Thursday, 8 January 2015

Going on a Townie: Day Release from Cat-D

One of the main differences between closed prisons and Cat-Ds (open nicks) is the opportunity for at least some prisoners to experience Release on Temporary Licence (ROTL). I’ve had a few questions from readers about ROTL, so I thought that this would be a good subject for a blog post.

Cat-D: no more locked gates
Not all prisoners who make it to open conditions will get ROTL, which – as we are constantly reminded – is a privilege, not an entitlement. The idea behind temporary release is to allow prisoners who have been inside for a lengthy stretch the chance to start the slow process of acclimatising themselves to the outside world again, as well as giving inmates who have made the journey through the various security categories of closed prisons to a Cat-D the chance to demonstrate that they can behave like normal, law-abiding citizens.

Broadly speaking ROTL comes in two main varieties: Resettlement Day Release (RDR) and Resettlement Overnight Release (ROR). I’ve written a little about ROR (‘home leave’) in my recent posts on coming home for temporary leave at Christmas. However, I haven’t yet shared my own experiences of RDR or ‘townies’, as many cons call them.

When I was eventually granted my Cat-D status – after quite a long process of applications and appeals – I still had to wait for around six weeks before I was offered a place at the nearest open nick. That was actually pretty good going as I’ve know lads wait many months for a transfer since Cat-D jails are short of available spaces.

Shortly after my arrival at the new prison I was granted Special Purpose Leave (SPL) to go into the local town, along with a couple of fellow cons and a senior officer. Three were lifers, while the other lad and I were fixed-termers. To be honest, we were pretty much left to our own devices for a couple of hours.

No more handcuffs
Going into town in a normal vehicle was a very strange experience, even after having only been in jail for less than two years. I had become accustomed to travelling between nicks in a ‘sweatbox’ (prison van), locked into a tiny cubicle, handcuffed and dressed in prison clothing. My only glimpses of the outside world had been from the small tinted window of the van. Now I was sitting in a people carrier being driven into the local town by an officer in civvy clothing and behaving like a ‘normal’ person again.

We walked around the town – which was one I’d never visited previously – and had a coffee. I think that it was getting used to crowds in shops and dealing with the busy traffic that I found most difficult. Imagine if it had that effect on me after my relatively short period of incarceration, what it must be like for a lifer who has been in a closed prison for 20 years or more?

The magic 'ROTL 7' licence to go on temporary leave
At one point we all split up and arranged to meet near the town war memorial. As I walked up the road, I reflected that this was my first moment of actual freedom: no screws, no other cons, no locked gates… just an anonymous member of the public strolling through a small market town. Other than my prison ID card in my pocket, there was nothing that would have given the game away – that I was actually still a serving prisoner who would be back in prison within a couple of hours.

Was I tempted to do a runner? Well, I think that every con, at some stage, must fantastise about seeing an open gate. Human beings are not made to be locked up in small boxes and many prisoners do think about escape. However, if such a stupid idea did cross my mind momentarily while I was out in town on my own, that was where it very definitely stayed.

HMP Kirkham: open gate at Cat-D
The consequences of absconding, either from the prison (which had no fences) or while on ROTL would have been devastating: the certainty of an immediate manhunt by police, accompanied by media coverage and then recapture, transfer to a Cat-B prison on ‘escapee’ status (wearing a green and yellow patch clown suit for months – or even the rest of my sentence) and no chance of ever getting a lower security category again.

To be honest, I was still a little nervous as I waited at the meeting point. What if the others failed to turn up? Fortunately, nothing went awry and after some more tourism and a bit of shopping we went back to the nick. All very painless, really. Of course, the fact that I’d had a successful accompanied ROTL in town stood me in very good stead for the rest of my prison stretch.

Following that first day out, I had to wait about another three months before I finally got my first unaccompanied day release. I’d applied almost as soon as I arrived in the Cat-D jail, but the processing of my application was delayed because my offender supervisor (inside probation) was on extended leave. This particular open nick has serious problems with staffing its Offender Management Unit (OMU), so there was no cover available to deal with his caseload while he was off work.

