June 30, 2010: Revolving Door Of Offending Must Stop, Says Clarke
The Government’s vision for criminal justice reform has been unveiled today by the Justice Secretary, Kenneth Clarke, in his first major speech. Arguably more radical a speech than might be expected from a Conservative Justice minister, it will inevitably raise some concerns in the Conservative party.
The reforms will create a more intelligent, consistent and transparent system of sentencing, and introduce a rehabilitation revolution that engages the expertise of independent organisations and gives them financial incentives to reduce reoffending. In turn this will help to reduce crime, and make our communities safer and better places to live.
Nearly half of all offenders sent to prison are reconvicted within a year, and the rate of reoffending is even higher – 60% – for the 60,000 prisoners who serve short-term sentences each year, creating a revolving door of crime. The Government will tackle this by looking in detail at the sentencing frameworks available, including the full range of penalties on offer.
In particular proposals to restore public trust through minimum / maximum sentencing will be explored. Under this system, offenders would serve a minimum period in prison set as the minimum punishment by the judge in court, without being eligible for release. The judge would also set a maximum period, and offenders would have to earn any release before that point.
The Government’s key priority is to punish offenders effectively as well as protect the public. Whilst prison remains the necessary punishment for many offenders – and is the only place for those offenders deemed a risk to the public – it is vital that the opportunities offered by community sentences to effectively punish and reform offenders are examined alongside the role of prison.
locking people up for the sake of it is a waste of public
Justice Secretary Ken Clarke
Justice Secretary, Kenneth Clarke said:
'I have three main priorities – to protect the public, punish offenders and provide access to justice.
'More than half of the crime in this country is committed by people who have been through the system. We must now take action and shut off this revolving door of crime and reoffending.
'We need a more constructive approach that tackles this head on. An intelligent and transparent approach to sentencing that targets the causes of reoffending, so making our communities safer and better places to live. We describe it as a Rehabilitation Revolution.
'Prisons have a crucial role to play. There are some nasty people who commit nasty offences. They must be punished, and communities protected. My first priority is the safety of the British public. Prisons must be places of punishment, but also of education, hard work and change.
'But simply locking people up for the sake of it is a waste of public funds. We must have other penalties on offer – such as rigorously enforced community sentences that punish offenders, but also get them off drugs and alcohol and into employment.
As part of this we intend to make better use of the voluntary sector’s expertise to help us get offenders away from crime. The most radical part of our new approach will involve paying independent organisations by results in reducing reoffending. And success would be measured - perhaps by whether the offender finds and keep a job, housing and so on; whether they become functioning members of society. But above all – by whether they are law abiding and avoid reoffending within the first few years of leaving prison.'