The chief executive of the Parole Board has applauded staff for their work in cutting a backlog of outstanding cases by almost 40% over the past two years.
Martin Jones said the board, which carries out risk assessments on prisoners to determine whether they are safe for release back into the community, had cut its backlog of outstanding cases from a peak of 3,163 in January 2015 to 1,931 as of the end of last month.
In an update marking his first year as chief executive, initially on an interim basis, Jones said the Parole Board’s “number one priority” was reducing the backlog further.
“We have made real progress,” he said.
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“I am grateful to all members and staff at the board for their continued dedication and hard work in achieving this.
“We are now well over half-way to our target of reducing the number of cases to 1,200 by the end of 2017.”
Despite the Parole Board’s headline figure, its year-on-year reduction is closer to 20% as figures in the independent body’s most recent annual report suggest it had just under 2,500 outstanding cases in November 2015.
Jones’s statement said that the board had recently appointed of a “record number” of 104 new members and that a comprehensive training and mentoring programme for them had already begun.
Andrew Nielson, director of campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform, said the Parole Board’s progress was good news but no cause for complacency.
“We welcome the progress made by the Parole Board in reducing the backlog of cases and speeding up a process that was facing huge challenges and contributing to the overcrowding crisis in prisons,” he said.
“Those challenges are still real but the recruitment of new Parole Board members should help Martin Jones and his chair Nick Hardwick further reduce the backlog in 2017.
“We would also support further reforms to give prisoners more opportunities to earn their release.
“It is simply unacceptable that people can spend months or even years of additional time in prison simply due to administrative delay.”