Offender Management in Custody (OMiC)
In November 2016 the Justice Secretary, then Liz Truss, announced 2,500 additional prison officers as part of the Prison Safety and Reform white paper. This included ‘new dedicated officers, each responsible for supervising and supporting around six offenders’. Two justice secretaries later, and this approach has become part of what is now known as ‘Offender Management in Custody’ – or ‘OMiC’ for short.
Find out more about OMiC in this article.
In their annual report this year, HMPPS described OMiC as a key part of the response to self-inflicted deaths, self-harm and violence in prison. It is intended to improve safety by engaging with people, building better relationships between staff and prisoners and helping people settle in to life in prison. We understand that the keyworker model has currently been rolled out in about 15 prisons, with the aim for it to be rolled out across the male closed estate by next summer.
HMPPS has published a supporting document ‘Manage the Custodial Sentence Policy Framework’. It gives more details about how the keyworker system should work. Its states:
- All prisoners in the male closed estate must be allocated a key worker whose responsibility is to engage, motivate and support them through the custodial period.
- Key work is delivered within the male closed estate by staff who have completed the required training.
- Governors in the male closed estate must ensure that time is made available for an average of 45 minutes per prisoner per week for delivery of the key worker role which includes individual time with each prisoner.
- Within this allocated time, key workers can vary individual sessions in order to provide a responsive service, reflecting individual need and stage in the sentence. A key worker session can consist of a structured interview or a range of activities such as attending an ACCT review, meeting family during a visit or engaging in conversation during an activity to build relationships.
The document also sets out arrangements for further changes that will take place later next year as part of the OMiC approach. These changes will involve a move to having prison-based offender managers to manage the custodial part of sentences rather than the current system of being allocated offender managers in the community. We understand the plan is to implement this phase towards the end of 2019 – we will write about this in more detail closer to the time.
This document is particularly significant as it is the first in a new type of guideline being produced by the prison service, called ‘Policy Frameworks’. This is part of a move away from Prison Service Instructions in an effort to simplify the current instruction system and give greater discretion to governors. This has been a Government intention since 2015 and was also reflected in the subsequent 2016 white paper with a commitment to ‘look at each policy, and either replace it with the minimum mandatory requirements to ensure a safe, decent and lawful system, with consistency across the estate where this is deemed critical or get rid of it altogether.’ Giving governors greater discretion about how to run their prison could result in some innovative and worthwhile practice. However, without careful consideration of which policy areas should and shouldn’t be devolved there are risks of growing inconsistency and unfairness. The Prison Reform Trust will be taking a keen interest in the development of policy frameworks and where necessary advocate for important mandatory actions not to be lost in the process.
Please note, the above article focuses on prisons in England and Wales and may not apply elsewhere.