Eventually, however, my application was processed and I received the memorandum from OMU calling me to attend a ROTL Board. This is a bit like an inquisition during which a governor grade and your offender supervisor cross-examine you about why you have applied for temporary leave. They also ask questions about how you would cope with certain stressful situations while out of the prison. A few days later I had a note via the internal post – a ROTL 5 form – informing me that my application had been successful and I had been approved for my first townie.

Notification of a ROTL Board from OMU
Going out on my own for the day was a very interesting experience. I picked up my paper licence from the OMU and signed out at the gatehouse. The prison laid on a unmarked minibus to ferry us into town – about a 20 minute trip – and dropped us off in a car park. We were then free to spend the rest of the day as we wanted. I visited the local library, did some shopping (back then we were still allowed to buy certain items while on ROTL, such as clothing, books, DVDs and CDs as long as we had a signed reception application with us).

Sandwiches in the park
As it was summer, a couple of us bought some lunch and sat in the sun in the local park. It was an amazing experience to have choices again: what to eat from lunch, what to buy in a shop. Of course, we had to ensure that we behaved like law-abiding citizens, although that wasn’t a problem for any of us.

To be honest, although ‘townies’ were welcome breaks from the dreary routine of prison life, they weren’t essential for me personally. I’d not been away for all that long (some of my fellow cons had been in jail for 20 or even 30 years), so even if my application had been rejected, it wouldn’t have altered the fact that as a fixed-termer, I’d be going home eventually. However, for the lifers these day trips were absolutely essential.

As I’ve mentioned in other posts about open prisons, about half of those who make it to Cat-D will be serving indeterminate sentences – either life or an Indeterminate Sentence for Public Protection (IPP). In both cases, their eventual release will depend entirely on a recommendation by the Parole Board which will be looking for evidence of manageable risk if the prisoner is released back into the community on licence.

Standard ROTL licence conditions
A major element of risk assessment is the readiness of the individual to abide by his or her licence conditions and to steer clear of committing any further offences. It also includes an analysis of potentially risky behaviours – including use of drugs and alcohol – or behaving in a way that might give rise to recall to prison. Making such judgement calls can be highly subjective and it can be very difficult for Parole Board members to reach fair decisions unless there is some evidence to consider.

In a closed prison inmates’ behaviour is closely controlled. They often spend a considerable proportion of their day locked behind a heavy steel door. However, as anyone with experience of the prison system will know all too well, good behaviour in custody does not necessarily mean that a prisoner will behave well when freed from these constraints. So before important decisions about granting parole can be made, there needs to be a degree of risk-taking by the prison authorities and that is where Cat-D nicks are important.

In recent years, the process of allowing prisoners in open prisons to access ROTL has been tightened up. What often used to be an almost automatic rubber-stamping of applications has now become a complex process that can involve regular psychological assessments and constant risk management, particularly when it concerns prisoners who are considered to present a high risk of harm should they reoffend. Following a small number of very high profile ‘ROTL failures’ in 2012 and 2013, the government intervened and in August introduced temporary new rules for granting ROTL.

Consequences of ROTL failure
Now, it is also important to put the issue of these ROTL failures into context. According to data compiled by the Prison Governors’Association (PGA), ROTL was granted on 485,000 separate occasions during 2012. Incidents involving further offences being committed amount to no more than five in every 100,000 ROTLs (or 0.005%). In pretty much any other public service a successful level of delivery like that would be trumpeted from the rooftops by the politicians responsible. Sadly, not when it comes to our prisons.

In fact, many ROTL failures are more to do with arriving back late. This can be caused by transport delays, traffic problems or other mundane hitches, rather than actual absconding or because a prisoner on leave has committed new offences.

Whenever there has been some incident of a con absconding on a temporary licence or committing some new offence the tabloid media seems to have a feeding frenzy demanding that ROTL be stopped or cut back. In fact, the new ROTL guidance issued by the Ministry of Justice effectively prohibits temporary release – or even Cat-D status – for any prisoner who has previously attempted to escape or abscond, or even arrived back late at the gate when on ROTL – for which he or she will already have been punished at an adjudication.

Trying to make a silk purse...
This presents a serious potential barrier to release for any lifer or IPP who is barred from being granted ROTL. It also makes the work of the Parole Board much harder since it reduces the evidence that they will have to consider when it comes to manageable risk. In practice it is likely to mean that lifers and IPPs will spend many more years inside than they would have prior to the latest ideologically-motivated meddling by Chris Grayling and his desk-jockeys at Petty France... and all at the taxpayers’ expense, as usual.

