Categories of male prisoners

What are male security categories?

There are four different types of male security categories. Each male prisoner will be given a category which will represent the level of security required to keep that prisoner safe, secure his wellbeing, protect other prisoners and the staff at the prison and protect the public.

Security categories for male prisoners

Category A

This will be given to male prisoners whose escape would be extremely dangerous to the general public and also the police and national security. The aim of such a high level of security is to make escape from that prison impossible.

Category B

This will be given to prisoners who do not require the highest level of security, but will still need a high level to make any chance of escape from prison extremely difficult.

Category C

This is for prisoners who cannot be trusted in open prison conditions, but will not necessarily have the intention, the will or the determination to make any real attempt of escape from the prison.

Category D

This is for those male prisoners who pose a low risk in relation to security, and protection of the public, and can be trusted in open prison conditions.

What is considered when deciding the initial security category?

Male prisoners will be categorised accordingly to the likelihood of them seeking escape, including planning an escape all the way to actual attempts of escape, and also the risk the prisoner would pose to others if they were to be successful in an escape.

Initial Category A

Most Category A prisoners will have been reported in as potential Category A following reception on remand and will have been held as provisional Category A leading up to their sentence. Category A prisoners are defined as “those whose escape would be highly dangerous to the public or national security”. Category A prisoners are further separated into standard risk, high risk, and exceptional risk, depending on how likely they are to try to escape.

The offences that may result in consideration for Category A include:

  • Murder
  • Attempted murder
  • Manslaughter
  • Wounding with intent
  • Rape
  • Indecent assault
  • Robbery or conspiracy to rob (with firearms)
  • Firearms offences
  • Importing or supplying Class A controlled drug
  • Possessing or supplying explosives
  • Offences connected with terrorism
  • Offences under the Official Secrets Act

Initial Category B

It is a general presumption that if any of the following apply to a male prisoner, they will be initially categorised a Category B security level:

  • Serving a current prison sentence of 10 years or more.
  • Serving an indeterminate sentence of at least five years or more.
  • Any other indeterminate sentence.
  • During a previous prison sentence, the male prison was considered a Category A security level.
  • They have committed current or previous terrorist offences.
  • While the prisoner was on remand, he was considered a potential or provisional Category A prisoner.
  • He has served a previous sentence of 10 years or more.
  • The prisoner has previously escaped from a closed prison, police or escort.
  • The prison is currently serving a sentence for an offence involving violence or a threat to life, or threat of arson, firearms offences, robbery, drugs and sexual offences.

Initial Category C

A male prisoner will be given a Category C security level if any of these following criteria apply:

  • A previous sentence of 12 months or more for violence, threat of violence, arson, sex offences, drug dealing or importation.
  • Serving a current sentence of 12 months or more for violence, threat of violence, arson, sex offences, drug dealing or importation.
  • A history of absconding, failing to surrender or breaching a bail condition.
  • The prisoner has an outstanding confiscation order or further charges.

Initial Category D

If none of any of the above conditions apply to the male prisoner, then they will be initially considered suitable for a Category D banding.

All the initial categories will be subject to a further risk assessment. If during this assessment, higher levels of security are indicated relevant, then the prisoner security category is subject to a change.

Category reviews

Where a prisoner is serving a determinate sentence, their first security category review must take place no later than 12 months after their sentence was passed. The first review of Category A prisoners, however, will take place within two years of their sentence.

Category B and C prisoners, who are serving a sentence more than 12 months, but less than four years, will be reviewed every six months.

Category B and C prisoners serving more than four years will be considered for review once a year.

Appealing a category decision

If a male prisoner is not happy with a decision on categorisation after a review, he can appeal the decision. There is no overall scheme for such an appeal. Although some prisons will have a local procedure which would need to be considered, so check with the prison.

If there is not such a procedure, then all appeals will be directed via the usual prison complaints system.

To gain the best result from any appeal, a prisoner should request full disclosure of all reasons for such a categorisation from the prison. The prison is under a duty to give full reasons for any decision about categorisation and the prisoner should obtain this in writing. The decision of any appeal will be provided by the prison.

Category A prisoners need to direct their appeal to the DHS (Directorate of High Security) for a response.

Since 2011, prisons must keep a record of the number of request and complaints relating to the decisions of categorisation, and all decisions from appeals must be carefully logged.

If following an appeal, a person is still unsatisfied with the results of categorisation, they can further appeal to the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman.

It is possible to have a decision of such an appeal judicially reviewed; however, this is not commonly used and would be considered a last resort.

About the Author

Nicola Laver LLB

Nicola is a dual qualified journalist and non-practising solicitor. She is a legal journalist, editor and author with more than 20 years' experience writing about the law.

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