Published:


Chris Grayling is the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, and MP for Epsom and Ewell

GRAYLING CHRIS NWIf
you sit with a group of current or former offenders, you almost always get the
same message. Most started on crime when they were young, would like to stop,
but often do not know how to get their lives back together, and get themselves
into a position where they get a stable home and a job. And all too often when
they leave prison, the easy option is just to do the same thing all over again.

Crime
in Britain today is very different to what it was a decade or two ago. There
has been a steady decline in the number of people committing crime for the
first time. There are fewer entrants to the criminal justice system. And
crime is falling as a result. Better
policing, tougher punishments, more thoughtful interventions by the voluntary
and public sector, often supported by private sponsorship, are helping steer
more and more young people away from the temptations of crime.

None the less, there is a hard core who are different. More and more of our crime is being
committed by the same people, going round and round the system again and again.
Chances are the person who walks into a prison for the first time will end up
back there again and again over the course of the following decade or more. Reoffending
in Britain today is moving upwards.  Almost 50 per cent of those who do
time in our prisons will reoffend again within a year. And
yet we know the things that can make a difference. Stable relationships.
Somewhere to live. Mentoring and support. A job.

But
our current system is a chaotic mix of the good and the bad. Within probation
trusts there are hardworking people doing a professional job in containing
crime. Within parts of the voluntary sector, there is excellent work helping to
build stability in the life of an offender. However,
it’s patchy. And inadequate and chaotic. The Justice Select Committee found
recently that only 25 per cent of probation staff time is actually spent working with
offenders.  I want a system where
probation professionals can focus on what they do best – doing what works to
tackle individual offenders' specific needs.

Worse
still, prisoners who go to jail for less than a year get no support or
supervision at all after they leave – and most go back to a life of crime. There
is little relationship between where you are detained and where you will live
after your release. More than a hundred prisons, all over the country, send
released prisoners back to London. Small wonder there is little or no adequate
through the gate support to ensure that prisoners are properly prepared for
release and then given guidance when they get there.

That’s
why we are pushing ahead with the most radical reforms to our system of
supporting and managing offenders for decades. At
the heart of the reforms are three big changes.

The
first involves extending supervision to all prisoners when they leave prison,
and not just those who serve more than a year. There will be no more offenders
walking down the street outside their jail with £46 in their pocket, often
nowhere to go, and no one to help them. It has been a travesty, and it will
stop.

The
second involves a massive shake up of our prison system, so we can provide
proper through the gate support. In future, almost all prisoners will spend the
last few months of their sentence in a prison local to their home.

The
third involves the creation of that new type of through the gate support. We’re
bringing in the best of the private and the voluntary sectors to reinforce what
the public sector does. I want to see a new kind of service emerge, where prisoners
are met at the gate by a mentor who has already planned for their release while
they were still inside, who has worked out where they will live, what extra
support, like rehab or training, they will need, and will serve as a wise
friend and supporter to them for a year after they leave.

And
crucially, we will give the organisations who deliver that new service much
more freedom and much less bureaucracy to operate in – but in return they will
be partly paid by results. That’s absolutely the right way to deliver
innovative new ideas, but to protect the interests of the taxpayer.

Of
course that won’t work for every prisoner. There are some deeply dangerous and
unpleasant people out there, and they will continue to be supervised closely
by   a new National public
probation service. Wherever there is a serious risk of harm to the public, we
will make sure that it is Government and the public sector that watches over
that risk.

Today
marks a major milestone in the development of our plans. There’s been enormous
interest from both the private sector and the voluntary sector over the last
few months. We’re now inviting them to state a clear interest in being part of
our tendering process. And we’re setting out in much more detail how the new
system will work. 

The
Conservative Party will always take a tough line on crime. If we are not the
party of law and order, we are nothing. But in the interests of our society and
the victims of crime, we also need to understand the reoffending problem, and
take real strides to solve it. That’s
what these reforms are all about. 

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.