By Mark Leech
Editor of The Prison Oracle
THE PRISON ORACLE: BACK STORY
I once had a dream – well two dreams really, but I’ll come to the second in a moment.
The first ‘dream’ started life 30 years ago, sitting in the large caged Reception cubicle at Wandsworth prison in south London, I was waiting for my prison escort to arrive to take me to Parkhurst Prison on the Isle of Wight – a journey that was destined to end in the highest court in the United Kingdom and change British prison law forever, but that’s another story.
It was in that caged Wandsworth Prison cubicle that day that I found myself surrounded by a mixture of prisoners who had just arrived at Wandsworth and others, like myself, who were lucky enough to be leaving.
Minding my own business I sat and listened to the questions that went back and forth between the concerns of the worried new arrivals and the old-hand Norman Stanley Fletcher replies of those like myself who couldn’t wait to get out of there.
What’s it like here? What are the visits like? Is there any work available, and what are the wages like? What are the cells like? What about the food? Is it true they have a painting and decorating course? What’s the doctor like? Can I see a dentist while I’m here, and is there a waiting list?
These of course were exactly the same questions I had asked when I arrived at Wandsworth six months before – and they were exactly the same questions I would be asking again later that day when I arrived at Parkhurst .
Suddenly a penny dropped: I wonder if there’s a book that gives details about every prison and what it has to offer?
During the journey that afternoon to Parkhurst Prison I asked the Prison Officer I was shackled to: “Is there a reference book on Prisons?”
“No” came the terse reply, in a way that made it clear questions were not invited and comments were equally unwelcome.
Secretly though, right there and then, I decided that I was going to write that book.
“You’re going to write a book on Prisons Leech?!”
The Parkhurst Wing Governor laughed and shook his head in disbelief as I told him of my plan during my Induction Interview a few days later.
Well today, 22 annual editions later, ‘that book’ – The Prisons Handbook – has become the 1,600-page definitive annual reference book on the prison system of England and Wales that is sold all over the world.
One dream delivered – and now let me tell how how the second one was born; this web site.
In May 2018, having spent hours on the internet trying to locate a copy of The Woolf Report for some research I was doing, and having had to give up exasperated at my inability to find it, I had another dream.
One place, where everything on prisons was brought together, that was user-friendly, time-saving, comprehensive, totally independent, and where full access cost less than a cup of coffee a week; The Prison Oracle was born.
Fifteen months later, in October 2019, the dream became reality when The Prison Oracle opened its cyber doors and won outstanding reviews from those who have spent a lifetime working and living in prisons.
Today, almost a year later, The Prison Oracle has over 10,000 members, it covers 44,000 pages, it employs over a dozen ex offender page editors who keep the site up to date – and yes it contains a copy of The Woolf Report, along with almost every other valuable and vintage publication on prisons going right back to The State of The Prisons published by John Howard in 1777.
What’s on The Prison Oracle?
The Prison Oracle is the definitive prisons web site for prisons in England and Wales – now with over 10,000 members it is updated daily and gives you access to 44,000 pages, including the most comprehensive, up-to-date information on every single one of the 118 Prisons and Young Offender Institutions in England and Wales – check out an example prison page here – including the latest IMB and HMIP Inspection Reports, fatal incident reports on those who have died in this prison – all immediately on publication – and in addition you get all this too….
26 separate sections that span reception right through to release covering…
- Early Days in Custody
- Offending Behaviour Programmes
- Criminal Cases Review Commission
- Requests and Complaints
- Prisoner Communications
- Drugs and Alcohol in Prison Institutions
- The Prison Disciplinary System
- Support – Who Can Help?
- Equality Age, Gender, Disability & Race
- Social Security and Discharge Grants
- Release and Recall
- Indeterminate Sentences
- Women Prisoners
- Young Offenders (18-21 year olds)
- Young People (15-17 year olds)
- Foreign Nationals
- Disability in Prison
- Employment, Training & Skills
- Work and Pay
- Incentives and Earned Privileges
- Civil Partnerships & Equal Marriage
- Elderly Prisoners
- Security categorisation
THE VIEW FROM HERE: EXPERT ARTICLES & OPINION
- TACT Offenders: Where we must go from here
- Exit Ahead: Do you know how vital Exits are to spot and not ignore?
