Prison governors are set to gain greater freedom to design incentive and earned privileges programmes to improve prisoners’ conduct.
A consultation will run this month on how to shape programmes in which prisoners can both earned and lose privileges in whatever context a governor thinks best suited to their prison.
Prisons minister Rory Stewart said: “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.
“Research on behaviour change shows positive reinforcement is much more effective at shaping behaviour than punishment and, while sometimes necessary, punishment alone does not effectively change behaviour”.
He said governors at present had too little flexibility to tailor privileges to their cohort of prisoners.
Stewart said: “We are therefore providing governors with more freedom to design their incentive scheme to take account of the local needs of their prison population and the facilities available in their prison.”
Good behaviour would mean prisoners could receive privileges such as additional visits or time spent outside their cell, though misconduct could see such privileges removed with governors having discretion as how prisoners move between levels of privileges.
Governors would though be limited by national standards barring, for example, provision of pay television channels.
This is the latest in a number of reform from the Ministry of Justice since David Gauke became secretary of state earlier this year.
In July he moved to end the controversial outsourcing of probation to 21 private companies, while the department has also proposed a five-year pay deal for staff, although this has been rejected by unions.