Inside Time Articles

Ryan Harman, PRT's advice and information service manager, writes a regular column for the prison newspaper Inside Time, you can read his articles here.

Approved Premises
01/04/2017 00:01:00 by Ryan Harman

This month we want to answer some common questions about a subject we get many calls about—Approved Premises.

Approved premises (AP) are premises approved under Section 13 of the Offender Management Act 2007. They provide intensive supervision for those who present a high or very high risk of serious harm.  They are mostly used for people on licence, but also accommodate small numbers of people on bail, community sentences or suspended sentences. As well as functioning as part of monitoring and risk management, they provide key workers and a programme of purposeful activity that is intended to help with reducing re-offending and reintegration into society.

Whilst staying in Approved Premises you will be asked to follow certain rules, including curfews, restrictions on visitors and taking part in activities. You will be expected to take a drug or alcohol test if staff ask you to and to allow staff to search your room and personal property. There is more about these rules and other information in the ‘Approved Premises manual’ which is annex A of Probation Instruction 32/2014.

PI 32/2014 Approved Premises contains guidelines for probation staff about making referrals, suggesting they are made sparingly and with careful consideration. They should consider the person’s risk of serious harm and how the placement would contribute to managing risk and reintegration back into the community. They should also think about which premises and location would be suitable.

Referrals to AP should always be for clear reasons and not used as a default for people considered high risk. You should only be referred if ‘it is clear that this level of monitoring and intensive activity are needed’. Alternatives which may also be able to manage risks and needs should always be explored, including curfews and electronic monitoring.

As placements are temporary and short term, your offender manager should consider if the expected benefits are realistic in a short time. Residents can be asked to leave at short notice if the space is needed and this can cause difficulties, so placing lower-risk offenders in APs is not ideal.

The PI particularly discourages unnecessary referrals for people on indeterminate sentences. It argues that release is usually based on their risk of harm having reduced to a level where it can be managed safely in the community, which generally means that they will be below the normal entry threshold for AP residence. It further makes the point that Indeterminate-sentence prisoners who have spent time in open conditions may find AP residence a backwards step, as the level of security and control can often be greater than in an open prison.  They may also already have experience of life back in the community through ROTL, which lessens the value AP residence.

Approved Premises can offer some benefits to resettlement, such as giving time and support to connect with local services to find accommodation or employment. However, if your local connections are to an area far away from the premises you are referred to, this benefit will be limited. Moving away from your local area can also disrupt continuity of care for both physical and mental health.  Alternatives arrangements may be more suitable in cases like these.

If your offender manager believes it necessary, they can include residing in Approved Premises as part of the residence conditions of your licence. Refusing to do so would be considered a breach of your licence and you could be recalled. There is more information in PSI 12/2015 Licence Conditions, Licences and Licence And Supervision Notices.

If you are aware that you are being referred to Approved Premises for your release and are not happy about it, it is worth contacting your offender manager to speak to them about it. If you are hoping to stay elsewhere, like returning to live with family or friends, you should explain why you think this would be better for your rehabilitation—for example if people that you will be living with or near will be able to offer support. If the Approved Premises you are being referred to is far away from your local area and will disrupt your employment or move on opportunities or access to healthcare you should make sure they are aware of this as well.

Even after you have shared your concerns with your offender manager, they can still decide to refer you to Approved Premises. If you do not feel that your offender manager is taking all aspects into account, or if you are struggling to make contact to discuss the issue, you may wish to make a complaint to your probation service.

You can contact the Prison Reform Trust’s advice team at FREEPOST ND6125 London EC1B 1PN. Our free information line is open Monday, Tuesday and Thursday 3.30-5.30. The number is 0808 802 0060 and does not need to be put on your pin.