External Affairs Blog – Increase In Prison Recalls

The increase in prison populations over the last few years is staggering. Part of the increase is due to recalls also increasing at significant rates; the most recent statistics show that the proportion of people recalled to prison has increased by 20%. When we look at the reasons for recall, you may be surprised to find that the most common cause is non-compliance. Just over 37% of recall cases are due to non-compliance with the supervising Offender Manager. The second most common cause for recall is failure to ‘keep in touch’ with the supervisor (16.7%), facing a further charge (15.4%), and 13.7% of cases are due to failure to reside where directed. 

Some differences for women’s recalls are important to note; women are more likely to be recalled for failure to ‘keep in touch’ (23.3%), but further charges as a reason for recall are significantly lower for women (8.5%). 

These statistics are frustrating. To have people who have served what they are told is enough of their sentences be returned for non-compliance without appropriate risk assessment of re-offending feels wrong. It is wrong because it indicates a lack of understanding and foresight in those managing our criminal justice about what challenges people in the system face, internally and in the outside world.  

Legally, there is a process for recalls and how they are managed but sharing that information with those leaving prison is not enough. To complete the process of raising awareness and make it worthwhile, it is vital that the Prisons Service ensure that people understand the information they are given and are equipped to manage and apply it.  

Many leaving prison have not had an authority figure to be accountable to (perhaps not since they were at school), and so to comply with contact and supervision from an Offender Manager is a new challenge to be worked out. There may be barriers to trust due to past experiences with authority figures. It is natural for anyone leaving difficult experiences behind to find that the mind seeks to avoid any contact with people, such as Offender Managers and supervisors, associated with something as significant and traumatic as a prison stay. 

Some support in looking at the positives of avoiding recall is vital and effective. We know this from our Residents and Participants. We all need support to work through our choices and make the best decisions for our wellbeing. In processing trauma, we can recognise what is best by separating people who are part of our lives now from our negative associations with people and situations that have previously impacted us.  

Our services are safe places for talking things through. Our Tenant Satisfaction Survey results published in 2020 showed us that an overwhelming number of our residents trust staff and feel that they provide them with relevant information to make informed choices. In line with our Theory of Change, we want our services to be psychologically informed spaces that provide a safe place for positive risk taking, which is so essential to growth, development, and, ultimately, change. 

This can be the case in prisons too, because early intervention will prevent people from being recalled. We hope to see this approach throughout our Criminal Justice System and continue to engage with our partners in this field to share our experience and skills.  

Balraj Ballagan is Policy and Impact Manager at Social Interest Group