The Ministry of Justice has announced the launch of a consultation from September 3rd - 30th on the new Earned Incentives and Privileges policy. This framework would allow prison governors to design a programme of incentives that is tailored to the specific challenges of each prison, as many consider the current incentives system to not be as effective as it could be due to lack of flexibility.
“Those who behave well and engage in meaningful activities such as education and employment programmes could receive privileges such as more time in the gym or additional visits.” – Ministry of Justice
Research in the field of applied behaviour analysis shows that positive reinforcement – adding a positive consequence to one’s actions – is much more effective at shaping behaviour than punishment which removes something as a consequence. This ties into token economy programmes, which are systems of contingency management that reinforce targeted behaviour (such as good behaviour and programme engagement) with positive reinforcers (such as incentives and privileges).
Within this new framework, governors would be able to offer the most effective positive reinforcers for their prisons and also be able to remove prisoners’ privileges due to poor behaviour or refusal to engage in the programmes.
“Prisons must be places of safety, decency and purposeful activity to turn around the lives of those in custody.
This new framework will give governors the tools to set clear behavioural standards for offenders under their watch, and the consequences should these not be met.” – Prisons Minister Rory Stewart
The new system will have 3 privilege levels: basic, standard and enhanced. The previous system also had an ‘entry level’ but this will be removed as it penalises prisoners who are new which had been setting up an adversarial relationship with staff from the beginning of their sentences.