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News Archives: Index

October 7, 2010: Probation Set For Industrial Action

October 5, 2010: Turning Prisoners Into Taxpayers

October 4, 2010: Murder Changes Now In Force

September 20, 2010: Probation Programmes Face Cuts

August 24, 2010: Victorian Poor Law Records Online

August 10, 2010: Justice Job Cuts

July 28, 2010: Prison Violence Growing

July 22, 2010: Police Numbers: Latest Figures

July 22, 2010: New Jurisdiction Rules

July 16, 2010: CCJS On Prison And Probation Spending Under Labour

July 15, 2010: Latest Statistics On Violent And Sexual Crime

July 15, 2010: Latest National Crime Figures

July 15, 2010: New Chief Prisons Inspector

July 14, 2010: Hard Times Ahead For Prisons: Anne Owers

July 14, 2010: Prison Does Not Work: Ken Clarke

July 13, 2010: Criminal Justice Reform: Sentencing and Rehabilitation

July 13, 2010: Criminal Justice Reform Priorities

July 12, 2010: What Price Public Protection, Asks Probation Chief Inspector

July 12, 2010: NOMS has failed, says Napo

July 10, 2010: IPCC To Investigate Death of Raoul Moat

July 9, 2010: Women In Prison: New Report

July 9, 2009: Unjust Deserts: Imprisonment for Public Protection

July 8, 2010: Police Search Powers Change

July 7, 2010: Make 'Legal High' Illegal, Says ACMD

July 2, 2010: Failing Children In Prison

July 2, 2010: Police Buried Under a Blizzard of Guidance: HMIC

July 1, 2010: Freedom To Change The Law?

June 30, 2010: A New Outlook On Penal Reform?

June 30, 2010: Revolving Door Of Offending Must Stop, Says Clarke

June 30, 2010: Ken Clarke: Speech on Criminal Justice Reform

June 29, 2010: No More Police Targets

June 26, 2010: Family Intervention Projects Questioned

June 25, 2010: Cutting Criminal Justice

June 24, 2010: Napo on Sex Offenders Report

June 23, 2010: Closing Courts: The Cuts Begin

June 23, 2010: Strategy To Tackle Gangs

June 15, 2010: Courts and Mentally Disordered Offenders

June 8, 2010: Working With Muslims in Prison

June 1, 2010: Your Chance To Nominate a QC

September 20, 2005: Home Secretary on Future of Penal Policy

Home Secretary Charles Clarke gave the Prison Reform Trust’s annual lecture in London last night. In his first detailed speech on the future of penal policy, he focused on how best to prevent re-offending, and noted that over half of all crime is committed by people who have already been through the criminal justice system. He therefore aimed:

“to move away from the idea that prisons can be universities of crime towards them being institutions that ensure offenders become working and productive members of society upon release.”

Spending on prisons had risen by over 25% in real terms since 1997, and on probation by 39% in real terms since 2001. However, stated Mr Clarke:

“The least educated and least healthy people in the country remain those within the criminal justice system. And their poor education and health does not only damage them. It makes them more likely to re-offend and so a greater danger to society than they need to be.”

We therefore had to:

“move towards a form of contract between the criminal and the state where each individual in prison, on remand or on probation is required to commit to a non-criminal future, to no future re-offending. And in return the State and its agencies should commit to providing whatever support it can to stopping their re-offending; or, to use a medical analogy, to providing the right 'treatment' for every individual."

He emphasised the word ‘individual’, since offenders were not a homogenous group:

"They have very different reasons for offending and will respond to different solutions.... For some the fact of prison, or even simply the threat of prison, will be enough to prevent any re-offending. For others prison is merely part of the reality of an institutional life in which the individual has little stake. We have to create a package of support and interventions for each and every offender... We need to make sure that for every person within our prison and probation services we have a realistic programme for their time in the system with clear goals right from the start. Community sentencing… can be an important support for this approach…”

Mr Clarke rejected what he labelled as the 'populist suggestion' that:

“... community sentencing is a soft option in comparison to prison. The truth is that a well-planned and properly-supervised community sentence is both tough on the offender and far more valuable in indicating constructive futures for the individual. Moreover, such sentences allow offenders to perform reparation in a more visible way which the community is better able to shape and understand.”

