4 BALANCE BETWEEN PUNISHMENT
130. Ministers constantly affirm the message that
it is possible for the system to both punish and rehabilitate,
for example, Rt Hon David Hanson MP, then Prisons Minister, told
us: "we need to use both the community sentence and the experience
of prison to help support people not to commit further offences
and to do so in a way which deprives them of their liberty."
But many of our witnesses have argued that this is problematic
in the context of rational policy making. The intense debate among
respondents to our e-consultation on the relative importance of
the various aims of the criminal justice system highlights the
complexity of the balance between the existing purposes of the
system and the confusion which characterises public understanding
of them (see annex 4).
131. In many policy statements the Government's use
of language is opaque and often contradictory, for example, according
to Justice for All "a key objective of sentencing
is to reduce re-offending through the punishment and rehabilitation
The paper further states that "the punishment must be appropriate
to the offence and the offender, ensure the safety of the community
and help rehabilitate offenders to prevent them re-offending once
and for all."
These statements imply that punishment in itself effectively reduces
the chance that further offences will be committed.
132. The objective of reducing crime sits within
a wider set of considerations which sentencers must balance in
their choice of sentence and within the context of expressed Government
policy that sentences should be tougher and more appropriate,
reflecting public sentiment that sentencers are too lenient. The
Sentencing Advisory Panel has described how the various purposes
of sentencing could be applied by sentencers:
Sentencers must consider, given the nature and
seriousness of the offence committed and the circumstances of
the offender, which of these purposes is appropriate and how it
(they) might be achieved. Thus, 'reform and rehabilitation' may
influence the court in deciding what requirements to include in
a community order; and 'reparation' to the victim may indicate
a particular form of community order and/or a compensation order.
In this way different sentences may be used to support
different sentencing aims. The 2003 Criminal Justice Act did not
accord any particular weight to the purposes of sentencing or
suggest that any one purpose is more important than another when
deciding on the sentence to impose. The Panel has suggested that
the fact that punishment appears at the top of the list in statute
could be taken to suggest that this is the primary aim of sentencing,
particularly as most sentences will include an element of punishment;
the other statutory purposes of sentencing could therefore be
seen as subsidiary aims that it may be possible to accommodate
through sentence selection, depending on the nature of the offence
and the needs of the offender. Thus, attempts to reduce crime
through sentencing may not be an explicit factor in all sentencing
decisions except "in circumstances where the court concludes
that the most effective way to prevent an offender from committing
more offences is to address the underlying causes of the offending
behaviour, reform and rehabilitation in particular may be primary
considerations and can take precedence over punishment."
133. This appears to be contrary to the aim of the
2001 sentencing framework review in recommending the introduction
of a menu of community sentencing options. John Halliday, former
senior Home Office official, led the review and concluded that:
The available evidence suggests that greater
support for reform and rehabilitation, within the appropriate
"punitive envelope" of the sentence, to reduce risks
of re-offending, offers the best prospects for improved outcomes.
He suggested that sentencers should tailor the sentence
to rehabilitative needs first:
When considering a possible community sentence,
if the court finds that the assessment of risks of re-offending,
and consequent harm require work to tackle the offending behaviour
at its roots, it would look for appropriate programmes, matching
the assessed needs. In such cases, the "menu" for a
community sentence will be larger. The first decision would be
a choice of the programmes needed to tackle the offending behaviour,
and an assessment of how punitive compliance with such programmes
would be. If the "punitive weight" of complying with
the necessary programmes was inadequate, it would be increased
by adding any of the more exclusively punitive components.
134. The Sentencing Advisory Panel has classified
the primary purpose of each of the requirements that can be attached
to community orders under the Criminal Justice Act 2003 as: punishment
in the community (i.e. punitive); reparative activities; and those
aimed at preventing re-offending (i.e. reformative). Table 3 shows
that sentencers have made use of both punitive and reformative
requirements in tailoring community-based sentences, and that
reformative elements in particular are used more frequently, although
the use of several potentially reformative orders appears limited
given what is known about the prevalence of alcohol, drug and
mental health needs of offenders
135. However, Napo suggested that the surveillance
and enforcement roles of probation usurp rehabilitation and resettlement.
