Wednesday, 29 March 2017

We Were Right

The Justice Committee have completed taking evidence into the TR omnishambles and we must now wait and see what cunning plan the MoJ come up with in order to explain handing over vast amounts of additional cash to the failing CRCs. Here's what Rob Allen makes of it so far:-

I Told You So

American novelist Gore Vidal described ‘I told you so’ as ‘the four most beautiful words in our common language’. But for those of us who predicted it, there has been little pleasure in seeing the debacle of probation privatisation laid bare in front of the Justice Committee during its short inquiry into Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) that wound up this morning. It’s a shame the Committee has not done a fuller investigation. As with the MoJ Probation review, no written evidence has been invited. Perhaps both Ministry and Committee knew the horror story they would get-and the fact that the plot had all been told in advance.

So badly botched are either the contracting or management arrangements that the private community rehabilitation companies complain simultaneously that they have too few cases and that caseloads are unmanageably high. One CRC director gave ‘a wrong kind of snow’ type explanation for this but it’s hard to have much sympathy - unless that is, the private sector was actively misled by the MoJ – (a serious allegation made today which should be investigated). After all, one of the alleged benefits of privatisation is that it can transfer risks (such as changes in demand for services) from the government to the private sector.

But less than two years into the seven year TR programme, the contracts are having to be reviewed and presumably money found to bail out the multinational corporations that run most of the CRCs. Did anyone seriously believe that with the same overall budget, the new Probation and CRC set up could be expected to supervise and rehabilitate 25 per cent more offenders than the Probation Trusts they replaced? The result is that the through the gate supervision of short term prisoners post release – the supposed jewel in the crown of TR- according to one witness amounts to “£46 and a leaflet”, compared to just £46 previously.

Despite that reality, a witness told the Committee today that courts are imposing more short term prison sentences than pre-TR, thinking offenders will now get punishment plus help. The Chairman of the Magistrates Association said last week that if sentencers do not have confidence in the robustness of the alternatives to custody, they may conclude that there is no alternative to custody. These adverse risks for prison numbers were well rehearsed but ignored during TR’s rushed implementation. Just as worrying was today’s evidence that CRCs are not getting breach paperwork to court in time.

One ray of light in an otherwise gloomy landscape looks to be in the North East where the Durham and Tees Valley CRC seems to be avoiding most of the pitfalls. It’s no coincidence perhaps that it’s a single not for profit organisation run by a consortium of local organisations where staff have designed the operating model. Unlike elsewhere morale is good. But looked at in the round it’s hard to see how the Justice Committee can find TR so far anything but a major failure of public administration.

What is to be done? The reality is that with some crutches from the MoJ review, the arrangements are likely to limp on until 2021 but unless there’s a drastic improvement, something different will be needed then if not before. In London, the Mayor’s Office wants to join the oversight arrangements of the CRC “with the intention of devolving the full contract and commissioning responsibilities once the current contract ends”. If performance in the capital does not improve, maybe that should happen sooner. A more genuinely local approach rooted in Justice Reinvestment is surely the next chapter for probation after this tale of woe.

Rob Allen


  1. "a witness told the Committee today that courts are imposing more short term prison sentences than pre-TR, thinking offenders will now get punishment plus help"

    I know for a fact that I predicted this very point in a comment on this site back in 2013 or 2014. All too easy to foresee.

  2. Ian Bickers has 20 years experience in the private sector, and was made governor of HMP Wandsworth in 2015.

    1. Bickers’s departure from the prison but said he was being appointed to a “more senior position” within HM Prison and Probation Service and congratulated him on his new role.
      Wonder what that might be?

  3. Argoed inquest: Ex-convict "refused" to engage with probation service after jail

    1. An inquest jury has heard how a prison leaver from Caerphilly county "refused" to engage with the probation service and police when he left jail.

      Matthew Williams, who was 34, killed 22-year-old Cerys Yemm at the Sirhowy Arms Hotel in Argoed two years ago.

      He was tasered by police following the attack, and died shortly after.

      The incident happened two weeks after Mr Williams was released from prison. His mother has previously told the inquest that he was offered "no support".

      The inquest continues.

    2. It has already been explained to the inquest that he was released on his sentence expiry date, and as such was not subject to any probation supervision, nor could he be forced to have any engagement.
      However, in a very similar case reported recently where 3 people were involved, probation were dragged over the coals by the coroner for failing to recall one of the three.
      The reasons given by probation was that the person who could have been recalled had such a short period of his sentence left, that they would have been released on their sentence expiry date, not under any probation supervision, homeless and as such pose a far greater risk.
      Damned if you do and damned if you don't.


  4. 'We were right' and 'I told you so' are only meaningful to a mind that is open to rational evidence. But to a mind that puts ideology first, only 'evidence' that supports the former will be considered legitimate. From climate warming right down to TR, you can tell them I told you so until the cows come home, but they will not concede that you were right. The reality is that there are alternative facts and faiths, evidence and statistics will never win arguments with those who follow different agendas. Like benefit cuts rather than taxing the rich, TR reflects political choices, in pursuit of neo-liberal small state ideals that puts ends before means. Evidence is no match against those who are fundamentalist of whatever ilk.

  5. We truly are a nation run by DelBoys, wannabe dealmakers & crooks subsidised by us, the fucking idiot taxpayer.

    TR is a shower of shit, a flawed omnishambles riddled with nepotism & incompetence. Its cost us £millions, hundreds of professional careers & peoples' lives.

    The nuclear industry is similarly useless with the NDA contract deemed invalid & UK taxpayer picking up the £100M penalties due to suppliers. Today Toshiba's subsidiary Westinghouse, the suppliers of the new untried reactors destined for Cumbria, have gone bust because of the costs of developing & installing the reactors in other projects. Response of the
    UK Government? The UK taxpayer is to step in & ensure the ridiculously dangerous project goes ahead by providing taxpayer £Billions.

    Trains? HS2 suppliers have had to cancel a major contract because of alleged favouritism by the top table (surely not!?!) & guess who will pick up the tab for compensation & re-tendering...

    Finally this is a day when the UK government has, in my humble view, made one of the biggest mistakes in the country's history - and I reckon it will damn near bankrupt the UK. Boris, Farage, Cameron & the whole bally lot are pissing themselves laughing as their overseas piggy banks get fatter & fatter & fatter.

    Meanwhile back on Planet Probation, not a lot changes. The imminent Review will, with the blessing of Dame Glenys & the PI, give more public monies to the outsourcing pickpockets, blinkered bullies like Davis on the Justice Select Committee will continue to call probation "rubbish" and the very genial Bob will continue to chair the JSC & pocket his chairman's additional pay.

    1. What's wrong? They're giving us a 1% pay rise aren't they?

    2. Sorry, my mistake.

    3. Oh, and we can now add the failed merger of London Stock Exchange & Deutsche Boerse, which means the tax payer once more picks up the tab for over £100m in fees despite the abject failure of professional 'dealmakers'.

      Where do people get these jobs where utter incompetence & total failure result in lottery jackpot payouts?

      I don't want to minimise the 1% payrise though.

  6. The lack of info on the new shitty dumped down fast psrs won't exactly instill confidence in the judiciary either I'd suspect. Hardly any info. They won't take the chance. When I think how many I persuaded when we wrote full comprehensive reports and all angles covered.

  7. PM May - "But when I sit around the negotiating table in the months ahead, I will represent every person in the United Kingdom"

    Err, no you won't. I've never voted Tory. I voted to remain in the EU. You weren't elected to the position of PM & I didn't want you in that role. And there are many more reasons you don't - or can't - represent me.