Mr Clarke was supportive of professional staff who work in prisons and the probation service, who were:

“deeply committed and effective and they have to take some of the toughest decisions of any public servant, in some of the toughest of circumstances.”

He stressed that the individualised response he advocated could not exist:

“without one person being responsible for each offender throughout their time in prison and on probation - the end-to-end offender manager. This role will embed partnership between the prison and probation services and the wider community, and that will be helped by new technology which will better assess risk and manage offenders through one single database wherever they are in the system."

The introduction of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) was aimed at maximising is also seeking rehabilitative outcomes for every offender in a way that is far more consistent nationwide:

"While some prison and probation areas have responded magnificently to these challenges and have improved, there are others which have not achieved as much as necessary. This is the reason why I am personally committed to the creation of a vibrant mixed economy with NOMS. I believe that, particularly within the voluntary and community sector, there is a large untapped resource which is keen to help us achieve the reductions in reoffending... A strong structure of commissioning and contestability in prisons and probation will create a wider range of appropriate interventions and raise the quality of offender management services across the country."

This may be difficult to achieve, he acknowledged,

"... particularly when the historic cultures of the nationally managed prison services and the locally-managed probation services are so very different. It is however essential and I believe we can drive improvement through seeking the best possible providers for interventions and offender management in each area. In many areas the public sector’s skill and expertise will deliver the continuous improvement we need. In other areas, competition is needed to stimulate this improvement."

He cited the example of  voluntary organisations with significant experience and history of success already providing drug treatment interventions, and could see:

“no reason of principle or practicality why offender management should not be provided by the private or voluntary sector. And a very important part of the development of commissioning and contestability will be the ability to specify and contract for cross-cutting services, straddling the current silos of prison and probation, and making a reality of the end-to-end management of offenders."

He wanted a range of suppliers from both the statutory and non-statutory sectors. He saw a key role for the commissioners at the centre of the organisation as ensuring there were no obstacles to new players joining the market, with a level playing field for competition. He nevertheless stressed his view about the main driver for change:

"The whole motivation behind this change is to drive up performance to further reduce re-offending. It is not about cost-cutting and standards."

In terms of sentencing policy, we needed to remand people only where there is a risk to the public or a significant risk of the offender absconding. Sentencers, he stated, should:

  • Be rigorous in using your powers to sentence in a way which protects society against dangerous and violent criminals including making good use of indeterminate sentences for the most dangerous offenders;
  • Be rigorous in upholding the authority of the Court when it comes to enforcing penalties including fines, to forcing offenders to give respect to the Court and its procedures and to ensuring that justice is rapidly despatched;
  • Be flexible and positive in using community sentences, which can be far tougher than prison, to help prevent re-offending;
  • Make full use of fines – effective penalties which hit offenders in the pocket where it hurts; and which are increasingly being more enforced;
  • When giving a custodial sentence, take full account of the new guidelines issued by the Sentencing Guidelines Council... They are there to deliver consistency and effectiveness in sentencing;
  • Make full use of the custody minus, custody plus and intermittent custody arrangements when they are fully in place since they will reinforce the flexibility which can best reduce re-offending.

Mr Clarke spoke at a time where England and Wales has the highest imprisonment rate in Western Europe at 145 per 100,000. There are currently almost 77,000 prisoners in the system. Prison has a poor response to addressing potential re-offending – 61% of all prisoners are reconvicted within two years of released.

Prison Reform Trust director Juliet Lyon commented:

“With prisons at bursting point and reconviction rates sky high, it is welcome news that the Home Secretary plans to focus on community solutions to crime. For those serious offenders who really need to be in jail, community prisons make sense. For far too long people have been held in prison too far from home and too far from the support they need to stand a chance of resettling in society on release. It is commonsense that employment, training, drug treatment and family support are the keys to stopping re-offending. But there is a risk that prison could be used as a gateway for social care. When delivered in the community, these measures could cut crime before it starts, leaving prison to work constructively with high risk offenders.”

Campaign group Smart Justice Director Lucie Russell also welcomed moves to re-enforce community sentences for petty offenders:

“Offenders should pay the community back for their crimes and the damage they have caused instead of sitting around in a prison cell doing nothing, costing the taxpayer £37,000 per year. Helping offenders get back on track will cut crime and increase public safety."