When trends in the use of requirements over time are considered
it is apparent that sentencers are increasingly dispensing more
punitive community-based sentences. Table 4 shows recent reductions
in the use of rehabilitative aspects of community orders, in particular
supervision and offending behaviour programmes and increases in
use of punitive elements like curfew and exclusion.
136. Witnesses and respondents to the e-consultation
pointed out that the key problem with focusing on punishment,
is that punishment does not in itself change behaviour and hence
result in better outcomes for victims in terms of the reduction
of crime. As Professor Cynthia McDougall pointed out: "people
continually want to punish as a means of trying to change behaviour
and actually the evidence does not suggest that it is doing it
very well [
] People are coming back again and again to prison".
For the same reason it is problematic to neglect the rehabilitative
aspects of sentences: more severe sentencing and crime reduction
are not the same thing but this is not the message that the public
gets. Rod Jarman, of the Metropolitan Police explained that unless
the system intervenes and deals effectively with the complexities
of many offenders' lives, punishment, sentences and orders will
not make a real difference to communities.
There is a stated wish for prison to be used only as a last resort
but all the evidence shows that there is an unstoppable administrative
conveyor belt from court orders onto custody (via breaches of
conditions) for relatively minor offences in the name of punishment.
137. A clear message from our witnesses was that
emphasis should be placed on ensuring that sentencing, in addition
to prisons and probation, must be more effective in reducing re-offending.
For example, Judge Michael Marcus, Oregon USA, argued that there
is a need to abandon the "magical thinking" that just
deserts, i.e. punishment, is a sufficient objective of sentencing.
He explained that the outcome of typical sentencing behaviour
is enormous recidivism, but he believed that this is often ignored
in efforts which seek to reduce the growth in the prison population,
because such efforts tended to focus on ameliorating the symptoms
of the punitive approach and did not address the root cause.
138. We are concerned that an assumption has been
created that punishment is the paramount purpose of sentencing.
There is an understandable public concern that offenders should
suffer serious consequences for the crimes they have committed,
but if other purposes, including reform and rehabilitation and
reparation to victims, were given higher priority, then we believe
sentencing could make a much more significant contribution to
reducing re-offending and to improving the safety of communities.
This depends not just on setting out purpose and aspiration,
or on statements of intent, but on transforming the culture and
ethos of the criminal justice system from a reactive approach
to a genuinely scientific and analytic approach. Chasing crime,
reacting to crime figures and, responding to public debate, has
brought about a remorseless growth in prison numbers, which devours
more and more scarce resource. The starting pointnot
just for sentencing, but for the work of the police, prison, probation
service and the contribution of third sector organisationsmust
be to analyse how and why criminal activity takes place, the factors
that influence the seriousness of offending and "what works"
in reducing both the frequency and the seriousness of offending.
Weaknesses in the capacity of
139. Many witnesses and respondents to the e-consultation
questioned whether efforts to reform offenders have gone far enough,
arguing that insufficient resources and effort are devoted to
achieving rehabilitation and reduced offending.
For instance, Rainer proposed that investment must be made in
people rather than prison building.
The Local Government Association and Clinks called for better
investment in addressing the drivers of offending and re-offending.
Jonathan Aitken, former Minster and ex-prisoner, similarly described
the rehabilitation of offenders as the weakest element of the
system but believed it has "tremendous scope" as a policy.
Speaking about those he encountered in prison he said:
I could see ways by which they might not re-offend
if they were handled differently from the way they were likely
to be handled after they were released from prison or if they
had been differently handled or their personal course of life
had been different earlier, or in the jargon of professional prison
thinkers, if there had been interventions in their lives [
140. The Government should go much further in
reducing the numbers of entrants and re-entrants to the criminal
justice system. More emphasis must be placed on ensuring that
the criminal justice system is effective in reducing re-offending,
diverting people into appropriate support and embracing wider
shared responsibility for reducing re-offending by tackling underlying
causes within local communities. Resources must be shifted into
targeting the reduction of re-offending on a much broader scale,
taking a whole systems approach, which applies the best available
research evidence to determine the most appropriate allocation
of resources both between prisons and probation and outwith the
criminal justice system.
