Incentives and earned privileges

Each prison has an Incentives policy.

Prison staff will tell you which Incentive level you are on and if it changes. Your incentive level will say if there are extra things you can get or do.

This used to be called Incentives and Earned Privileges or ‘IEP’ and you may still hear it called this.

What is my Incentive level based on?

Your Incentive level depends on whether you:

  • ·         keep to the rules
  • ·         take part in work and other activities
  • ·         show a commitment to your rehabilitation
  • ·         help other prisoners or staff

What incentives are available?

If you follow the rules and do good things for yourself in prison you may be able to do things like:

  • ·         spend more of your money
  • ·         get more visits from your family and friends
  • ·         earn more money
  • ·         have a TV in your cell
  • ·         wear your own clothes
  • ·         spend more time outside of your cell.

You can also have these things taken away from you if you do not follow the rules.

The extra things you can have or do are different in each prison. You can ask the prison you are in for the local policy to find out more.

What are the different Incentive levels?

There are currently three main Incentive levels. The Incentives Policy Framework includes definitions for the different incentives levels, as follows:

Basic level

Basic level is for those prisoners who have not abided by the behaviour principles. To be considered suitable for progression from Basic, prisoners are expected to adequately abide by them.

If you are on ‘Basic’ level it means you can only have certain things that the law says you must have, like some letters and visits. You will not be allowed anything extra.

Standard level

Standard level is for those prisoners who adequately abide by the behaviour principles, demonstrating the types of behaviour required.

This means you may be allowed more visits and letters. You may be allowed to have a TV in your cell and to spend more of your money.

Enhanced level

Enhanced level is for those prisoners who exceed Standard level by abiding by the behaviour principles and demonstrating the required types of behaviour to a consistently high standard, including good attendance and attitude at activities and education/work and interventions.

If you are ‘Enhanced’ it means you can have even more extra things. For example, you may be allowed to wear your own clothes, have more visits, a TV in your cell, or to spend more of your money.

Governors can decide what the ‘behaviour principles’ are for each prison. Annex A of the Policy Framework gives some examples of what these might be:

  • ·         Be respectful to staff and other prisoners
  • ·         Comply with rules and compacts
  • ·         Make progress on personal goals and on your sentence plan.
  • ·         Refrain from using drugs and alcohol

Governors can also have extra Incentive levels above Enhanced level and can decide what the criteria is for these.

They cannot create any additional levels below Enhanced level.

How often should my Incentive level be reviewed?

If you are on Basic level this should be reviewed after the first 7 days and then at least every 28 days after that. If someone is identified as at risk of self-harm or suicide, or are a young person, then the review should be at least every 14 days.

If you are on Standard level or above your incentive level should be reviewed at least every once per year.

Your Incentive level can also be reviewed if something serious happens and the prison thinks your Incentive level may need to change.

Governors can decide how long it should be between incentive level reviews and what will trigger a review.

What should happen when my Incentive level is reviewed?

For your review feedback should be requested from across the prison including;

  • ·         education and workshop staff
  • ·         reports from any treatment programmes which have been completed
  • ·         and other staff who know you well.

You must be given the opportunity to make your case in the review process.

You should also have the outcome and reasons explained to you.

What are commendations and warnings?

The prison you are in may use ‘commendations’ and ‘warnings’ in their Incentives scheme.

If prison staff think you have behaved well they may give you a commendation.

If prison staff think you have behaved badly they may give you a warning.

It is up to the Governor of each prison to decide how many commendations or warnings will lead to a review of someone’s Incentive level.

You can ask to see a copy of the local policy at your prison to find out more about this.

Will my Incentive level change if I am transferred?

If you are transferred to another prison you should keep the Incentive level that you had before, if the same level exists at the new prison.

If the receiving prison does not have the same Incentive level, you should be given the Incentive level closest to the one that you were on.

Can I have my Incentive level reduced as well as be given an adjudication?

The Incentive scheme is not part of the disciplinary system and so is separate to the adjudications process.

If the prison thinks there is good reason to, they can decide to give you an adjudication as well as review your Incentive level. However, the overall response should not be disproportionate.

If you have been downgraded for an incident that is later quashed, dismissed or not proceeded with at adjudication then the prison should review your Incentive level. If this does not happen then you may want to appeal your Incentive level, or make an internal complaint.

Can I appeal my Incentive level?

There should be a way to appeal decisions about your Incentive level. You should be told how you can do this when you are told about the outcome of your review.

Your appeal should be looked at by a more senior member of staff than the person who made the initial decision.


Further information

The following may be of interest to you. If you are unable to access them elsewhere feel free to contact our Advice and Information Service and we will be happy to send you a copy.


Useful PSIs and PSOs (these should be available in the library):

Incentives Policy Framework

Prisoner Complaints Policy Framework


PRT Information sheets

Making a complaint in prison

Property in prison

Money in prison



PAS information sheet on ‘Incentives and Earned Privilege Scheme (IEPS)

For a print-ready version of this information, click here.