- Full ‘Bombshell’ Speech: Expecting Prisons to Reduce Crime is a Pipedream says Former Prisons Chief
- Strangeways: The Day The Roof Blew off – 30 years later why are we risking it again?
- Striking: The Right Balance
- POA Fined £210,000: It’s Time Now for a Real Fresh Start
- Asking Prisons to Reduce Crime is like asking A&E Departments to Reduce Road Accidents – then Blaming Doctors when Cars Continue to Crash
- Prisons Ombudsman – 4th edition of The Investigator: “she’s doing her best, bless her”
- Can ‘Cell Confessions’ Ever Be Beyond Reasonable Doubt?
- ‘Discharged: Dead’ – Deaths in Custody and the Scandal of Ignorance
- Watching The Prison Watchdogs
- The Government’s Plans for Competition in Prisons
- Helen’s Law: What happens when Juries believe a liar?
- Using your Right to Know – How to make Freedom of Information Requests
This Section is about prison staff, how to join, prepare for interview, go through training, details of the Prison Officer Entry level Training (POELT) Course, and for those who wish to advance we set out details of the Senior Leaders Scheme and what is required for a Band 3 Prison Officer to rise through each of the ranks to become a Band 11 Governing Governor.
Full details of independent ‘Watchdog’ organisations that have a duty to Inspect and Monitor prisons and probation, Resolve prisoner issues, or inspect and report on other aspects of the criminal justice system – and with instant access to all their past reports and future ones as soon as they become available. These Watchdogs include….
Criminal Justice Joint Inspections – over 200 Joint Inspection Reports, from 2000 to 2019
HM CPS Inspectorate – Crown Prosecution Inspectorate and all their inspection reports
IMB – over 1,00 Independent Monitoring Board Annual Reports on every prison and YOI in the country, from 2009 to 2020, divided into easily accessible sections
- IMB Annual Reports 2020
- Quarterly IMB Annual Reports Summary
- IMB Annual Reports Full Database
- IMB Annual Reports 2019
- IMB Annual Reports 2018
- IMB Annual Reports 2017
- IMB Annual Reports 2016
- IMB Annual Reports 2015
- IMB Annual Reports 2014
- IMB Annual Reports 2013
- IMB Annual Reports 2012
- IMB Annual Reports 2011
- IMB Annual Reports 2010
NAO – National Audit Office reports on prisons – from 2000 to the present day
NPM – Key Documents and details of all 21 statutory organisations that make up the National Preventive Mechanism
PPO – over 2,200 death in custody reports, listed by establishment and name of the deceased from 2007 to 2019 – you won’t find this anywhere else
HM Prisons Inspectorate – over 800 prison and YOI inspection reports- and their Thematic reviews too, from 2005 to 2019
HM Probation Inspectorate – over 1,500 Probation Inspectorate reports – and their Thematic Reviews too
Breaking News on prisons as it happens with daily emails that keep you right up to date along with the latest Rules, Reports & Policies as they are issued
PRISONERS & THE LAW 2020
The law relating to prisoners is highly complex and in this Covid19 period they are changing daily. Prisoners’ rights depend to a large part on their status as remand or convicted prisoners, as adults or young offenders, whether they are male or female – or transgendered – and that is without considering their sentence length or security categorisation.
This section examines prisoners and the law giving you instant access to 400 Prison Law subjects, in A-Z format from ‘Access to Justice’ to ‘Zoonotic Infections, and instant access to over 1,400 court judgments in legal cases brought both by prisoners and officers.
CRIMINAL CASES REVIEW COMMISSION DATABASE
Fed up with searching for CCRC cases referred to the Court of Appeal, the case details, why they were referred and the outcome of the case? Well now you don’t have to – it’s all here on our full CCRC Database of over 400 cases.
