Watchdog warns of inadequate checks for life sentenced prisoners being let out on day release

Inspectors say prisons are granting killers and rapists temporary release without proper risk assessment

Thousands of life-sentenced prisoners are not being ‘adequately’ assessed before going being let out for the day or overnight, says a prison watchdog.

Chief inspectors say that official checks are frequently being drawn up long before convicts go on release and do not sufficiently assess the risk convicts pose to the public.

Chief Inspector of Probation Liz  Calderbank said: “Assessments in many instances weren’t being thorough enough and weren’t being completed adequately. Often, quite basic elements were missing.”

The watchdog reported that one unidentified prison had been as lax as to remove the “risk of harm” section in the temporary release paperwork in order to “simplify the process”.

Nick Hardwick, the chief inspector of prisons, said current checks were inadequate because they tested inmates’ ability to behave well behind bars rather than in the outside world:

“They are people, on the whole, who are going to be compliant and they've learned how to be good prisoners. But you are not testing whether or not they are going to be good prisoners, you are testing whether or not they are going to be a good citizen and those are two different things.”

He added: ”The public would expect assurance that those processes are properly managed, the risk assessments done properly, and proper attention is given to that. That's a reasonable expectation.“

Reoffending rates for the 13,385 life-sentenced prisoners in England and Wales are low, at only 2 per cent to 5 per cent, but inspectors remain concerned about the serious crimes being committed by inmates out on temporary licenses.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling ordered a review of the temporary release scheme in July, after a life-sentenced prisoner committed an unprovoked murder on day release.

Today’s report may raise further concerns given the increasing number of life-sentenced criminals in England and Wales. The number has more than trebled in the last five years, rising from 4,000 in 1998 to 13,385 in March 2013.

The length of life-sentences has also increased. In 2001 the average mandatory lifer served 16 years behind bars, while the average is now up to 16 years.

Justice Minister Jeremy Wright said the review would help the prison system “learn lessons and see what changes are necessary”, adding: “We need a process for people to be reintegrated into the community at the end of their sentence, but it needs to be right and it needs to be something the public has confidence in.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
people
News
A survey carried out by Sainsbury's Finance found 20% of new university students have never washed their own clothes, while 14% cannot even boil an egg
science...and the results are not as pointless as that sounds
News
politicsIs David Cameron trying to prove he's down with the kids?
News
Cumberbatch was speaking on US television when he made the comment (Getty)
people
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea