Incentives and Earned Privileges in Prison: Summary

Major new changes have been made to the way prisoners receive and lose privileges.  The changes came into effect on 01 November, 2013.  A new briefing paper from the Reclaim Justice Network considers these changes and their potential implications for prisoner populations.

In prisons in England and Wales a system of ‘Incentives and Earned Privileges’ (IEP) was introduced in 1995 ‘with the expectation that prisoners would earn additional privileges through demonstrating responsible behaviour and participation in work or other constructive activity’ (PSI 30/213).  The policy, in effect, controls prisoners’ access to activities, to material goods and to sources of outside support.   When first introduced it was seen by many prisoners as harsh and punitive.  But, recent government changes to the policy introduce a further tightening up of the scheme, alongside a variety of other regime and policy changes, which cumulatively are adding significantly to the punitive aspects of prison experiences.

These intentionally punishing reforms have been introduced in the context of a range of growing pressures currently facing the prison system. Overcrowding, the cutting of services and staff in prisons, a reconfiguration of the core-day, the restructuring of the prison estate and the withdrawal or curtailment of legal aid provision for prisoners are converging and we are witnessing a general worsening of conditions for both prisoners and staff.

The briefing describes the likely impact of these reforms in the context of open prisons, long term prisoners and women in prison. We also present some anecdotal information on how the changes are being implemented and felt inside prisons. Our intention is to draw attention to, and open up debate about, the worsening of conditions and potential consequences of recent policy choices made by government and criminal justice agencies. There are a series of pressures building within the prison system creating what might be described as a ‘perfect storm’ for an increase in harm, violence and damage to people within the criminal justice system.

The Reclaim Justice Network is concerned about:

  • Potential increases in rates of suicide and self-harm under the current changes;
  • Increased problems of disorder and, as a result, staff and prisoner safety;
  • Prison sentences that continue to inflict more damage than they repair;
  • The proliferation of violent criminal justice policies.

For the full Reclaim Justice Briefing in pdf, click here.

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