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Inmates will have to 'earn' privileges under prison shake-up

Access to subscription channel in private prisons will be curtailed under the chnages Photo: Matthew Fearn/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Prisoners will have to "earn the right" to certain privileges whilst behind bars under new plans being unveiled by the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling today.

The new measures will include bans on 18-rated films and subscription channels as well as a new 'entry' level for all new prisoners.

The changes will be written into the Incentives and Earned Privileges scheme, which operates in all prisons, over the next six months.

Read: What is the Incentives and Earned Privileges system?

Mr Grayling said that "for too long, there has been an expectation that privileges are an automatic right, given simply as a reward for staying out of trouble".

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling during a visit to Pentonville Prison in north London Credit: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

One of the main changes will be the introduction of a new 'entry' level for prisoners in their first two weeks behind bars.

New prisoners are currently placed on the 'standard' level and may either drop a level to 'basic' or gain one to 'enhanced' based on their behaviour.

Under the new system they will have reduced privileges, such as being required to wear prison uniform, for the first two weeks. At the end of the entry level period, prisoners who do not co-operate with the regime will drop to basic level, those who do will progress to standard.

Other major changes include:

  • All convicted prisoners will work a longer day
  • Ban on watching TV while prisoners should be working
  • Gym access beyond the statutory entitlement will be dependent on active engagement with rehabilitation
  • Subscription channels removed from private prisons
  • Certificate 18 DVDs banned from prisons

Source: Ministry of Justice

Governor Gary Monaghan (second left) and Justice Secretary Chris Grayling (second right) speak with inmates Credit: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

Mr Grayling said the reformed system of privileges would be one that the "public can have confidence in".

It is not right that some prisoners appear to be spending hours languishing in their cells and watching daytime television while the rest of the country goes out to work.

For too long, there has been an expectation that privileges are an automatic right, given simply as a reward for staying out of trouble. This cannot continue.

Prisoners need to earn privileges, not simply through the avoidance of bad behaviour but also by working, taking part in education or accepting the opportunities to rehabilitate themselves.

– chris grayling, justice secretary

Responding to the changes, Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said they are "unlikely to get prisoners out of bed and into work or training".

"It is bizarre then to introduce new layers of red tape which will only add to the cost of prison and demands on staff time," she added.