Potentially rehabilitative measures
not yet implemented
141. In our report, Towards effective sentencing,
we lamented the fact that two of the potentially rehabilitative
measures, custody plus and intermittent custody, for which legislative
provision was made in the Criminal Justice Act 2003, have not
We concluded that this had contributed to the Government's failure
to stem the growth in prison numbers. Witnesses have raised concerns
about other such initiatives which have either never materialised,
or stalled in development, because they have not been sufficiently
IMPLEMENTING THE 2003 RESTORATIVE
142. The Government is of the view that community
involvement in the criminal justice system will be enhanced by
justice being dispensed through processes that promote and depend
on community input.
Restorative justice, which seeks to enable offenders to address
the harm caused to victims and communities as a result of their
offences, is an important example of this.
143. Restorative justice: the Government's strategy
was published for consultation in 2003. Respondents to the
consultation broadly welcomed the Government's strategic commitment
to an evidence-based approach. Witnesses and respondents to the
e-consultation highlighted the potential value of restorative
justice schemes as constructive, community-based responses to
crime, which have remained largely untapped i.e. they are not
widely available. For example, Professor Ian Loader argued that
there is now reliable research evidence on the value of restorative
justice. Mr Aitken
explained that restorative justice is not very expensive and appears
to pay a good dividend, citing figures that for every £1
spent on restorative justice at least £1 is saved by reducing
The Government is now revisiting its policy on restorative justice
with a new "victim focused" strategy for adult offenders,
which is currently in development.
144. We are surprised by the cautious approach
that the Government has taken towards restorative justice but
we welcome its current commitment to revive the strategic direction
in this area. We urge the Justice Secretary to take immediate
action to promote the use of restorative justice and to ensure
that he puts in place a fully funded strategy which facilitates
national access to restorative justice for victims before the
end of this Parliament.
145. Custody, care and justice: the way ahead
for the Prison Service in England and Wales, published in
1991 and endorsed by all political parties, included a commitment
to: "develop community prisons which will involve the gradual
realignment of the prison estate into geographically coherent
groups serving most prisoners within that area".
This idea was revisited in 2005 by the then Home Secretary, Rt
Hon Charles Clarke MP, who identified the benefits of such an
approach for both community engagement and better resettlement.
The following year the Government proposed the introduction of
community prisons for the least serious offenders.
146. Several witnesses spoke of the benefits of community
prisons, perhaps in regional clusters, in terms of rehabilitation,
maintaining family links and consistency in minimising movement
For example, Jonathan Aitken believed it is feasible for the prison
system to be re-configured to a local model.
His report for the Centre for Social Justice made detailed proposals
on such a model.
Policy Exchange has proposed that building smaller community-based
prisons with co-located courts would reduce other systemic inefficiencies,
for example, in relation to the effectiveness of resettlement
and the costs of prisoner and family transport.
147. There is undoubtedly political support for community
prisons yet the expansion in the prison population and the subsequent
assessment by Lord Carter that building large prisons is the only
way to meet demand for prison places, suggest that this idea has
once again been shelved. Lord Ramsbotham was critical that Lord
Carter did not calculate the cost of a regional prison model.
Mr Paul Tidball, Chair, Prison Governors' Association saw benefits
in the concept of such prisons and explained that some prisons
do operate in this way, i.e. covering specific local areas, but
he argued that it would be prohibitively expensive to reconfigure
the estate on a local or even regional basis.
According to Ian Porée, Director of Operation Policy and
Commissioning, NOMS the prospects of reconfiguring the prison
estate are limited in any case. He argued that such provision
would be impractical because there is an inherent inability to
provide a sufficient variety of provision for the range of offenders.
 It was
for this reason that small local custodial units for women, as
proposed by Baroness Corston, were subsequently dismissed by the
Ministry of Justice.
148. Plans to close outdated prisons have been reiterated
but there is currently limited prospect of this becoming a reality.