I foresee that we will have all manner of costly legal challenges to the new ROTL policy, as we have with all sorts of previous knee-jerk reactions in our criminal justice system. However – as with all the other disasters and rebuffs Team Grayling have experienced in the Court of Appeal and the High Court in recent months – I doubt if Calamity Chris will allow the question of lawfulness, or indeed the rule of law, to get in the way of a quick headline in the Daily Mail.


  1. Ahhh ROTL! Have to say the town visits I had were extremely anticlimactic. Stuck in Kent where I knew no one and had no money to go anywhere or do anything due to the pitiful wages paid by ESP and no recourse to private funds it was a frustrating experience. You spent most of your weekly wages simply getting on a bus and can barely afford a coffee when you got off the bus let alone lunch so you went hungry because they didn't give you a packed lunch if you went out on a town visit and it also meant that you ended up not being able to order canteen that week either because all your money had gone on the bus fare. Then you got interrogated by staff and almost strip searched when you got back in case you were sneaking in contraband which you weren't because you couldn't afford to buy any anyway. It got to the point where it seemed like a huge waste of time and money to even bother. I can see its importance for lifers and IPPs but unless you have family nearby and money to spend and you're a determinate sentenced prisoner of relatively short duration (i.e. under 5 years), I can't see the point of wandering aimlessly and pennilessly round a strange town every week for a few hours. But that's just my ten cents worth. I also didn't find it any kind of readjustment as it just seemed like a normal Saturday before I got incarcerated except for the lack of money. Maybe because I found the whole experience of prison so farcical and unreal.

    I had a harder time adjusting to the being banged up, talked down to and treated as a stupid child.

    I've found adjusting to life on the outside relatively easy apart from the discrimination heaped on anyone with any kind of criminal record. I've always worked on the premise that you shouldn't judge people until you've walked a mile in their shoes because you have no idea what led them to make a dumb mistake or to do something out of character or maybe they were even accused and convicted of something they didn't do. Everyone on this planet is capable of committing heinous crimes in the right set of circumstances as examples throughout history are very clear (Nazi Germany anyone?) so anyone who sits they trying to claim that they would never be commit a crime is deluding themselves because they will if the circumstances are right.

    The whole Ched Evans thing is fascinating on one level as it smacks so much of a baying crowd out for blood. Yes he was convicted of a horrible crime but he maintains innocence as he is entitled to do and we all know that there are a significant number of people who do get accused of crimes they didn't commit thanks to our judicial system. But he's served his time and should be able to go back to his career which is not a "protected" one such as a teacher etc otherwise rehabilitation is simply never going to be an option for anyone coming out of prison if this mob rule prevails.

    Sorry, got off topic!

    1. Thanks for sharing your own experiences of ROTL. I share your view of the problems of going on townies without any money. In fact, for those of our fellow con whose offences involved shoplifting and thievery of various types, I always thought that sending them into town without a bean was just asking for trouble!

      I think pretty much all prisoners can relate to your own experiences of being banged up and talked down to, as if we were kids. Forget the strip searches and other minor inconveniences - it's the regression to childhood that is the really humiliating aspect of incarceration.

      For fixed-termers, especially those of us who served relatively short sentences, readjusting to life outside is not usually too difficult - at least when compared to lifers or IPPs, of for those who have served many years inside. To be honest, some lads I know who've been released are finding the reintegration more difficult than the actual prison time, especially with all the discrimination by employers, insurers etc.

      I've dealt in several previous posts with the difficulties of maintaining innocence following a wrongful conviction. I think the Ched Evans case does have wider relevance to rehabilitation and resettlement generally, but I'll cover that issue in a future post!

    2. I always find it odd that if you treat people as stupid irresponsible children you will get stupid irresponsible children in response. Treat people as if they are responsible adults as most people will step up to the plate and act like responsible adults. Not sure why, if HMPS wants people to turn their lives around as they claim and get people to accept responsibility for their crimes etc that they don't realise the hypocrisy in treating people as stupid children and taking away all autonomy whilst someone is incarcerated is in any way going to teach anyone how to accept and take responsibility for their choices and actions which is allegedly what prison is supposed to be all about.

