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Corrections and Rehabilitation – Prisoner Pay


Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Monday, 5 June 2023

Tags: Prisons, State Budget, Corrections

Dr WOODRUFF - Thank you very much. I have a recommendation from 2018, from the Custodial Inspector, who noted that the prisoner pay scale at that point had not changed for 11 years since 2017. The inspector recommended it be adjusted to at least account for changes in the CPI. In the inspector's 2021- 22 annual report, he noted that the department still had not made any changes, but was increasing the cost of canteen items. Why have you ignored that recommendation?

Ms ARCHER - I will ask Tristan Bell to come to the table - Assistant Director of Engagement; a position specifically created to engage with the Custodial Inspector to tick off recommendations. I am not sure if he can talk to that specific one; but perhaps he could start with a general description of what his job entails before he embarks on a specific answer.

Mr BELL - One of the core functions of my role is to provide a point of contact for the Custodial Inspector within the prison. That is a role that has relatively recently been created to provide a direct opportunity for the Custodial Inspector to engage with us, as a prison service. Essentially, that allows for a greater flow of information between the prison service and the Custodial Inspector. It also allows for them to raise things on a more informal basis and to address things in a more timely manner. That role has been in place for the last two years, and feedback from the Custodial Inspector is that it has been of benefit to them.

In relation to the specific question, I can say that is currently under active consideration. It is one of the recommendations that is currently being worked on, as to whether a pay increase will be allowed and it is certainly something that is being considered within the prison service now.

Dr WOODRUFF - That doesn't give me any confidence that something is going to be done. It could have been looked at actively over the past 11 years and still nothing happened. Do you have a time line on when you will make a decision about this, and how much it would be.?

Ms ARCHER - I will address that, because it is a bit negative and loaded and I do not want staff in the department to have that directed at them.

Dr WOODRUFF - It has been five years since the recommendation.

Ms ARCHER - Mr Bell has confirmed is that it is under consideration and being looked at. I can undertake to look at that. As you know, that hasn't been in place in this Budget but I can certainly give it further consideration in future budgets.

Dr WOODRUFF - I apologise to Mr Bell; but you are right, that question was to you. Will you commit to not increasing any costs in the canteen while you make that decision?

Ms ARCHER - I have no control over what happens in the canteen so I can't commit to anything. I certainly can't control suppliers to the canteen if they increase their costs.

Dr WOODRUFF - It's manifestly unfair, isn't it?

Ms ARCHER - I have no control over prices and that sort of thing. What we said we'll do is look at it. I can't give any sort of undertakings or commitments about prices of various goods. All I can say is I hope that unreasonable increases aren't made in the canteen costs. It's not something that I have direct control over.

Dr WOODRUFF - Why not? Why don't we control things like that in the prison?

Ms ARCHER - Because items that are supplied to the canteen, we have no control over the costs.

Dr WOODRUFF - People have no capacity to purchase anywhere else.

Ms ARCHER - Dr Woodruff, I've answered the question. I have no control over the cost of Samboy chips or otherwise, which is something purchased in bulk. I've seen some inmates go and get quite a substantial number of packets at a time.

Dr WOODRUFF - You could subsidise price increases. You could suck up the CPI until you make a decision about giving them a fair amount each week.

Ms ARCHER - I've said I have no control over prices.