The realisation of the Government's original plan for community
prisons seem to rest on a lower prison population freeing up scarce
resources. The Government's proposals for community prisons
appear to have succumbed to pressures on the prison estate and
a decision to expand the prison estate rapidly. This emergency
response has prevented a more considered approach to review the
type of prison estate best suited for the criminal justice system
we wish to have in future.
149. We are disappointed that the Government has
not implemented its proposals for smaller community-based prisons
which would enable prisoners to serve much more of their sentence
in a single location, closer to their home communitywith
consequent benefits for their resettlement. Even if the community
prison model is not currently feasible it would be beneficial
to apply some of the principles to the existing prison estate
so that the estate is not expanded in such a way as to prohibit
such an approach in future. If the number of prisoners were
reduced, this would facilitate greater mobility to enable offenders
on sentences of 12months or less to be kept in prison closest
to home and those on longer sentences to be moved to a suitable
establishment near home when they are approaching the end of their
sentence in order to facilitate resettlement.
REFORM OF THE REHABILITATION OF
OFFENDERS ACT 1974
150. In 2002, the Government made a commitment to
legislate to amend the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, which
specifies rehabilitation periods (according to the type and length
of sentence) after which most offenders are no longer required
to disclose their convictions when applying for a job, at the
earliest opportunity. One respondent to the e-consultation explained
that the Act is "a huge obstacle to many former offenders
who wish to enter into education or workboth of which,
if secured, lead to reduction in re-offending."
By the Government's own admission reform is required: "so
that a better balance is achieved between the need to protect
the public from those who continue to pose a serious risk of harm
on the one hand, and improving the chances that an ex-offender
can get a job, and thus reduce his or her chances of re-offending
on the other".
However, these reforms have not been included in mass of new legislation
on criminal justice since then. We recommend that the Government
implement the reform of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974,
which it has conceded is required, before the end of this Parliament.
Slow progress reform for particular
groups of offenders
151. We noted in our report, Towards effective
sentencing, that insufficient provision had been made to deal
with particular groups of offenders, including short-sentenced
prisoners and those who may be considered vulnerable, particularly
women offenders, young offenders and those with mental health
problems. On the other hand, we were encouraged by the strong
recommendations of Baroness Corston's review of vulnerable women
in the criminal justice system, the majority of which were accepted
by the Government; the commencement of a review by Lord Bradley
on the treatment of people with mental health problems or learning
difficulties in the criminal justice system and; the shift in
the Government's perspective towards the cost-effectiveness of
imprisonment for those sentenced to less than 12 months.
PROGRESS ON THE CORSTON AND BRADLEY
152. Rt Hon David Hanson MP, then Prisons Minister,
drew our attention to the fact that the women's prison population
has reduced since the Government began to implement the recommendations
of the Corston report.
But Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, expressed
to us her disappointment on the progress with the Corston report
and told us of her suspicions that it is due to a lack of money.
Baroness Corston's recommendation for a network of community centres
for women offenders was based on the success of several 'demonstrator'
projects, financed by the Government for three years to March
2009. £15.6 million funding for a handful of such projects
was announced in February 2009.
It has since become apparent that some of this will be used to
overcome financial problems for the initial demonstrator projects
which are unable fully to sustain themselves without Government
153. In his review of people with mental health problems
or learning disabilities in the criminal justice system, Lord
Bradley agreed that all courts should have access to liaison and
diversion services, but did not address the problem we raised
in a previous report of how these would be funded.
The Ministry of Justice has promoted the use of such schemes but
it explained to us that it had limited influence on the commissioning
of them which, it argued, was a matter for local commissionersfunding
was the responsibility of primary care trusts. Nevertheless, Lord
Bradley found that the majority of existing schemes were solely
health service funded, but that jointly funded schemes, for example
with probation or the local authority, achieved better performance.
The Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health has recently suggested
that provision could be mandated in the 2010 NHS Operating Framework.
154. Until Lord Bradley's recommendations are implemented,
the Government continues to rely on encouraging diversion through
the use of guidance and circulars which, according to our evidence,
are limited in effect. Professor Cynthia McDougall told us:
There is a diversion provision, there are circulars
instructing people to do that, but the facilities on the ground
do not support it. They work in some areas but they do not work
in other areas. I can understand why judges or magistrates have
not got a lot of confidence in the system if nobody can say what
is actually going to happen to this person if they get diverted.
