Friday, 5 May 2017

A Shopping List

I notice that Rob Allen has drawn up a very helpful shopping list to put before aspriring candidates and political parties in the forthcoming general election:-  

Manifesto Destiny. Criminal Justice Ideas for the 2017 Election

Chances are we won’t get much about criminal justice in any of the manifestos. But Labour’s surprisingly Blairite promise of 10,000 more police officers suggests that domestic policy may not be entirely absent from the parties’ offerings to the electorate. It’s a reminder too of how strongly received wisdom shapes policy development in the field, even in a radical party committed to transforming the country. Would not 10,000 mental health workers do more to address the crisis of well being which brings so many into conflict with the law – and free up police time to prevent and respond to more serious harm?

Here are five criminal justice priorities I’d like to see featured:

1) Sensible Sentences

The prison population has been fairly stable since 2010 at about 85,000, but with a 25% fall in the numbers sentenced for serious crimes over that period, we should really have seen prison numbers go down. The reason they haven’t is that the proportion of cases being sentenced to prison has risen – from 22% to 27% - as have average sentence lengths for almost all types of crime from 16 to 19 months. Sentences have got longer not only for violent and sexual offences but for theft and drug offences too. Further sentence inflation is neither desirable nor manageable. We will introduce a strong presumption against short prison terms and require the Sentencing Council to produce a wider range of guidelines, based on fuller consideration of the cost and effectiveness of different sentences. Stronger limits will be placed on courts preventing them from exceeding guideline levels and new pilot problem solving courts will be encouraged to impose less severe punishments when it is in the interests of rehabilitation to do so.

2) Developing Youth Justice

Youth justice has offered a ray of light in penal policy, with big reductions in numbers in court and in custody in the last ten years. Now’s the time to extend the successful leadership of the Youth Justice Board and the multi-agency approach of Youth Offending Teams to the young adult age group of 18-21 year olds. For the under 18’s, it’s time too to phase out Young Offender Institutions and Secure Training Centres and expand the number of small secure children’s homes – the only model that has proved consistently able to offer appropriate and constructive regimes for young people in custody. Responsibility for meeting the entire costs of custody for under 18's will be transferred to local authorities and Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs). In due course local bodies will be able to commission secure and other accommodation for under 18’s rather than simply purchasing what is currently available

3) Promoting Probation

Half of the £1.3 billion being used to build four new prisons, will be used to invest in community based alternatives to custody for the 50,000 people a year given short prison sentences – through more investment in supervision provided by probation, Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRC’s) and other organisations; by improved dialogue with judges and magistrates and better links with the public. Priority will be given to keeping women and people with mental health problems out of prison environments and strengthening the availability of community and residential treatment services instead. We will conduct a genuine and wide ranging review of Transforming Rehabilitation to ensure that when current CRC contracts end, a suitable model is in place for a reinvigorated probation service.

4) Safeguarding Prisons

We will redraft the Prisons Bill with much stronger duties on the authorities to provide decent conditions, avoid overcrowding, and treat prisoners with humanity, fairness and respect for their dignity. Prisons will be required to ensure proper staffing ratios based on 2010 levels and a task force established to drive developments in education, vocational training and work in prisons. Mental health services will be strengthened and a programme to develop life coaching for prisoners expanded across the estate.

5) Rehabilitation Devolution

We will develop a Justice Reinvestment Taskforce to identify the best ways of transferring responsibilities for justice services to a more local level, with a view to devolving budgets by the end of the parliament. Police and Crime Commissioners will be invited to chair new Justice and Safety Partnerships with CRC’s, local government, health and judicial participation which would give a greater regional voice in the system and create a commissioning vehicle to which criminal justice budgets might be devolved. Pathfinder initiatives will be agreed with Mayors in London and Manchester through which savings resulting from reductions in prison numbers will be reinvested in prevention and rehabilitation programmes.

There is a lot more that a new government should do - not least committing to take seriously David Lammy's recommendations on race equality in criminal justice; expanding the availability of Restorative Justice and considering a new approach to illegal drugs. But action on these five might help bring to an end what has been an increasingly unhappy period for criminal justice in England and Wales.

Rob Allen


  1. Steve Sturgess5 May 2017 at 13:11

    It is said no one really truly knows a nation until one has been inside it's jails . A nation should not be judged by how it treats it's highest citizens but it's lowest ones.
    A quote by Nelson Mandela.

    Given local election results and the real prospect of a hard right Tory party gaining a landside victory,it's evident that the population of this country does not give two hoots about prisons,probation,rehabilitation or much else.
    Oh. Except a hard Brexit.

  2. Probation Officer5 May 2017 at 19:28

    The first thing that needs to happen is to scrap Community Rehabilitation Companies and oust private enterprise in offender rehabilitation. I doubt any of this is going to happen though WHEN the Tories secure election victory, privatise more of the public sector and build more prison.

    Papillon reflects where the Tory justice manifesto is heading us...

    "The rule here is total silence. We make no pretence of rehabilitation here. We're not priests, we're processors. A meat packer processes live animals into edible meat. We process dangerous men into harmless ones. This we accomplish by breaking you. Breaking you physically, spiritually and here [taps head]. Strange things happen to the head here. Put all hope out of your mind, and masturbate as little as possible. It drains the strength."

