The Parole Board welcomes the publication of the Joint Inspectorate Report on Life Sentence Prisoners as it sheds light on the challenging work undertaken with some of the most serious offenders.
The Parole Board will only direct that a Life Sentence Prisoner should be released when it is satisfied that it is no longer necessary for the protection of the public that the prisoner should be confined.
The Parole Board is sometimes asked to make a recommendation on an offender’s suitability for a move from closed to open conditions.
In these cases, the Parole Board considers the offender’s risk of committing further offences, their risk of absconding, the likelihood that they will comply with the regime in an open prison and whether there is a benefit of a period in an open prison to allow the offender to adequately adjust to life in the community and have access to support, housing etc.
The Parole Board does not have a role in deciding whether an offender can be released on temporary licence. This is a matter for the prison governor.
However, the Parole Board believes that periods of release on temporary licence (ROTL) are an important part of an offender’s rehabilitation and a source of information when making a decision about release.
ROTLs provide opportunities to test how an offender’s risk can be managed safely in the community and the Parole Board looks for information on this in the reports it is given.
Managing an offender on ROTL is a crucial stage of rehabilitation, as highlighted in the inspection, and as such the Parole Board would expect to see a robust plan for supporting the offender to prepare for life in the community.
In order to reach a decision, the Parole Board considers the assessments prepared by Offender Managers and Offender Supervisors.
It does not simply accept these assessments at face value.
The Parole Board, sitting as a court, seeks a range of additional information, for example from other sources such as the Police.
The Parole Board also consults experts such as psychologists and reports from offending behaviour courses that the offender has completed.
It also has the opportunity to challenge witnesses about their assessments at an oral hearing.
This enables the Parole Board to gain a better understanding of the reasons for the offences, assess the extent to which the offender has reduced their risk and judge whether the plans to manage risk in the community will be adequate to protect the Public.
The quality of the reports provided by prison and probation staff is very important to the Parole Board to enable it to make decisions which take account of the offender’s progress and are fair and protect the public.
The Parole Board is encouraged that its work with NOMS to guide report writers to produce good quality reports has improved practice.
More work is needed to support further improvements in reports by Offender Managers and Offender Supervisors.
The Parole Board is currently working with the National Offender Management Service to improve the parole process and ensure a greater focus on quality as well as ensuring reviews are concluded more efficiently and on time.
The Parole Board is pleased to see that the inspectors’ report recommends training for Offender Managers in planning and delivering work with lifers to improve on the quality of sentence planning.
Where the Parole Board is not satisfied that an offender’s risk can be managed in the community it will identify risk factors, for example alcohol misuse, or anger management which need to be addressed before the offender can be re-considered for release.
In this way, the Parole Board supports sentencing planning work by ensuring that sentence plans tackle the needs of the individual offender.
The Parole Board believes that the recommendations made by the Chief Inspectors are well timed to inform the work to establish the new national Probation Service.