PARLIAMENTARY JUSTICE SELECT COMMITTEE
Containing almost 1,000 Published Reports and Evidential Correspondence from the Parliamentary Justice Select Committee, from Parliamentary Sessions 2019-2020 for every year right back to 2002-2003
PRESS RELEASE DATABASE
Containing Press Releases issued by
G4S – the private prison company going back to 2009
HM Prison & Probation Service going back to 2014
Ministry of Justice – over 1,500 press releases, going back to 2009, a decade of News items, Appointments, Speeches and Publications – each split into their own section
Parole Board – this now has all Parole Board press releases going back to 2013
Prisons & Probation Ombudsman – containing almost 100 ‘Learning Lessons Bulletins’ and Media releases, and our PPO Deaths in Custody Database carries over 2,300 of the PPO’s Fatal Incident Reports, set out by year, and by individual establishment, and by the name of the deceased – something you do not get anywhere else.
Probation Inspectorate – over 640 press releases, from 2013 to the present day
Serco – press release by the private prison company Serco
Sodexo – press release by the private prison company Sodexo
FACTS & FIGURES 2019/2020
1,300 Individual Prison Monitoring Reports
900 Prison Inspection Reports
2,400 Death in Custody Investigations
6,000 Parliamentary Questions & Answers on prisons
4000 Freedom of Information releases on Prisons
Annual Reports from 2005 to the presetn day from:
Ministry of Justice
HM Prison & Probation Service (NOMS pre-2017)
HM Prisons Inspectorate
HM Probation Inspectorate
The Parole Board
The Prisons & Probation Ombudsman
Independent Monitoring Board (National)
National Preventive Mechanism
Government Facility Services Ltd
Instant access to Statutory Inspectorate Databases
Criminal Justice Joint Inspection Reports Database
HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate
HMCPSI Reports Database
HMCPSI Thematic Reviews
Independent Monitoring Boards
IMB Annual Reports Database
Prisons and Probation Ombudsman
Deaths in Custody Full Reports Database
All Deaths listed by Establishment
Deaths in Custody 1990-2019 Table
Deaths in Custody This Month
Deaths in Custody 2019
Deaths in Custody 2018
Deaths in Custody 2017
Deaths in Custody 2016
Deaths in Custody 2015
Deaths in Custody 2014
Prison Service Instructions – 1997-current
Prison Service Orders 1997-current
Ministry of Justice Policy Frameworks 2019 to the present day
HM.Prisons Inspectorate Reports 2005-current
HM.Probation Inspectorate Reports 2005-current
Statutory Corporate Reports
Annual Prison Staff Equalities Reports 2013-current
Annual Prison Statistics Digests 2013-current
Public Protection Annual Reports 2013-current
Prison Service Specifications 2013-current
Offender Management Statistics 2010-current
Prison Estate Transformation Programme (PETP)
Prison Population 2010-current
Research Briefings 2012-current
Safety in Custody Quarterly Bulletins 2013-current
Workforce Quarterly Bulletins 2013-current
Youth Justice Reports 2012-current
CONVERSE the largest circulation national monthly prisons newspaper, and the only one edited and published 100% by reformed offenders is available online to Enhanced and Corporate subscribers of The Prison Oracle
INSTRUCTIONS, ORDER AND POLICY FRAMEWORKS
Instant access to over 300 Prison Service Instructions, Orders, and Policy Frameworks that are currently in force – other sites that show these are rarely kept right up to date, showing rules and regulations that are no longer in force – whereas ours is updated daily
RESEARCH REPORTS & VINTAGE PUBLICATIONS
Instant access to valuable research publications:
The State of The Prisons: John Howard (1777)
Prison Commissioners: First 20 years, 4,500 pages of the origins of the modern prison system
Prison Commissioners Database
English Prisons Today 1922
English Prisons Under Local Government 1922
The Du Parcq Report 1932
The Mountbatten Report 1966
The Radzinowicz Report 1968
The May Report 1979
The Woolf Report 1991
The Wymott Prison Riot 1993
The Woodcock Report 1995
The Learmont Report 1994
The Carter Report 2003
The Corston Report 2007
The IMB Karen Page Report 2014
The Harris Review Report 2015
The Farmer Report For Men – Family Ties 2017
The Farmer Report for Women – Family Ties 2019
Farmer Report Update October 2019
List of current Governors for all prisons and YOIs
PERSONAL INJURY IN PRISON
Expert explanation by Michael Jefferies, solicitor and Chairman of the Prison Injury Lawyers Association on the rights and routes to claim compensation for personal injury sustained in prison where the injury was caused by no fault of the person injured.