  3. Hello, Mr off piste here again!! We of the great interserve family ( Sometimes known as the The Waltons, you know us all by by now!!) We will now provide an update... Them corporate types are at it again!! I say corporate types, but I am sadly referring to those ex SPOs and ACOs (IMs and CDs = New money)who are now actively peddling the corporate message.... we all belong to the interserve family; so to entice a feeling of family and well being and of course belonging: they direct us to the 'Myserve' website which , if you type in your employee number and name, then, Good lord, it's open seesame: a veritable aladdins cave is open to you. I kid you not; this is their latest selling point: It is 'Groupon with attitude'. I do stand back and feel for them, they were, once, good people.... no I take that back... they still are. But they are lost souls. Some will say on this blog that they sold their collective souls for the coin and are now flogging the predictable dead horse... Honest peeps... before you lost your way; you would listen to your teams who gave you at the very least, a realistic tempreture check of what is happening. You would at least take heed and you used to listen. What happened?
    I am restricted in characters to tell all in on swoop so part 2 follows!!!!!!

    1. 'Myserve' website? Post the link

    2. then type you employee number into the login then your name. It finds you on their sytem and your in!!!!!

  4. I disagree with a lot of this and wouldn't be voting for any party suggesting this.

    Sensible sentences. There first needs to be confidence in community sentences, and privatising probation/justice has eroded this confidence.

    Developing youth justice. There will be no "phasing out" of YOI's, and suggesting raising the YOT authority to 18-21 is rubbishing the work probation does with this age group.

    Promoting probation. This should read "developing probation", which means getting rid of CRC's and private companies. "Keeping women out of prison" is a soundbite, we should be trying to keep all people out of prison.

    Safeguarding prisons. Job and education programmes are needed, which lead to actual jobs on release.

    Rehabilitation devolution. Investing in jobs, education, accommodation, etc, is the way forward, and most importantly a resourced probation service to support the resettlement of released prisoners. There was once a complete working model for this, its part of probations 100 year history. I wish these "experts" would stop propping up PCC's with these articles, they are totally unnecessary. And Rob Allen should realise that many think of David Lammy's recommendations on ending race discrimination in the CJS as a main priority, not an afterthought!!

  5. On swoop should read 'one swoop'.. anyway here is Part 2... I kid you not.. A poor soul we know as a service user/offender/client/ whatever... reports in to a CRC office on a Thursday clutching a piece of paper.. He offers his name to reception... We cannot find him on the system.. Computer says NO!! Do we send him away???? No, we investigate.. He was sentenced on a Tuesday... He has been given an appointment by some poor harassed NPS PSO who probably was already part way into another standdown (FDR) report to go to his CRC office on a Thursday for induction... and told to go away.. Off he went... Now the PSC who are stretched beyond comprehension with sickness, unworkable directives, new staff only part trained etc etc... have not picked up the sentence at the last minute. No one has information.. Meanwhile, this man, looking as scared as the preverbal rabbit caught in the headlights, is seen at the coalface at 11.00 am.. He is, despite no information on risk, is inducted into the order with information derived from the little bit of writing on his grubby piece of paper and we end up asking him what he was sentenced to. Despite him looking at us with some sort of expression which patently says 'don't you know this already!!! What have I walked into.. We laugh it off as some sort of administrative cock up, oh how we laughed..... He has some idea and between us we work it out...Induction completed, he is at ease... relationship established..... jobs a good 'un...
    He has his UPW appointments all set.. RAR session set up... Just another day in the life..
    Now back at PSC World, they have allocated said case at 12:00 noon, some 60 minutes after induction... why.. because they are well behind.....They have to feed the target beast known as SL06.. They want to offer an appointment to scared rabbit within 7 days of sentence so not to attract a service credit (This is a bad thing if we fail and is expensive to CRC).Meanwhile back at coal face , poor old scared rabbit had lied to his employer about being off work , hasn't told him about sentence , Why? Obvious really.... So what do we do... we all collude in the great lie, we offer the beast a day which could have never been met, we agree an acceptable absence and all is well... the beast is fed, and we all move on.. nothing to see here... move along now.. We all collude in the lie, to feed this madness, and the poor old SPOs, ACOs think it is alright.... No one actually cares, or even asks the question, what are we actually offering , what are we actually delivering by way of intervention.. Utter madness.. Goodnight john boy, goodnight Mary Ellen... you know the rest... Waltons just another day in the life....

    1. As another member of the above mentioned Walton family I can concur that was was blogged above is a regular occurrence with staff completing group inductions with more than a few people that haven't been allocated and said CRC having no info on them which usually makes the whole fiasco a little circus like with staff running around trying to obtain said info in order that the offender / client / service user ?? can be given an appropriate next appointment. As stated above all managers are concerned about is that WE meet out SL target measures at whatever cost of actually completing effective work with people.

  6. Sensible sentencing? If a pre sentence report states that probation has nothing to offer the individual in the dock, and they are subsequently sentenced to a short custodial sentence, what use is it to make them subject to probation for 12 months upon release?


    1. Forgot to say that if you're sentenced 7 days on a Thursday, you'll be released on Friday morning but won't qualify for the much talked about £46.
      It would cost significantly less to put someone up in a Travelodge for the whole 7 days, and maybe some purpose would be served.