You need to have the systems in the community that are there so
the person does not become criminalised from the beginning and
gets diverted into more of a treatment ethos.
155. The Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health found
that each time a person is diverted from a short prison sentence
to community mental health care, the taxpayer saves £20,000
in the costs of crime.
Lord Bradley's team calculated that an increased use of mental
health requirements for offenders with mental health problems
that are currently subject to short-term prison sentences could
save an estimated 2000 prison places and yield savings of £40m
per year against the cost of community sentences.
In the context of the planned prison building programme, these
savings would be considerably higher as this would negate the
need for one of the new prisons. Despite this evidence, Lord Bradley
called for a centrally commissioned, more in-depth study to be
undertaken to verify these initial findings.
156. Lord Bradley also notes that although there
has been a reduction in delays in the transfer of prisoners to
hospital for treatment of acute mental illness, many prisoners
still have to wait long periods of time. He found this was partly
the result of the lack of availability of specialist beds and
problems in getting primary care trusts (PCTs) to pay for prisoners'
treatment. Yet, we heard that there is a surfeit of such beds
in the independent sector. Although hospital treatment is more
expensive than a prison place, Partnerships in Care, a large independent
provider of medium-secure psychiatric care, raised concerns that
because the Ministry of Justice funds prison places for those
not diverted to hospital, there is little incentive for a PCT
to fund hospital placements. Partnerships in Care highlighted
the additional costs of managing a prisoner with acute mental
health problems and the potential for eventual costs to the NHS
to escalate if conditions are not treated as effectively as possible.
Furthermore, the re-offending rates for those treated in custody
are estimated at only 7% over 2 years.
More recent research by Laing and Buisson suggests that the reduced
risk of re-offending as a result of hospital treatment could lead
to a saving to society of over £600,000 over a prisoner's
lifetime for each prisoner transferred out of prison into a secure
report notes that in 2007, 1,458 offenders were diverted into
hospital settings and recommends that this number should be doubled.
According to the Ministry of Justice, the greater use of secure
mental health facilities would be too challenging to implement
and would only yield 200 prison places in the short-term.
Nevertheless, the potential medium and long-term benefits indicate
that this area warrants further consideration.
157. We are disappointed with the Government's
slow progress in implementing Baroness Corston's recommendations
for vulnerable women offenders, which it accepted in December
2007. We are concerned that the limited additional funding that
has been committed to implementing the recommendations has been
partially diverted to existing projects which have been unable
to find sustainable funding. This is symptomatic of fundamental
problems in funding initiatives which would reduce the use of
158. We welcome Lord Bradley's review of the treatment
of people with mental health problems or learning difficulties
in the criminal justice system. There is strong evidence that
swift action in this area, in particular to broaden access to
diversion and liaison schemes and to secure hospital treatment,
could yield short, medium and long-term reductions in the prison
population and result in cost savings to the public purse, as
well as provide more humane approaches to managing offenders with
ALTERNATIVES FOR SHORT-SENTENCED
159. Where custodial sentences are given for less
serious offences (theft, handling stolen goods, fraud, forgery
and criminal damage) they tend to be short, typically 4 to 12
months. However, these offenders tend to be very persistent, with
60% of convicted shoplifters and 38% of burglars having 3 or more
previous convictions or cautions for the same offence. Although
at any one time only about 13% of sentenced offenders in prison
are serving a short-term sentence, these sentences account for
nearly 60,000 offenders entering prison each year.
The Magistrates' Association and representatives from the Probation
Chiefs' Association, Prison Reform Trust and the Sainsbury Centre
for Mental Health, among others, re-iterated the importance of
recognising that those serving short prison sentences are not
subject to statutory supervision by probation on release and neither
are they in prison long enough to complete courses aimed at rehabilitation.
As we noted in our report, Towards effective sentencing,
this is very wasteful of resources both in terms of the use of
custody and costs of re-offending.
