Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Responses to That Speech

Here's Frances Crook writing on the Huffington Post:-

While Major Sentencing Reform Is A Political Step Too Far There Are Safe Ways To Reduce Prison Numbers

Liz Truss’s bark is worse than her bite. The trouble is that it is the bark that gets the attention and influences what happens.

The Secretary of State for Justice made a speech on Monday about her plans for prison reform that was widely trailed in the Sunday papers. The media salivated at her apparent toughness; but the speech was both more nuanced and more sensible.

Prison sentences have been subject to inflation due to political pressure throughout the Labour years and continued under the Coalition and this government. Liz Truss is right to point to the increase in men serving sentences, often long sentences, for sex crimes. Longer prison sentences have led to double the number of people, almost all men, in prison in the past twenty years. Labour built more prisons but that expansion of the estate encouraged even more people to be sent into the system. The lesson is that ‘talking up’ prison and talking tough leads to increases in the number of people sent to prison.

I don’t need to reiterate the dire state of prisons yet again. Everyone knows they are awash with violence, drugs, assaults and the result is more crime inside prisons and when people are released.

A speech by a secretary of state faced with such appalling challenges should point the way to greater safety, purpose and public confidence. I welcome the commitment to recruit more staff. I have visited two prisons in the last week where recruitment is being based on values as well as competency, which is an exciting development. I welcome the work being done with the Department of Health on improving mental health gatekeeping so that people can be diverted to appropriate services.

But, the elephant in the room is the one thing that she has refused to do and the one thing that will make a difference. It is the one thing that was used to hit the Sunday headlines. She has to reduce the number of prisoners. Prisons will not be safe and purposeful if they are grossly overcrowded. It will not work.

I recognise that major sentencing reform is probably a political step too far. Even Michael Gove balked at that. But there are, under the radar, changes that can ease the pressure and lead to a controlled and safe reduction in prison numbers.

The Howard League is urging smoother release on parole, end the merry-go-round of recalls to prison for administrative reasons, and, put a stop to adding extra days of imprisonment for breaking prison rules. None of this would solve the deep-seated problems, but it would give a breathing space and consequently save lives.

I hope that Liz Truss is true to her word and makes prisons safer and purposeful. I will keep pressing for prisons to work for the few who need to be there, but this can only be achieved when they are reserved for the few, not the many.

Frances Crook


Here's Rob Allen and an Unlocking Potential blog post:-   

The Speech Liz Truss Should Have Given......

I am glad to be at the Centre for Social Justice because our prison system is anything but socially just. The use of prison inevitably produces enormous financial, social and ethical costs. In what everyone can now agree were reckless efforts to rein in the first of these costs, the second and third have risen to unacceptable levels. As a former management accountant I am determined to do something about that.

In terms of the numbers of prisoners, it is shameful that we have the highest prison population rate in Western Europe and almost twice the rate of the Netherlands and Germany. And while prison numbers have at least not risen since 2010, they should really have fallen. The numbers sentenced by the courts for indictable and either way offences has fallen from 370,000 to 280,000 in the last six years. It’ s true that there has been a marked increase in convictions for sex offences and the public rightly expect the most serious cases to receive a proper level of punishment. But how, in a period of austerity, with prisons in crisis, are we to justify the fact that more than 27% of theft and burglary offences were punished with imprisonment last year compared to 22% in 2010? Or that the average sentence lengths for these crimes rose from 8.8 to 9.2 months? There’s a similar pattern to drug offences and fraud.

I would like to see prison reserved for the most serious offenders and sentence lengths brought into line with Western European norms. I am instructing the Sentencing Council to revise its guidelines to give effect to that. We should aim to reduce our prison population by ensuring that the upper limits of the revised sentencing guidelines are not exceeded by the courts and by encouraging alternative problem solving approaches and restorative justice wherever that is justified. In many cases this might involve a more lenient approach than some might like but we desperately need a more varied and effective approach to the complexity of crime so that victims, offenders and the public get better results.

In drawing up guidelines, the Council must look at the cost and effectiveness of sentences. I have to say on those criteria, I am not convinced that all of the people that currently go to prison need to be there, or be there so long. Of the 77,000 people sentenced to prison for the more serious offences last year, 28,000 were sentenced for theft and burglary. More than 30,000 of the 77,000 were sentenced to 6 months or less. I’m pleased that the number of short sentences has been falling but it has a long way to go. After my review of Probation reports next month, I will be looking at ways that the service can contribute to diverting many more of these short term offenders from jail. I am also interested in exploring how elements of a prison sentence can be converted into a community based sanction. If prisoners agree to undertake a period of unpaid work in the community for example they could be released earlier from custody than they otherwise might have been.

This will help with overcrowding which I now realise is the key problem that needs to be solved before we can regain control of our prisons and start to make them the rehabilitative institutions we have been promising. To provide immediate respite, there will be a presumption that all sentences of up to 2 years will be suspended. I am also taking executive action to release IPP prisoners who have now served longer than the maximum current sentence for their offence and for all post tariff cases, I will be taking to steps to ensure that prisoners only continue to be detained if there is evidence they remain a danger to the public.