      It does seem to me that it is harder to be released from prison and have to deal with all the negativity and hysteria that surrounds people having any contact with an ex offender even someone who has spent time in jail for failing to pay council tax or their TV licence than it is to be banged up in the first place for determinate sentenced prisoners. If you want people to stop committing crime and lead a straight life you have to be willing to let them do that. They had Harry Redknap on the TV last night in relation to Ched Evans saying that even if Evans went to work in a supermarket there would no doubt be petitions raised to complain about that as people seemed determined not to let Evans resume any kind of normal life ever again. And the fact that you have been convicted of a crime does not mean you are guilty of that crime so why should anyone accept responsibility for something they didn't do? Where's the justice in that? Not to mention the hypocrisy of refusing to acknowledge that the judicial system is highly flawed and often makes mistakes due to laziness, incompetence or crookedness.

    3. Thanks for your contributions. I have often reflected that a significant number of male prisoners do have some very immature attitudes. In part, this can probably be attributed to a lack of positive male role models from an early age, at least in many cases. A fair number remain stuck in the role of 'class clowns' or 'man-boys' who haven't grown up simply because they've never learned what it really means to be a man: taking responsibility for their own actions; having will-power and not following the herd, as well as being aware of the needs and rights of other people.

      At the same time, it follows that you are quite right when you refer above to the negative outcomes of treating adults as "stupid irresponsible children". Some prisoners (and to be honest a few members of prison staff) do behave like that, but unless they are provided with real role models, all that treating them like kids will do is reinforce the selfish, petulant attitudes of childhood when they really do need to be helped to face up to adult responsibilities. That is just one of the ways in which our current prison system fails our society.

      The ongoing hysteria about criminality and prisoners is largely media-fuelled, but is also carefully cultivated by most of our political class. I believe that there is a tendency to manipulate the general public (and voters in particular) into believing that the fabric of British society is constantly threatened by a 'rising tide' of criminality, when in reality all the evidence shows that the overall crime figures are actually falling, despite the recession.

      The fact is that children - for example - are most at risk in their own homes, from members of their extended families or people who work with them in official capacities, rather than from strangers lurking around in parks. However, this is not the message that politicians want to promote. They prefer to play on, and manipulate, people's deepest and darkest fears in order to justify ever-greater control over everyday life.

      Far more people die every year in the UK due to road traffic accidents or swimming than from terrorism, yet we are constantly being lectured about the need for increasing spending on security, on mass surveillance, on draconian new legislation and so on - all of which costs enormous amounts of public money. Again this is all part of a wider agenda of fear and control that is carefully cultivated for purely political reasons.

      I've blogged previously about the issues surrounding maintaining innocence in prison following conviction. However, one of the more worrying aspects of the way in which the Ched Evans' case is being played out is that the very fact of his maintaining he is innocent of rape is being used against him. This has potential implications for anyone maintaining that they have been a victim of a miscarriage of justice and who is continuing to pursue an application via the Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court or the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC).

      The very fact that both the Court of Appeal and the CCRC exist is because of past miscarriages of justice, some of which - like the Stefan Kizsko case - have been truly horrendous and a source of national shame. People who believe that they may have been wrongly convicted of any offence whatsoever need to feel that they can make use of the channels set up by Parliament to seek legal redress without being hounded for pursuing their applications. Anything less is to risk undermining the rule of law in this country.

      In my personal opinion, no-one should be criticised for seeking to overturn what they believe has been a miscarriage of justice. Of course, in the end, the final decision remains with the judges of the higher courts, but they at least have access to any fresh evidence - which the media or the general public does not.

  2. I had just started University and I was sitting on a low stage in a pub when a young guy and his friend came over to chat. My friend was elsewhere and I was alone when one of the guys asked if I was a student, I asked what he did and he replied he'd just left
    Prison after being convicted for GBH. I'm sure I flinched when he told me, I felt really bad for being a naive 18 year old female.

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience. At least he was being honest - which is something that people on licence are supposed to be about their situation. It is a standard licence condition that any new friendship or relationship is reported to the supervising probation officer so risk can be assessed, so this lad seems to be taking his conditions seriously.