We commend the Government's progress in attempting to reduce
the use of short prison sentences since our report, Towards
effective sentencing. We have some concerns that a version
of Custody Plus, which was not in itself implemented, is now being
introduced 'by the back door' without sufficient funding.
160. There are also questions over the timeliness
of provision. Savas Hadjipavlou, Ministry of Justice, and Metropolitan
Police Commander Rod Jarman, both told us that in order to be
successful services should be ready at the time the person is
assessed as requiring them (e.g. immediately on release from prison
or on receipt of the community order).
It is important to seize the moment with interventions of
this sort and to be put on a waiting list for several weeks or
months can hardly be described as seizing the moment. Thus, delays
in getting access to treatment or to starting community orders
may also undermine the efficacy of sentences in reducing crime.
161. There is a strong case for
using very short term periods in custody of only one or two days
for the assessment of needs and, where necessary, immediate detoxification,
followed by fast track into appropriate housing, and into drugs,
alcohol and/or mental health treatment with supervision. If re-offending
occurs the process begins again. We were struck by the extent
to which these initiatives were led by police officers and/or
judges, and the extent to which they commanded cross-agency co-operation,
fast intervention and shared resources. For example, in Portland,
Oregon local decision makers appeared to have the authority and
empowerment to cut through the red tape and act swiftly. Consideration
needs to be given to authorising local decisions which override
the delays inherent in the management of demand within local agencies.
There are parallels with the intentions behind the establishment
of crime and disorder partnerships. Despite the introduction of
local area agreements the day-to-day priorities of the local police
commander and the chief executives of the local authority or health
trust still differ. There is a need to refresh and drive the commitment
to local crime reduction through a targeted partnership approach.
Adults facing chronic exclusion
162. Witnesses identified the need to recognise a
particular group of short-sentenced prisoners with multiple needs,
who are over-represented in the criminal justice system.
For example, Revolving Doors Agency used the term "revolving
door" to refer to "the experiences of people who are
caught in a cycle of crisis, crime and mental illness, whereby
they are repeatedly in contact with the police and often detained
in prison. Dr
Miles Rinaldi vividly described this group:
] the toxic mixture of individuals who
do not necessarily meet the eligibility criteria for services
within the borough - so people who have common mental health problems
and may have a low learning disability but are not meeting the
threshold for learning disability services, and drug and alcohol
issues but not necessarily engaging with the services that are
163. Revolving Doors Agency explained that services
are reluctant to intervene with such individuals. They hence fall
through the gaps in provision; tend to receive short prison sentences
because of their histories of non-engagement and the lack of appropriate
services in their communities.
Angela Greatley, Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health, described
the futility of such sentences in addressing offending:
] [they are] so short that no health care
catches up with them while they were on the short sentence and
they are sent up country somewhere else or they are on a very
short local sentenceand they come out and no one has seen
them, and when they come out of the gate they have the small amount
of cash they are given, they might or might not be picked up by
an agency, they certainly probably do not have some roof over
their head, and they immediately, of course, gravitate back to
the kind of company and groups who are their friends and their
164. She added that a mechanism must be found for
ensuring that this group of offenders engage with services: "it
is clearly unacceptable that any community should have people
who come out of prison, for instance, effectively, dumped in communities."
Revolving Doors Agency argued that emphasis should be shifted
outside the criminal justice system altogether to prevent this
group from falling through the net in the first place. 
The Cabinet Office Social Exclusion Task Force acknowledged that
this group, which it refers to as "adults facing chronic
exclusion", is hard to place and support in existing services.
However there has been no systematic attempt to address this except
in a few pilot areas which have received cross-departmental funding
specifically for this purpose (discussed below). We welcome
Government emphasis on reducing the use of short-term prison sentences
but believe a broader approach is required. This should include
increasing the capacity of probation to deal with community sentences,
and wider community work with the chronically excluded so as to
reduce the waste of probation resources on lower risk offenders.
It is more cost-effective to deal with offenders when behaviour
starts to become problematic rather than when it is entrenched
enough to warrant a custodial sentence.
