Following the motion at Napo’s AGM supporting the devolution of Wales probation, Liz Saville-Roberts MP Plaid Cymru, spoke at a Westminster debate on prisons in Wales 29th November 2023. She made a strong case for Wales Probation, the devolution of probation and the wider criminal justice system and refenced the work that Napo Cymru has done.
Liz Saville Roberts: There is a glimmer of hope: 53% of those managed by Welsh probation services went into settled accommodation immediately following release last year. That compares with 48% in England. However, that is short-lived. The number of Welsh prisoners recalled to prison has increased by 58% compared with 2017. It is evidently necessary for dangerous or non-compliant offenders to be recalled. However, speaking to members of Napo Cymru, the Welsh probation union, I was interested to learn of their fear that the increasing recall numbers are not just related to public safety, which is right and proper. They are also related to an understaffed, under-resourced and overloaded service that turns to recall as a first resort, when it should surely be better equipped to engage and assist people who are struggling to rehabilitate.
Some Westminster colleagues continue to believe and argue that the system is working well for Wales, but I would urge them to consider the data provided to them this morning. The Wales Governance Centre suggests that its data is a direct challenge, and I honestly suggest it is grounds for a complete overhaul. Repeating that argument year on year does not change that call, because the evidence demands it.
That is not just coming from someone like me from Plaid Cymru. It is a call echoed by those working within prisons and the probation service in Wales. Napo Cymru is calling for the devolution of probation and youth justice, as did Gordon Brown in the report of the Commission on the UK’s Future. A devolved national probation service would allow us to start addressing structural issues in the probation service in Wales, and to focus on crime prevention in the first place. It would allow us to work with offenders to improve their post-release life chances, and would be integrated with areas that are already devolved such as health, housing and social policy. Such devolved services are already working with prison leavers, and are integrated with a wider justice and policing strategy. With focused recourses, that makes logical sense.
Watch here https://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/8e75ec3b-4a85-4d49-9edb-5880b2af99c8?in=11:01:15 (start 11:01:15)