      Given the way in which all prisoners are demonised by the tabloid media, it's hardly surprising that the general public has such negative views of those who have been released. Much also depends on circumstances. A 22-year old lad up here in the north has just been sent to prison for six years for attacking his abusive father (who has previous convictions for domestic abuse) in a bid to protect his own mother. Although the sentence is the most lenient the judge could pass for the offence, there is now a petition being signed by thousands of people calling for the lad to be released as he endured years of violent abuse himself before he finally couldn't take any more. In cases like these, when the public understands the background, there is often much more understanding because people start to ask themselves what would they have done in the same circumstances.

  3. Should ROTL be mandatory before a prisoner is released, subject to increased availability?

    If ROTL is only granted to the best behaved, does it create an issue by denying the gradual reintroduction to society from those 'less compliant' prisoners who might be most likely to reoffend?

    1. ROTL should be something available to all prisoners serving a sentence of over 12 months to help people reintegrate into society, sort out issues for release such as housing and bank accounts and maybe even work at a real job outside the prison which could become permanent employment on release which has been proven to help stop people reoffending.

      But its not.

      Awarding ROTL is supposed to be based on your risk level, behaviour etc and what you intend to do on ROTL ie something constructive or not. But the reality seems to be quite different and its awarded in my experience to those who are best at sucking up to management.

      At Downview people who all of us knew were going to go out and at best get wasted and at worse abscond or do something dumber got ROTLs and then promptly went out and did what we all knew they were going to do. Then management ran around like headless chickens wailing "how could you do this to us?" None of the rest of us were at all surprised needless to say. Always struck me that if we could figure out who was going to f*** up on ROTL and were always proven right why management couldn't. Could this be something to do with the fact that their risk assessment procedures are crap???

    2. Thanks for the original questions and the helpful response above. As things stand, unaccompanied ROTL is now only available to prisoners who are already in Cat-D (open) prisons. While it can be useful for any prisoner who needs to do certain things to prepare for release and resettlement (such as opening a bank account, registering with the Job Centre, trying to find accommodation, participating in external courses or attending interviews for education, training or paid work), it isn't a requirement. In fact the vast majority of prisoners who are released from custody every year leave from Cat-B or Cat-C establishments without having had any ROTL whatsoever.

      Of course, it could be argued that proper resettlement leave (as opposed to town visits for shopping or lunch) would be of real benefit to many prisoners. It could support them finding legitimate paid work on release as well as potentially helping to reduce reoffending. The main problem, as I see it, would be resources. Closed prisons simply don't have the staff required to run Offender Management Units (OMUs) that deal with ROTL. Even Cat-Ds are finding it tough to process ROTL applications, conduct risk assessments and deal with the required liaison with external probation and the police. Realistically, I just can't see this situation improving any time soon.

      In reality, ROTL is only really vital to prisoners serving parole sentences. This is because their eventual release is highly dependent on them having a number of successful ROTLs to evidence manageable risk in the community. Most lifers will need 20 or 30 day releases and anything up to five or more overnight ROTLs in order to satisfy the Parole Board. Perhaps those serving Indeterminate Sentences for Public Protection (IPP) need rather less and I do know of a couple of specific cases where IPPs have been released on licence without having had a single overnight leave.

      I do agree with what is written in the above response. I well recall people writing stupid things on ROTL 1 applications forms when it came to explaining the purpose of their leave such as "buy a big cake and pig out on my birthday", "nothing much" or "enjoy quality time with my girlfriend" (code for going to a cheap B&B in town to have sex all afternoon). Amazingly, back in 2013 some cons did get their ROTL applications approved for such excursions, although by early 2014 that had all been tightened up and the purpose had to be much more defined and linked to specific resettlement objectives.

      I can also remember several really serious screw-ups when OMU granted ROTL to some of the most dodgy cons imaginable. When it all then went pear-shaped and someone either absconded or committed further crimes, there was much soul-searching and everyone else in the prison suffered because of OMU's mistakes and misjudgements.

