September 20, 2010: Probation Programmes Face Cuts
The Probation Service in
Last year over 40,000 individuals completed programmes focussing on drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, thinking skills and behaviour, and sexual offending. The majority of those sentenced to programmes are prolific offenders and were at risk of custody. The number of completions will fall by up to a quarter when the cuts go ahead
Under the planned cuts by the Coalition government many programmes will
be cut and withdrawn because of their cost and a huge reduction in
experienced staff through redundancy.
The Ministry of Justice announced on 9 August that the overall budget of the Ministry would be reduced by 25%, or from £9 billion to £7 billion, by March 2012. All departments in the Ministry are likely to be affected.
The only way the cuts can be achieved in the Probation Service is by
reducing staffing levels drastically. The cost of supervising an individual
in the community without conditions is between £3,000 and £4,000, but that
rises to from £7,000 to £8,000 if there is participation in programmes. This
compares to at least £42,000 per annum for a prison place.
Research shows that programmes are very effective in reducing reoffending. The latest statistics suggest that 66% of those jailed reoffend on release compared to 50% on a supervision order. However, those figures fall to 58% and 34% respectively if the individual participates in a programme.
Under the cuts, Probation Trusts will be forced to reduce the number of
programmes available. Many areas will only be able to offer a reduced
service for sex offenders and those involved in domestic violence. Other
areas will be rationing domestic violence programmes to men who pose an im
Any curtailment of sex offender programmes will clearly affect the protection of women and children. There is bound to be a reduction of the availability of drug and alcohol treatment because of the cuts.
In a briefing Napo has produced over 90 examples of individuals successfully completing courses, particularly domestic violence, sex offending and general behaviour programmes, which show that attitudes have changed and offending rates significantly reduced.
“Probation programmes are an effective way of preventing reoffending. Thousands of crimes are stopped by participation. Programme users tend to be prolific offenders. However the gains of the last decade risk being jeopardised because of draconian cuts. The Probation Service will not be able to maintain the same level of service. The number of successful completion of programmes could fall from forty to thirty thousand by 2012. This will increase reoffending rates and create more victims, particularly of domestic violence. It is ironic that if the programmes are not available, prison will certainly be used by sentencers as an alternative.”