MORE APPROPRIATE PROVISION FOR YOUNG
165. The Government acknowledged that prison and
probation provision for young adult offenders (i.e. those aged
18-20) must be improved in its Justice for all white paper in
2001, in recognition of the very high levels of re-offending by
this group. While re-offending rates for young adults have since
fallen, they remain high,
and Rainer (now Catch22) argued that the needs of this group continue
to be neglected.
The Transition to Adulthood Alliance calls for a "distinct
and radical new approach" to be taken to dealing with adult
offenders up to the age of 24.
While young adults make up only 9.5% cent of the general population,
they represent a third of people sentenced to custody each year,
take up a third of probation caseloads and commit a third of all
crime. The Alliance argues that dealing with this group more effectively
could yield considerable savings: it calculated that their crimes
cost the taxpayer between £16.8 and 20 billion per year.
166. It does not make financial sense to continue
to ignore the needs of young adult offenders. They will become
the adult offenders of tomorrow. Particular effort should be made
to keep this group out of custody. A multi-agency approach, akin
to that applied to young offenders aged under 18, might bring
similar benefits in terms of the reduction of re-offending to
those aged 18 to 25.
Coherence of criminal justice
167. Several witnesses noted the importance of overcoming
the tension between punishment and reform if criminal justice
policy-making is to become more rational, and expressed to us
some anxieties about the coherence of criminal justice policy
and its sustainability. For instance, Nacro pointed to an apparent
reluctance on behalf of the Government to draw together convincing
arguments about the importance of rehabilitation and resettlement,
as well as punishment, which was necessary if there is to be a
real reduction in crime.
The Prison Reform Trust said that "employing costly and unplanned
stop-gap measures as the system lurches from one crisis to the
nextrather than placing the system on a planned, cost-effective
and sustainable basisis a failing strategy."
Napo also criticised the Government's lack of long-term planning
and suggested that as a result policy tends to be more about crisis
management than attempting to implement a long term strategic
approach to reducing re-offending. 
168. The twin track approaches of punishment and
rehabilitation do not fit together into a coherent or rational
policy. There are inherent contradictions in what Government is
trying to achieve, the messages it is communicating and the subsequent
outcomes. The rhetoric of punishment comes through more strongly
in Government policy than reform or rehabilitation.
169. We recognise the importance of society expressing
its abhorrence of crime and understand the expectation that punishment
will be an element of sentencing, but the over-riding purpose
of the offender management system is public safety, therefore
the prevention of future crime. Each offender completing their
sentence should be less likely to re-offend than before. Yet there
is compelling evidence that the Government has missed many opportunities
to reduce re-offending by failing to invest in community provision
outside the criminal justice system and by not delivering the
raft of promising approaches proposed in recent years.
170. If the system were to be re-focused on this
explicit aim the offence would not be viewed as any less serious
but the immediate intervention and way of dealing with it might
be different. Even if the Government cannot agree that reducing
re-offending should be the over-riding aim, there must be an agreement
that it is currently the most neglected, and that this must change
if the system is to become more coherent and rational.
Placing victims at the heart
of the system means working to reform offenders
171. Victim Support welcomed the different but overlapping
initiatives which are taking place within different Government
departments but suggested that a "whole system" joined
up approach is needed which is more clearly defined and which
explicitly recognises the link between victimisation and offending.
The criminal justice system must also strike a balance between
meeting the needs of victims and those of offenders. Louise Casey
expressed concern that victims feel that the criminal justice
system respects the rights of perpetrators of crime more than
victims. The perceived
need to rebalance the system in favour of victims can therefore
make it difficult for the Government to invest more heavily in
provision for offenders, even when it is intended to prevent future
172. On the other hand we heard that investing in
the prevention of re-offending represents the best means of preventing
further victimisation. As Imran Hussain, Head of Policy and Communications
at the Prison Reform Trust, reminded us, there is a danger that
the balance between victims and perpetrators of crime becomes
a zero-sum game.
