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Blog entry 29th May 2014

In the past month or so there has been outrage in the press about abscondees from open prisons. What has been missed in all of the reports on this issue is that each and everyone of the absconders had been classed as having 'reduced risk' by a highly paid prison service psychologist. If this wasn't the case they would never have been granted open prison conditions.

To achieve reduction in risk the absconders will have completed a varying number of 'offender behaviour courses' (OBP), which are run by prison psychology departments and heralded by Chris Grayling as being necessary for prisoners rehabilitation. Well, the events of the past several weeks have proved that OBP's have no value to rehabilitation. This is a position further supported by a vast number of reports exploring the performance results of OBP's. Some of these reports are the produce of the Home Office itself.

Truth being told, the majority of prisoners who enrol onto an OBP don't do so because they want to be rehabilitated, they do so as the prison service will not view any other method as leading to risk reduction. Participants know what the psychologists who run these courses want to hear and tell them exactly that. Worse still, many who enter on to the Sex Offenders Treatment Programme (SOTP), do so to be able to listen to what others have inflicted on their victims and use it for their own mental stimulation.

If you doubt this ask yourself this; internet forums for paedophiles are rife on the web. These individuals revel in discussing their predilections and sharing their experiences, thoughts, actions and pictures using the net. Those that are caught and imprisoned are then denied what fed their compulsion. That is until the prison system kindly offers them an alternative forum in which to discuss their own and listen to other's actions and experiences. Namely the SOTP course or/and one of its many follow-on programmes.

Incidentally, the Home Office's own report into the success of SOTP found that those who took part in SOTP were more likely to re-offend than those who didn't (Findings 164: Home Office, Research, Development and Statistics Directorate, 2002). Similar results are also reported in the 2003: Findings 205. These results are mirrored in Home Office reports on prison cognitive skills programmes such as the 'Thinking Skills Programme' (TSP) and 'Cognitive Self Change Programme' (CSCP). These latter programmes are affectionately called the 'how to commit better crime' programmes in prison circles.

So why do I raise this in my blog? We wrongly convicted prisoners are denied de-categorization and progression because we do not fit the criteria for OBP's. After all how can you discuss something you haven't done? Consequently prisoners maintaining innocence (PMI's) are forced to serve far longer in stricter security conditions than their guilty counterparts. Yet the few who do attain open conditions have the lowest rates of absconding. Also for the rare PMI's granted parole their re-offending rates are less than 1 percent and for conviction of crimes of which they were originally convicted rates are less than 0.1 percent.

OBP's and the psychologists who run them cost the tax payer hundreds of millions of pounds each year. Taking facts into consideration it is high time the British public asked if their money is being spent wisely.

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