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Government quizzed on re-offending rates

Yesterday's parliamentary session saw the government quizzed on their plans for reducing reoffending rates in adults and young people.

Yesterday’s parliamentary session saw the government quizzed on their plans for reducing reoffending rates in adults and young people.

Lilian Greenwood, MP for Nottingham South (Labour), shone a spotlight on the pressing issue of reoffending rates among children and young people. Greenwood’s inquiry to the Ministry of Justice centred around understanding the implications of current policies on these reoffending rates and exploring potential solutions like restorative justice.

Edward Argar, Justice Minister, provided an overview of the trends in youth reoffending rates. Over the past decade, there has been a notable decline in reoffending rates, cautions, and convictions for young people, dropping from 40.4% to 32.2%. However, Argar acknowledged a slight uptick in the past year, while maintaining that overall, the numbers have fallen significantly under the current government.

The Power of Restorative Justice

Greenwood highlighted the potential of restorative justice to address youth reoffending. Referring to the play “Punch” by James Graham, she emphasised its powerful depiction of young men’s offending behaviour and the transformative impact of restorative justice. She passionately urged for greater integration of restorative justice into the justice system, posing the question: “What role does the Minister believe restorative justice can and should play in tackling reoffending?”

In response, Argar said: “I see restorative justice as one element of a package that can help to reduce reoffending and get children and young people who commit crime back on to the straight and narrow.” While decisions on restorative justice are ultimately up to judges, Argar affirmed its potential as a significant component in reducing reoffending.

Community Sentences vs. Short Custodial Sentences

The discussion on reoffending also extended to the effectiveness of different types of sentences. Richard Graham, MP for Gloucester (Conservative), questioned the comparative effectiveness of short custodial sentences versus community sentences. The data presented by Gareth Bacon, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, appeared striking: those serving sentences of six months or less have a 59% reoffending rate, while those given suspended sentences or community orders have a reoffending rate of just 24%.

Graham and Bacon both seemingly advocated for the expansion of community payback schemes, with Bacon stating, “Community payback offers offenders an opportunity to make visible reparations to their local communities.” These schemes not only help reduce reoffending but also provide tangible benefits to the community, such as litter picking and supporting local charities.

The Importance of Support and Rehabilitation

Bob Blackman, MP for Harrow East (Conservative), raised another crucial aspect of reducing reoffending: ensuring that ex-offenders have access to safe and secure accommodation upon release. Alex Chalk, Justice Secretary, claimed the government’s efforts meant 86% of offenders now have homes to go to on their first night post-release and that this stability is vital for successful reintegration and reducing the temptation to reoffend.

Chalk proudly shared feedback from a probation officer, who called the policy rollout “the single most significant” initiative in his 30-year career. Chalk also claimed the government’s investment in employment opportunities for ex-offenders is bearing fruit, with the proportion of prison leavers in employment six months post-release having more than doubled in two years.

The parliamentary session underscored the importance of the probation service in tackling reoffending among adults and young people. While the government believes significant progress has been made, those working in the field know that solutions like restorative justice and community sentences require a properly staffed and resourced probation service, which Napo and our members have repeatedly pointed out is not the case currently.

One Response

  1. If, as Chalk claims, ‘the government’s investment in employment opportunities…is bearing fruit, with the proportion of prison leavers in employment six months post-release having more than doubled in two years’, then why has the government just ended all the Probation CRS contracts for the delivery of employment, training and education (ETE) in the community? Seems contradictory.

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