Vertical Markets

Private contract probation?

by Mark Rowe

What the Coalition terms a radical overhaul to how the state tackles re-offending and managing offenders outside prison could see private security contractors, besides charities, doing probation work.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling spoke of consistently high re-offending rates – almost half of all prison-leavers reoffend within 12 months and for those serving less than a year that figure rises to almost 58 per cent. Half a million crimes are committed by convicted criminals each year, according to the Ministry of Justice.

All offenders, including those serving less than 12 months, will be subject to mandatory supervision and tailored rehabilitation on release from prison.

Further plans set out in the ‘Transforming Rehabilitation’ consultation paper include:
More use of mentors to meet offenders at the prison gate and support them in the community
Only paying in full for services that are proven to work at reducing re-offending
Opening up rehabilitation services to a much wider range of providers, who according to the Coalition would be free to innovate and do the things that work to turn offenders’ lives around.

To read the full paper visit the MoJ website – https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/transforming-rehabilitation.

You have until February 22 to comment.

This photo of Westminster magistrates court is courtesy of the Ministry of Justice.

Union view

According to the probation officers union NAPO, Probation will lose all of its core responsibilities apart from public protection work with high risk offenders and the provision of information to the courts. Work is likely to be tendered on Payment by Results principles, although according to the union there is no evidence that this scheme will deliver. NAPO claimed that this course represents the demise of the 105 year old Probation Service in England and Wales.

Harry Fletcher, Napo Assistant General Secretary, said: “This decision is astonishing. The Probation Service in England and Wales met all its targets during the financial year 2011/12. Indeed last year it won the prestigious British Quality Foundation Gold Award for Excellence, was commended on its work and told it was probably the best organisation to provide these services. This move, therefore, is purely ideological. It is being rushed through without proper thought to the consequences. Issues of accountability have not been dealt with. The policy flies against the government’s localism agenda; the government is proposing that the Probation Service is reorganised twice in six months, which is impossible; issues of transfer and pension deficits have not been resolved; there is no plan for dealing with the escalation or decline of risk of individual offenders. If this plan proceeds it will be chaotic and will compromise public protection.

He added: “Some ministers may claim that the Probation Service is a failure because of high re-offending rates amongst short-term prisoners; but Probation has no statutory responsibility for supervising anybody sentenced to 12 months or less. Re-offending rates for the individuals that Probation does supervise are much improved; those who participate in programmes have a re-offending rate now of 35 per cent. This is a success story that the government should be building on, not destroying.”

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