Probation Circular


In advance of the commencement on 6 November 2006 of the second phase of Offender Management implementation, this Circular provides guidance for offender managers on obtaining access to prison establishments.

REFERENCE NO: 38/2006 ISSUE DATE: 30 October 2006 IMPLEMENTATION DATE: 6 November 2006 EXPIRY DATE: November 2011 TO: Chairs of Probation Boards Chief Officers of Probation Secretaries of Probation Boards CC: Board Treasurers Regional Managers AUTHORISED BY: Richard Mason, Head of Offender Assessment and Management Unit ATTACHED: N/A

Chief Officers are asked to make their Offender Managers aware of the contents of this Circular.

This Circular provides guidance for Offender Managers on obtaining access to prison establishments, including the High Security Estate, and on booking appointments to see offenders.


Bobbie Jones, 020 7217 8208 or 07810 854 202 or at: Alternatively, the OM helpdesk on 020 7217 5951 or or

National Probation Directorate
Abell House, John Islip Street, London, SW1P 4LH

Background 1. Probation staff need access to offenders held in custody for a variety of reasons during the course of their work. The extension of the Offender Management Model to include offenders in custody – starting on 6 November 2006 with PPOs and high/very high risk of harm determinate sentence prisoners serving 12 months or more – means that Offender Managers will need to have regular access to offenders being held in prison establishments in order to carry out, for example, sentence plan reviews and pre-release interviews. Ideally Offender Managers will have the least restrictive access to prisoners that can be safely accommodated. 2. This Circular outlines procedures for booking appointments and gaining access to establishments, including those in the High Security Estate. It refers specifically to the arrangements necessary for Offender Managers to see prisoners for the purposes of carrying out their Offender Management responsibilities. 3. HMPS Headquarters will shortly be writing to all prison establishments, including COPs, in similar terms. Access to those Prison Establishments that are not part of the High Security Estate Escorted Access 4. The security clearance currently held by probation staff is sufficient to allow escorted access to establishments outside the High Security Estate. Probation staff will need to provide photo identification on arrival at an establishment. Their probation pass, provided it contains a photo, will be sufficient proof of identity. Unescorted Access 5. Unescorted access involves Offender Managers being provided with a set of keys to enable them to move freely within the establishment. The NOMS Offender Management Team has been negotiating arrangements for this with HMPS Headquarters but there is not as yet a national agreement. For the moment, therefore, there is only provision for Offender Managers to carry keys at the discretion of each establishment’s Governor or Director. Nevertheless, probation areas are likely to find that unescorted access to even a limited number of establishments will enhance their ability to deliver effective Offender Management. 6. In order to arrange unescorted access probation areas should identify those Offender Managers who will need to make frequent visits to a particular establishment and make a request to the Governor or Director. Separate requests will have to be made for each establishment to which the probation area would like their Offender Managers to have unescorted access. If unescorted access is agreed, the establishment will be responsible for providing training in the use of keys. 7. The NOMS OM Team is continuing negotiations with HMPS Headquarters in order to establish a national arrangement for unescorted access. Further guidance will be issued in due course. Access to Establishments in the High Security Estate 8. The following establishments are in the High Security Estate: Belmarsh, Frankland, Full Sutton, Long Lartin, Manchester, Wakefield, Whitemoor and Woodhill. 9. Probation areas already have arrangements for gaining limited access to prisoners held in High Security establishments. However an enhanced level of security clearance is required for Offender Managers to carry out the full range of offender management responsibilities such as chairing sentence planning meetings. Counter Terrorism Checks will be needed to gain this higher level of access. PC38/2006 – Access to Prison Establishments for Offender Managers



10. Probation areas should identify those Offender Managers who will need access and should approach the Governor(s) of the relevant establishment(s) about obtaining enhanced security clearance. The process can take several months, so areas are advised to identify staff needing access to these establishments as soon as possible. 11. Unescorted access will not be available to Offender Managers in any of the establishments in the High Security Estate. Making Appointments to see Prisoners 12. Each establishment’s Offender Management Unit (OMU) will be responsible for arranging Sentence Planning interviews and other meetings with those prisoners who are subject to Offender Management. 13. Probation areas need to give the OMU enough time to set up an interview with a prisoner and should provide as much notice as possible. In the main, it should be possible to make appointments associated with routine offender management visits well in advance. At a minimum Offender Managers should give 24 hours notice of an intended meeting with a prisoner. 14. If there is good reason why the Offender Manager is unable to give 24 hours notice and there is an urgent need to see the prisoner the OMU will look sympathetically upon the request but may be unable to arrange an interview at such short notice. Whether an interview can be arranged or not will be at the OMU’s discretion. 15. Probation areas can expect OMUs to notify them quickly of any problems with a planned visit. They can, in particular, expect notification when an offender has been moved to another establishment. Video links 16. NOMS is working toward the wider availability of video links between prison establishments and probation areas. This should reduce the number of sentence plan reviews and other meetings that need to be carried out face-toface. Further information on this will follow. 17. However, video links clearly cannot replace all visits and the guidance contained in this Circular will apply whenever an Offender Manager needs to visit an offender being held in custody.

PC38/2006 – Access to Prison Establishments for Offender Managers