Parole changes – some questions answered, but many not…
The new prisons minister, the Rt Hon Stuart Andrew, has responded to one of our two letters about the recent changes to parole procedures.
His letter of 16 July deals with some of the queries we have about the change in criteria for transfer to open conditions. In particular, it makes clear that the new criteria are not intended to apply to any cases considered by the Parole Board or officials in the department before 6 June this year. It also makes clear that probation staff will not be expected to give a view on the “public confidence” element of the new criteria. A revised policy framework for the generic parole process has also been published, incorporating the new criteria.
Unfortunately, neither the minister’s letter nor the revised policy framework answer many of the most important questions we asked back in mid-June. There is no clarification at all on how the new test of a transfer being “essential” should be interpreted, nor on what evidence will be relevant to the public confidence test. It’s still very unclear exactly who will be taking decisions on which cases within the ministry.
The letter is unapologetic about the lack of consultation with anyone outside the department before this change was implemented, or for the fact that the only “evidence” to support the policy appears to have been the recent absconds of “several” high risk prisoners. It is not surprising that so much of the detail remains confused and confusing when policy is made in such a rushed and secretive way.
So we have written again to the minister repeating the questions that his latest letter – and the newly published policy framework – fail to answer. And we will continue to publish our questions and his replies to try to make up for the absence of any other source of official information.