The Scrutiny Officer presented a report to provide Members with an outline of the purpose of the meeting which was to receive further information in relation to the effect of the removal of the Cleveland Police Mounted Section and also information in relation to Prisoner Placements.
Removal of Police Horses
The Panel had previously received information in relation to the decision by the Chief Constable to abolish the Mounted Section due to financial pressures. The Panel were aware that this decision had been scrutinised by the Police and Crime Panel. Representatives from Cleveland Police and the Police and Crime Panel were present at the meeting to provide clarification as to the operational implications of the decision.
The Chief Superintendent explained that in order to balance the Forces budget, a reduction in the number of serving police officers from just over 1700 to just under 1300 was required.
Within the police force there were a variety of departments including child protection, drugs specialist teams and organised crime teams. Some of these policing areas were very high risk. The Neighbourhood Policing Teams were the front-line of policing and the Police and Crime Commissioner had given an undertaking that he would not reduce the number of officers on these teams.
Another area was response policing, which was organised under a programme called Orbis and included the twenty-four emergency response, road traffic, firearms and dogs sections. The high risk areas had to be covered first and then decisions had to be made as to where resources should be allocated in relation to demand. Where police officers were not needed, civilian officers would cover the jobs, for example answering the phone for emergency 999 calls. Current vacancies tended to be on the response teams and officers were needed to fill these essential posts.
The Mounted Section were a very specialist tool and were excellent for pre-planned operational events such as football matches. However, the Mounted Section could not respond quickly to emergencies as they needed firstly to be transported to the incident area and then saddled up before they were operational.
It was clarified that the horses did not patrol on weekends, unless there was a pre-planned event. Two police officers would be on duty to feed, groom and exercise the horses. Sometimes the horses were hired out to other police forces and this generated income of approximately £40K per year. During the past year, the horses had been required for only one event in Cleveland, and it was estimated that the same provision could have been bought in from another force for a one-off cost of £1600.
Cleveland Police had a reputation for having some of the best public order officers in the country. They trained very hard and had a fantastic reputation for that type of policing work. This resource could be sold for mutual aid and the system worked extremely well. Cleveland Police had recently sent sixty officers to Sheffield and was currently planning for an event in a few months' time.
It was also highlighted that when working with animals there were dangers. Animals were unable to differentiate and therefore some tactics were not appropriate, for example you could not have a horse hitting a young child. However, in most circumstances crowds could be corralled successfully by two or three officers and officers were able to differentiate between who was behaving and who was not.
Cleveland Police had also consulted with fourteen other forces, who were above them in the national performance league tables. One of these did not have a mounted section but did have several football teams in the local area. However they felt that the horses were not necessary.
The Vice Chair of the Police and Crime Panel explained that whilst members understood the emotion of the decision, in the current economic climate it was necessary to make savings and target resources and this had been done. In order to continue with the Mounted Section resources would have to be taken from the front line. Members of the public opposed to closing the Mounted Section had offered to raise some funding to keep it operational, however this had not come to fruition.
The police officers who currently worked in the Mounted Section would be re-deployed with the majority going to the Neighbourhood Policing Teams. There had been significant interest in the horses and equipment from other forces and other parties also. Some of the horses might be retired and an assurance was given that they would all be well looked after.
**DECLARATION OF INTEREST - Councillor Junier declared a non-pecuniary interest in the following item on the grounds that he worked for a number of organisations with links to HM Prison Service.
Following a recent visit by Members of the Panel to HMP Kirklevington Grange, the Head of Reducing Reoffending was present at the meeting to provide information in relation the operation of the prison, prisoner placements and rehabilitation.
HMP Kirklevington Grange was a small prison within the prison system that provided an essential element of rehabilitation. It was one of only three re-settlement prisons in the country. There were two different categories of prison: open - where the aim was to let prisoners out but protect the community by doing risk assessments, and closed - where prisoners were kept inside. The prison had a small number of prisoners some of whom where closed-type and others who were open-type. The majority of prisoners were Category D, which meant they were suitable for open conditions. Only a small number were still waiting to be classed as Category D and they would be risk assessed before being allowed to leave the prison.
The prison took prisoners who were coming to the end of generally very long sentences. Although some prisoners who had served three year sentences were admitted, the majority had served longer than that and had become institutionalised to a certain degree. Prison staff taught them to become good citizens.