  4. Hi,
    I hope you can help, my Nephew was sent to a open prison but was only there a few weeks when he was accused of using drugs and sent back to the prison he came from, they said if he said he did it it would be sorted there and then but he would not say that as he did nothing wrong, he is now back to being locked up all the time and back to were he started, he demand he had all blood tests they need to do to prove he did not do drugs they all came back clear he also had to do statements to say he never did it. they found him not guilty as all the test came back clear and the man he shared with wrote a statement saying he had never done anything like that and never went out ( only to go to work and phone his wife and daughter ) . He was told he would go back to open prison but has been waiting now for nearly 16 weeks, which is very upsetting as he never did anything !!
    can you tell me if you know of anyone that could help us with this matter, they just keep saying write to the prison which we have done but nothing happens they are not telling him nothing of what is happening and why it is taking so long .

    1. Thanks for your questions. Unfortunately Cat-D prisons can be very quick on the rigger when it comes to shipping inmates back to closed conditions on suspicion of misbehaviour (often involving drugs). If he has definitely had the charge dismissed at a governor's adjudication then he should be reviewed for a return to open conditions. In theory, this should happen automatically, but I know cases where it has taken many months.

      Much will also depend on the length and type of sentence he is serving. If he is on an indeterminate sentence (life or IPP), then these decisions will be made by the Parole Board. If he is serving a fixed-term sentence then a governor grade can make the decision to transfer him back to Cat-D.

      It is worth checking whether he is still a D-cat or whether he has been recategorised to a higher security status. If he is still D-cat, then getting back to an open prison should be easier and quicker. He should have been given this information in writing after he arrived at his present location. I hope that information helps.

    2. Thanks for replying.
      Yes he has definitely been dismissed at a governor's adjudication and was told that he would be transferred back to cat D around 28 th September to the open prison, but now for no reason they took him to the reception and took him to a cat B prison At first they said it had been a mistake as they know he was be transferred back but then they said yes it is you and you are going, he has been there for two days now and no-one seems to know why he is there and they are not telling him anything although he keeps asking them and he as been lock in a ceil all the time only to come out for his meals,they just keep saying they will get someone to look in to it and get back to him.

  5. That taste of freedom after a long while must’ve felt great. Not many prisoners are given that chance, and while you said that you did not necessarily need it, the experience must’ve still been a nice change of pace. Thanks for sharing your experience, and I hope you’re doing well.

    Eliseo Weinstein @ JR's Bail Bonds

    1. Thanks for your kind comments. Good to know that you found the post of interest.

  6. How long will someone sentenced to 9yrs for drugs spend in prison before they can get home leave.

    1. Thanks for your question. I'm assuming that the sentence is a standard determinate (fixed term) one, so the person would be released at the halfway point - i.e. 4.5 years. They will probably start the sentence as a Cat-B, but should be recategorised after a year or so to Cat-C. No-one is supposed to go to a Cat-D (open prison) if they still have more than 24 months to serve, although there are rare exceptions.

      Obviously much would depend on conduct and sentence plan, but I would suspect that they would probably serve three years in closed conditions and the final 1.5 years in an open prison. Under the new rules for home leave, there would be at least a 3 month 'lie down' at the open prison before the eligibility to apply for ROTL would be reached. However, in some cases there could be a longer wait for the first town leave. Once the prisoner has had a few days out in a local town, then the next step would be applying for home leaves. Based on the sentence described, I'd estimate that it would take around 3.5 years to get the first home leave.

      Of course, lots of other factors can be involved (such as positive reports and records, lack of disciplinary actions etc), but as an estimate, I think that would be about right. I hope that information answers your question.

  7. If someone is sentenced to 8 years 2 months and they serve 4 years 2 months, how long does it take to get from cat B to cat d? Will they only get to cat d prison after 3 years, meaning the last 12-18 months in open prison, would the day leave only be in the last 12 months of a 4 year sentence?

    1. Thanks for your questions. Sorry it has taken me a while to respond.

      Classification does depend on several factors, including the type of offence, behaviour in prison, identified risk factors etc. However, the general rule is that the maximum anyone should be in Cat-D (open conditions) is 24 months. Based on my knowledge of other serving prisoners, I'd say that 1-2 years in a Cat-B, followed by around 1-2 years in a Cat-C would be normal, then transfer to Cat-D for the remainder of the custodial period.

      Of course, some inmates never make it to Cat-D these days, especially if they have any previous record of escape attempts or absconding. This can include from police custody. However, if this doesn't apply then I reckon the last 12-18 months in open conditions would be a reasonable expectation. Hope that helps.