I hope that these measures might give the prison system the breather it needs. I might be accused of a quick fix but I believe I am taking the necessary urgent action to address what is an emergency while laying the groundwork for a sustainable future. To inform longer term plans I have established a Justice Reinvestment Task Force which will report by the summer on how to establish direct financial incentives for local agencies to spend money in ways which would reduce prison numbers. I am not convinced that the costs of imprisonment should continue to be borne at national level. At the end of the day, prison is only a small part of the answer to crime.

Rob Allen


  1. Maybe Rob Allen can preempt the Probation Review and tell us what he would do about Probation?

  2. "This website is funded by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) for the purpose of assisting Elizabeth Truss MP in the performance of her Parliamentary duties."

    The small-print on Truss's webpage. So IPSA promote party political propaganda then? I hadn't expected that. Wonder if Truss (and any other MP for that matter) also claim for their website costs within their business & admin allowances? As a former management accountant she shouldn't have any difficulty keeping her finances in scrupulous order.

    Perhaps she could focus her management accountancy skills upon the catastrophic financial scandal that is TR? Perhaps she could get someone to identify how much was given to the CRCs from the 'Modernisation Fund' & on what basis, why the rules were suddenly changed to allow the CRCs to simply pocket that money duch that money from the public purse (allegedly not far short of £100M) was, in fact, a sweetener to keep the CRCs on board.

    Maybe someone on the Justice Committee, or the Public Accounts Committee, or the Parliamentary Standards Committee, could raise this question?

    I've raised it with the Competition & Markets Authority, along with challenging the conundrum of Grayling being both the golden shareholder with a vested interest (political, personal & commercial) & arbiter in the public interest of the sale of 21 CRCs (viz- a VAST sum of public money + direct risk of harm to the public).... but without any reply.

  3. I'd just like to have it recorded that whilst I take my hat off to the Tata workers and respect their decision today, I don't believe for one minute that the UK based steel industry will last the five years promised now that Tata & this shitbag government have got the workers to surrender the £ManyMillions of their hard-earned pension fund. It will be Sodexo/Working Links all over again, i.e. empty promises, asset strippng & cart the monies off into the pockets of the disgustingly wealthy. I would dearly love to be wrong, but I give it 18 months (tops) before the excuses & get-out clauses are rolled out - and the workers' pension fund has disappeared forever.

  4. You heard about Senior management cull in London CRC?

  5. Replies
    1. Did have 15 ACOs all with proper probation experience now only got 7. People slag off ACOs for climbing career ladder but most of these were proper probation folk. All of London being taken over by prison types.

  6. "The barrister added: “There should have been a very good release package and structure for him, but there simply wasn’t.

    “He was just let out like an ordinary prisoner.”

    Mr Muller said that Sargent has “real illnesses” including regressive disorders and ADHD, and “none of that was treated during his incarceration or catered for on his release”.

    Sargent will serve two-thirds of his sentence in prison before he is even considered for parole.

    If he is released, the rest of the sentence will be served on licence."

  7. So even Neuberger & co at the Supreme Court don't think truss is up to scratch either. Still, not surprising when she tacitly agreed with the tabloids slagging off the judiciary & failed in her duty as Lord Chancellor. A great shame given she's the first woman to hold that office, but certainly not the first fuckwit.

  8. Tum-tee-tum. Just been ditching work related books pre-retirement and came across my ancient (1975) paperback "In Place of Prison - Towards a New Society" by Dennie Briggs. Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose, as they parlez.

  9. BBC Radio 4 Listen Again: -

    "How Not to Do It" "Jacqui Smith, the former Labour home secretary, investigates why government policies fail, focusing on one of her party's most cherished reforms.

    Indeterminate sentences for public protection (IPPs) were devised by David Blunkett and the Home Office to reassure voters that those convicted of serious violent and sexual offences would stay in prison until they could show by their changed behaviour that they could safely be released."

    1. A programme which seems to be a Blue Labour production intended to exonerate Bully Blunkett & push the blame elsewhere.

      In tandem with today's uninvited & uninspiring return of the desperate War Criminal & his bar-room politics I'm worried what comes next... the reanimation of Thatcher? Or is that already the secret of Theresa May's success?

      Honest, if heartbreaking, predictions for the by-elections:

      Stoke: ukip, cons, lib dems - the Nutty Fantasist might just do it, which is a terrifying thought but he seems to have captured the imagination of the Potties.

      Copeland: cons, ukip, lab - the locals resent Reed for (1) lining his own pockets with bespoke nuclear money & (2) not being Jack Cinningham - but the only employers there are either nuclear or NHS. Labour are fielding an embittered ex-GP, ukip have a pretty nurse & Tories have the wife of a nuclear engineering consultant.

    2. Probation not mentioned in the ridiculous Jaqui Smith BBCR4 Analysis Programme nor this very reasonable Twitter thread