The majority of prisoners at HMP Kirklevington Grange were selected by the prison and some were selected by the Parole Board. All prisoners were risk assessed and had to undergo thirty days of community work placement as part of the testing process. A number of community projects, including working in partnership with the Council in parks, were very long standing. A mutual trust existed between the prison and project partners and prisoners were looked after. Home leaves or paid employment were not permitted until prisoners had completed thirty days of community work.
There were currently eighty-three prisoners in paid employment and this would shortly rise to ninety. This time last year there had been twenty-three. The prison had been very pro-active building relationships with employers and a recruitment agency had recently approached the prison with a view to providing work for prisoners in the Leeds and Barnsley areas. There were currently some prisoners who it was anticipated would eventually re-locate back to these areas.
About eighty prisoners were presently completing community work on approximately forty different projects. The prison had recently been approached by Beamish Open Air Museum to provide some workers, but might have to turn the offer down as it was running short of available prisoners. Some prisoners had to be kept in the establishment to complete work as well and there was a task force that worked with charitable organisations. The prison also worked with the Forestry Commission and was managing a woodland.
In 2012, the prisoners carried out approximately £630,000 worth of unpaid work in the local community. In order to promote restorative justice, 40% of a prisoners earnings whilst in full-time work in the local community was paid directly into a Victim Support Fund, recently established by Government. In 2012 the contribution to the fund from Kirklevington Grange prisoners was in the region of £66,700.
A cafe and a shop selling hand-made gifts, plants, hanging baskets and flowers was now open to the public in the prisons car park. There was also a car valeting service available which enabled visitors to have their car washed and valeted whilst visiting the prison. The prisoners had also attended Stockton Market several times and sold items on the market.
A Member commented on the good relationships that appeared to exist between staff and prisoners and the Head of Reducing Offending agreed that this rapport had been built up over a number of years. It was the whole ethos of teaching prisoners to be good citizens again. For several years the prisoners had been told what to do and when to do it but now they were expected to go back into the community and make their own choices. If prisoners were not coping, they would not be sent to work outside of the prison.
It was noted that most of the prisoners wanted to be at Kirklevington Grange and had applied to go there. The prison did not take sex offenders or arsonists, where arson was their main offence.
Measuring success was quite difficult as the prison only recorded information in relation to prisoners when they left, such as whether they had accommodation, a job or were in education or training. The target for employment on release was 65% and this had been met for the past two years. Accommodation was always 100%, although this might sometimes include hostel accommodation. Since 1 April 2013, the employment figure had been 78% and 11.5% in education and training. However, once discharged it was difficult to know how many prisoners stayed in jobs or education.
The prison had tried to do a survey about three years ago but the response was so low that the sample was meaningless. Another survey was underway on the 199 prisoners that had been discharged over the last year to try and ascertain how many were still in employment six and twelve months later. However, the prison was reliant on the prisoner as to whether information was provided or not. It was highlighted that it was a difficult measure to obtain and the prison had to consider value for money.
Forty prisoners had just started on external college courses at Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland and Stockton and one person just started an apprenticeship with Redcar.
With regard to budget and the economic climate, the Head of Reducing Reoffending explained that he had been in the prison service for 18 years and during that time 3% efficiency savings had been made year on year. In 2001 it was recognised that the prison service was the only civil service department that had actually delivered the savings required. All establishments were currently undergoing benchmarking. A neighbouring prison was likely to lose around 35% of its staff.
The prison also worked with Teesside and Northumbria Universities and took placement students. There was an Internship Programme through which the prison had an Intern who had helped with the planning for the Cafe and Shop. The prison was a member of the North East Chamber of Commerce (NECC) and an article about the prison had recently appeared in the NECC bi-monthly magazine.
A member queried whether the prison had any influence on those prisoners with indeterminate or life sentences on coming to an end date if they had demonstrated their ability to rehabilitate into the community. It was clarified that such decisions were taken by the Parole Board. However the prison reported to the Parole Board on whether the prisoner had bought into the regime and how their community work was going.
In relation to community work, it was clarified that this was unpaid work which was not voluntary. It delivered something back into the community and included such work as cutting lawns, managing gardens, parks or working in charity shops. The difference with community payback was that it was high visibility and members of the public were able to see who was completing the work and know why they were there. Whilst there were similarities in the type of work, the prisoners were picking up skills and confidence and the work was completed as part of a programme towards their release.
1. the information provided in relation to the Police Horses and Prisoner Placements be received and noted.
2. the Scrutiny Support Officer would seek further information from the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) in relation to any available data on prisoners rehabilitation into the community.