  8. If someone is sentenced to 4 years and has to do 2. Served 10 months already when can he get home leaves if at all

    1. Thanks for your question. Apologies for the delay in responding.

      You don't write what his current categorisation is. If he is a Cat-C (which I'd expect on a 4, then he would need to get his Cat-D and move to open conditions. In theory Cat-Bs and Cat-Cs are eligible for escorted release on temporary licence (ROTL), but it's pretty much limited to funerals for close family members.

      The rules for ROTL have been tightened up in the last couple of years. It can now be quite a struggle to access leave and to be eligible for home leaves most Cat-Ds do require successful town leaves first. If he does get to a Cat-D then it could easily be three months before he sits his first ROTL board, then it might be weeks or months before his first town leave, so I would guess that home leave would only be likely in the final six months or so of his sentence.

      I assume he will already know if he is eligible for Home Detention Curfew ('tag') and earlier release than the halfway point. Certain offences are automatically excluded and others presumed unsuitable, but that should have been explained to him when he received his first sentence calculation letter from the prison. I hope that information helps.

  9. Hi,

    Can someone with a criminal record go on a town visit with a prisoner? Basically my partner is now due his RDR and sat his bord, but probation have said they will do checks on the person coming to meet him which will be me. Ive got a criminal record served 4 years a while ago. My licence finished a long time ago now so its all done and dusted but will this be an issue?


  10. My husband was sentenced to 3 years on 13th November and has been given Cat D status and told his transfer has been approved. When can he expect for this transfer to take place and what does a 3 month lay down mean? Thanks

  11. Your husband depending on which prison he is at, at the moment should expect anywhere between 1 week to 2 months for a transfer. could be longer. it all depends on the sending prison and the transfer department within the prison (normally call oca) ask him to put an application to omu to ask if he is booked on a bus. and he will also have been given choice as to which dcat to go to. hope this helps

  12. Hi.. My partner was suppose to be out on home leave back in aug 2015 but due to POCA confiscation order it all dragged on... They have a charge on my partners property which is in the process of being sold.. They've asked for 160.000.. 25% of that has been paid... He's not high risk so i don't understand what they're playing at.. He keeps getting told there shouldn't be a problem now that 25% has been paid... Stoke heaths governor is just a complete as5

  13. Rajapannu@hotmail.com24 April 2016 at 13:42

    Dear Alex,

    My wife had an epileptic fit at the wheel of her Discovery jeep, she hadn't been diagnosed epileptic at that point, only till after the accident. Basically it was the doctors word against hers that he'd told her not to drive. As an end result she got found guilty of death by dangerous driving and got 5 years also she got 3 years for causing serious injury by dangerous driving, both sentences are to run concurrently. She has been sent to Bronzefield a cat A prison, she's never been in trouble before at all and is a teacher. She was sent down on 17/3/16 and has been given a ROTL date by her current prison on the pod system of June 2017, what does this mean, and also how and when can she get to a cat D prison? Also I forgot to mention we have 5 young children ages 10, 9, 7, 6, 2. Please email me if possible.

  14. Hi Alex,
    Thanks for sharing your experience. It really did help get more of an understanding. My partner got a straight 18 years :( but remand time served is now 8 months. Including remand time he's got to do 8 years out of the 18. He is on currently on B cat and is on enhanced. How soon do you reckon he can get on C and then D? Do you have any idea how long after being on D, he can get home visits? Is it really true he may have to do 6 years into the 8 before he can go on D cat home/town visits? Of course by this point hopefully he is on D cat. But how soon can he get to C then D? Would this all be up to the gov/SO?

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  16. Hi , I was wondering if u can help with answering a question ,, a friend of mine is charged with gbh sec20. ,, if sentenced to under 4 years could they still get a hdc date and if so because of. The charge is are they likely to get it.

  17. My nephew is serving 4 years in prison,he will serve 20 months,he has today been moved to a cat c prison,when can he apply for tag

  18. Does anybody know what the lie down period is before town visits as we heard it was going back to 28 days rather than 12 weeks he is in cat c for civil matter contempt of court

  19. hello, a friend has been sentenced to 9 years under section 18. he got a third knocked off for pleading guilty. so will he do half of the 6 years? which would take it to 3?

