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Offender management in custody model ‘simply not working’

For those in custody, the model transfers responsibility for offender management from the community into prisons

Today’s joint inspection report, led by HM Inspectorate of Probation, with HM Inspectorate of Prisons, has found Offender Management in Custody (OMiC) is falling well short of expected standards. The inspectors were so disappointed with OMiC that they went to the unusual step of calling for the model to be overhauled.


OMiC was introduced by HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) in 2018. The model seeks to put prisoners and a rehabilitative culture in prisons at the heart of offender management work, to reduce reoffending and help former prisoners to reintegrate into the community.

For those in custody, the model transfers responsibility for offender management from the community into prisons. Probation staff now work in the prison alongside prison offender managers, led by a senior probation officer. Each prisoner is allocated a keyworker (prison officer) to guide, support and coach them through their custodial sentence.


But the inspection found root-to-branch issues with the model citing a number of key criticisms:

Chief Inspector of Probation Justin Russell did not mince his words:

“The Offender Management in Custody model was an ambitious idea to better support prisoners back into the community. But however admirable its intentions, it is simply not working. We found staffing levels at crisis point in some prisons and probation regions, and levels of pre-release contact with prisoners that was sufficient to reduce re-offending in only a third of the cases we inspected. The model must be reviewed, and overhauled, at the earliest opportunity.”


The main finding from this inspection was that OMiC is a lengthy and complex process, which neither prison nor probation officers or prisoners themselves fully understand how to implement. Furthermore, it is a fixed model that cannot be changed to adapt to different types of prisons, and this is especially difficult for local establishments where they have a high turnover of prisoners.

On a more positive note, the inspection did find that the transfer of Senior Probation Officers into prisons has helped to boost communication and develop rehabilitative cultures. However, regular meetings between keyworkers and prisoners took place in only 34 per cent of the cases we inspected, with only a slightly higher number (36 per cent) deemed to be supervised effectively by their prison-based probation officer.

Shockingly, but probably unsurprisingly to most practitioners, communication between prison and probation staff was adequate in just 13 per cent of cases.

The key finding were:

Mr Russell summarised the findings from a probation perspective:

“We spoke to prison and probation staff, and many told us they are trying to make OMiC work, but it is over-engineered and not fit for purpose. It is a model that may have worked in theory but is proving almost impossible to put into practice. It is understandable that there are tensions between services, and no surprise they are struggling to communicate with each other, and prisoners, and that the basics of the model are not being delivered. It is down to HMPPS to put this right.”

Chief Inspector of Prisons, Charlie Taylor, also makes it clear that the model is just not working:

“This extremely concerning reports shows the extent that OMiC is failing to achieve the aims for which it was designed. Services for prisoners remain fractured and sentence progression is often hampered by a lack of staff in Offender Management Units while the key work scheme, that was meant to be an integral part of OMiC, is not providing anything like the support that was envisaged, with officers being diverted to more general wing work.”

Mr Taylor also argued that the removal of Covid-19 restrictions provides an opportunity to make changes including undertaking a fundamental review of the role of probation Prison Offender Managers.


This report has confirmed what many people in the prisons and probation sector have known for a while, that OMiC is an ideal which is just not achievable in reality in most prisons and probation areas at the moment. It’s not surprising that in the majority of prisons who are yet to restore a full regime, the supportive prison officer role integral to OMiC is just not taking place. Similarly, probation staff in the community are just too overworked for most of them to do any pre-release work until the last week or two of a sentence.

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