To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when the report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons' review of prisoners' grievance procedures will be published; and if he will make a statement.
The report of a thematic review of prisoners' grievance procedures, conducted by Sir James Hennessy before the expiry of his term and Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons, is published today. I am grateful to Sir James Hennessy and to the inspectorate for the work which went into this review and for a report which I hope will stimulate discussion of this important subject.Sir James Hennessy's principal conclusion is that prisoners' grievance procedures need to be fair, efficient and effective and to inspire confidence among prisoners, staff and the wider community; that the existing procedures do not in all respects satisfy those requirements; and that they need to be overhauled.
Among the specific recommendations in the report are proposals for simplifying the procedures so that, as far as possible, each stage for examining a request or grievance should be exhausted before the next is embarked upon. The report envisages that governors, boards of visitors and the prison department would continue to play a part in the resolution of prisoners' grievances, which however should be distinguished according to whether they are complaints or requests; but it also proposes the establishment of a new prison ombudsman and the discontinuation of prisoners' access to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration.
Other recommendations include a statutory code of prisoners' rights and duties as a long-term aim; the removal of the restrictions on the ventilation of prisoners' complaints; the withdrawal of the disciplinary offences of making a false and malicious allegation and of repeatedly making groundless complaints; improved information for prisoners about the procedures for making a complaint; and the introduction of time limits for replying to complaints and of a requirement for reasons to be given when complaints are rejected.
Before reaching decisions on the recommendations in this report I want to be able to take into account comments from interested individuals and organisations, both inside and outside the prison service. These should reach the Department by 9 June and should be sent to the Head of P3 Division, Home Office Prison Department, Cleland House, Page Street, London SW1P 4LN.