    1. Hi yes, he would probably be in custody for 3 of those 6 years.

    2. Hi, sorry about the delay in responding to your question. The answer given above is correct. He would serve three years in custody, followed by three years on licence in community (but subject to recall if Probation deem that his behaviour isn't appropriate or if he were to commit any further offences). As he is serving over four years, he won't be eligible for earlier release under the Home Detention Curfew (HDC) provisions, so he'll be due for release after 36 months (less any credit given by the judge if he spent time on remand pre-sentencing). Hope that helps!

    3. Sorry Anonymous for hijacking your thread but Alex - my partner is serving a 6 year sentence and he has 12 months left and got interviewed just a month ago by a probation officer where they told him he would be eligible for HDC, and not even in the not too distant future, so I am not sure if that 4 year sentence thing is actually accurate? Please correct me if I am wrong.

      Also, early release seems to be something not too unrealistic in his case even though he is a cat C prisoner at the moment, so it seems like there are more exceptions than we know of?

    4. Hi. Thanks for your post. I've just checked the latest version of the NOMS' PSI on HDC and it does clearly state:

      Statutory Exclusions: prisoners serving a sentence for a term of 4 years or more.

      I can't find any documentation to suggest that this has changed more recently.

  20. My brother is about to go to a Cat D prison from Cat C he will go from 50 mins from us to 2 hrs and 45 mins. When he transfers and gets to go on town release are we allowed to go and meet him?

    1. Thanks for your question. Once your brother gets to his open prison he will have a so-called 'lie down' period during which the prison will assess his behaviour and risk factors. The usual minimum lie down is three months before prisoners can be granted release on temporary licence (ROTL), although for lifers and others serving long determinate sentences it can be much longer. Each case is supposed to be individually reviewed depending on risk. Following some very high profile ROTL failures where a few very serious crimes were committed by prisoners on temporary release, the criteria for granting ROTL were tightened up in 2014.

      Once your brother is eligible for ROTL day release then most prisons positively encourage family members to meet them at the prison gate. In some cases, prisoners may only be granted temporary release if they are meeting with family, although each case differs. Each open prison also seems to have slightly different rules for ROTL, including offering longer period of leave for those spending time 'strengthening family ties'.

      It is also possible to meet up in town with someone on ROTL, but their period of release may be shorter if you aren't meeting them at the gate. Some prisons demand that family members are named on the ROTL application and then require the named person to report to the gate with photo ID (driving licence or passport) in order to collect the prisoner.

      All this should be explained to your family member as part of their induction briefing when they arrive at the Cat-D prison. Some prisons also issue a leaflet or handbook giving information on the ROTL process. Hopefully this answers your question.

    2. Thank you so much for answering my question so quickly and as detailed as you possibly could. I have used many search engines and none have been very clear. Thank you for your reply :D

  21. Hello Alex

    i cannot thank u enough for this blog! It is such an amazing source of information! I have a question about my husband.

    My husband was sentenced to 4 years for tobacco smuggling, 6 years for VAT fraud, 1 year for absconding while on bail and 7 years for a massive confiscation order. All sentences are consecutive. My question is, to your knowledge, how long will he actually serve out of the 18 years? how long will it take to get C cat and will he benefit from D cat and house visits. I have an 18 months old son and it means so much to me to give him the chance to spend time with his dad. I really look forward to hearing from you!

  22. Hi Alex,

    Thanks for writing this great blog, it's really answered a lot of my questions and put my mind at rest. My partner got 5 years for possession of a gun, he's been a model prisoner is cat D and arrived at an open prison mid December (after appeals and a ridiculous wait). His halfway point is this summer. He's told me he needs two supervised visits then can apply for a full day out and I can collect him at reception. While it would be great to have him for the day and we have no intention of reoffending or absconding we're not planning to spend the day at the Jobcentre! Does it matter to his application if it will just be a social visit or do we need to write something specific on the form? I could take him to the jobcentre etc briefly if that will help him get the day out, I don't want his application to fail because we have no constructive plans.

  23. Hi my Husband was sentenced to 3 years in July 2016 he is currently in a cat c prison He hasn't even had his sentence plan sorted yet he is supposed to be eligible for cat D in Feb 2017 with tag release eligibilty at the end of Aug 17 He has had 3 OMU's so far what is his likelyhood of getting to a cat D before Aug and do you think he will actually get a home visit before release.Thanks

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