means all.

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One thought on “Band On The Run

  1. Pingback: Band On The Run | Policing news | Scoop.it

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