Last week saw the first parliamentary oral evidence session for the new All Party Parliamentary Local Government Group inquiry into Justice in Communities. The inquiry, coordinated by the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU), is developing recommendations to localise the criminal justice system.
The LGiU believe local communities should be given the funding and powers necessary to coordinate the criminal justice agencies in their areas to reduce reoffending. We ask for your assistance to identify what powers and funding streams should be devolved. We need your help to make the case for devolving these powers.
The majority of crime is local. Offenders tend to commit crimes in their own neighbourhoods. Local communities have to live with the effects, such as graffiti, litter and smashed windows. Local authorities are obligated to provide services to deal with these effects. Local taxpayers are required to fund the provision of these services. But local authorities are not funded or equipped to tackle crime.
If local authorities invest in early intervention programmes to reduce reoffending it is central government agencies, not the local authority, which get the financial benefits such as less need for prison places and less hospital admissions. Local Authorities struggle to get informed when offenders are released into their communities. This is because the agencies charged with responding to crime are answerable to central Government not local politicians. Whitehall dictates the policies; funds the agencies, reviews their performance and hires and fires their staff. Our response to crime is not local, it is national. This is why the system is failing and will continue to fail. The results speak for themselves.
The Criminal Justice System (CJS) is in a state of crisis. The majority of the public have no faith in the CJS to punish offenders, rehabilitate prisoners or keep the public safe. Offenders are released back into the community, without jobs, accommodation or targeted support to deal with their drug, alcohol and mental health problems. It is not surprising that the rate of re-offending exceeds two thirds within two years of release. Even this is likely to be low as it only accounts for those caught offending and the detection rate is low. The real figure is likely to be much higher.
Opening up the prisons is not the answer because some people belong in prison. However, the majority of criminals will at some point be let out. This process needs to be managed. Local authorities are best placed to coordinate the simple measures proven to reduce reoffending. These include finding ex offenders housing and employment. We must empower them to do so. The LGiU hopes you will follow the progress of our inquiry and will update you as it develops. If you would like to submit evidence of successful programmes to reduce reoffending please click here. We would be glad to hear from you.