"The ideologically driven nature of the government’s plans to reform the probation service were laid bare in the House of Lords last week as peers accused the government of concealing information and undermining parliamentary scrutiny.
The Ministry of Justice is currently attempting to secure the legislative reforms needed (via the Offender Management Bill) to implement its ambitious ‘Transforming Rehabilitation' agenda which aims simultaneously to expand, improve, privatise and reduce the cost of the probation service, all before the next general election.
It might seem surprising that some of the House of Lords’ most vocal advocates for reform of the criminal justice system are opposing the government’s plans to introduce probation support to those released from short term sentences – a longstanding aim of many penal reformers. But many are concerned about the way the Ministry of Justice is planning to implement the reforms, replacing an experienced, localised and broadly successful public probation service with a large centralised system of corporations paid on the basis of payment by results. They find themselves baffled by the lack of detail available to determine whether or not the plans stand a chance of actually working."
Russell Webster's latest post highlights how Transforming Rehabilitation is quite likely to increase the prison population quite considerably, not just because the soon-to-be-supervised under 12 month prisoners are quite likely to breach their licences, but also because magistrates may well feel no great disinclination to impose short prison sentences, safe in the knowledge that all will be subject to supervision, including mandatory drug testing, upon release. He rather neatly summarises the situation:-
"As we know, one of the reasons that short terms prisoners have such high re-offending rates is that custody does such a lot of damage – houses and jobs are lost, supportive relationships are damaged, sometimes irretrievably.
It’s entirely possible that Transforming Rehabilitation will, paradoxically, result in higher short term custody rates and an increase in reoffending."
So it's certainly not going to save money either. The more you think about this whole daft idea, the more of an omnishambes it seems. Does anyone down there in the Treasury read this?