In our discussions with Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Victim
Support, on sentencing guidelines, she was clear that victims
support the reduction of re-offending:
] we seem to be [
] leaping to the
conclusion and some prescription around what should happen if
this does not seem to be working, and we are talking about guidelines
which are really saying, in any commonsense way, if something
does not work, we start to analyse why not and then think about
whether it should be some other kind of penalty or whether it
should be a higher sentence because of the individual circumstances
of the case, which is what justice, in a sense, is about, and
really reflecting on what we absolutely know around victims, and
that is that what they want, apart from the impossible, which
is to be put back in time to where it did not happen in the first
place, is for it not to happen again, and so the emphasis for
us on trying to make that happen is really very strong indeed
and, also, a reminder that very many of the offenders that we
are talking about are themselves victims. They will have been
through some form of victimisation themselves, and, if we do not
stop that cycle by looking at a whole gamut of solutions other
than just potentially custodial sentences, then we probably miss
the point and we are caught in that loop.
173. Rt Hon David Hanson MP, then Prisons Minister,
acknowledged that offenders are very often victims: "we are
dealing very often with some very damaged individuals for whom
the problems may well have started in childhood or in early youth".
He suggested that the complexity of these problems explained why
it is "very difficult at times" for the system to deal
effectively with literacy, numeracy, employability, problems with
drugs and alcohol, mental health issues.
This is not, however, the consistent message coming from Government
as evident in the Secretary of State's address on punishment and
reform in October 2008 where he criticised the 'offender lobby':
But what about victims? The government as a whole
has worked very hard to give a central voice and priority to victims,
but we hear far less often from these lobbies about the needs
of the victim. I think that they sometimes forget who the victim
is, so lost do they become in a fog of platitudes.
174. We heard that there may be some scope for shifting
the strategic direction of policy to reducing the risk of re-victimisation.
For example, Professor Jonathan Shepherd suggested that emphasis
could be placed on reducing the risk of being a victim of crime
through community based work e.g. on alcohol abuse.
Professor Ian Loader argued that the emphasis of policy should
be placed on preventing the victimisation of those who justifiably
have a high fear of crime because they are at high risk of being
175. The reduction of re-offending and of the
incidence of serious further offences requires an essentially
public-focused and victim-based approach which goes beyond the
traditional culture of the courts and the criminal justice system
Mainstream provision to reduce crime and re-offending
INTEGRATED CRIME REDUCTION AND REDUCING
176. The most recent proposed Strategic Plan for
Reducing Re-offending 2008-11 included references to better
use of resources, in particular asking whether resources should
be prioritised on those with the highest likelihood of re-offending,
rather than primarily related to the seriousness of the offence.
The plan for the first time explicitly integrates reducing re-offending
with the wider crime reduction agenda supported by new Public
Service Agreement (PSA) targets, placing renewed emphasis on cross-departmental
accountability for reducing re-offending.
Several PSA priorities, which were implemented on 1 April 2008,
relate to crime reduction and reducing re-offending. These are
shown in chart x.
177. The introduction of shared performance indicators
through local area agreements marks a shift in emphasis to joining
up cross-departmental agendas at local level. This is explained
in the Criminal Justice System Business Plan 2008-09: "increasingly
the centre will work by providing the broad principles and direction,
including guidance and best practice examples, within which areas
will develop their approach to meet local circumstances and priorities."
The Government is thus stepping back from "what has been
perceived as a centrally target-driven approach" to encourage
a localised approach to meeting locally agreed targets and hence
transferring accountability to local level.
178. The table below shows the number of local areas
which have chosen to prioritise national indicators relevant to
179. We welcome the move to joint targets and
more sophisticated measures of re-offending. The Public Service
Agreement performance framework and accompanying Local Area Agreement
indicators are much more constructive than the preceding targets.
The previous arrangements permitted relevant organisations
to continue to avoid their responsibilities despite the recognition
by Government, and by many of the agencies concerned, that interaction
between the criminal justice agencies and with other partners
are crucial to reducing re-offending. We are concerned that
there has been low take-up of crime-related indicators in local
areas and we believe that local strategic partnerships should
better reflect the priority given to crime as a matter of public
concern both nationally and locally.
180. The evidence indicates a need for a stronger
driver of cross-departmental strategy. For example, Clive Martin,
Clinks, argued that the local area agreement process is inaccessible
to the voluntary sector which has a strong track record in providing
services to offenders.
Julian Corner, co-author of the Social Exclusion Unit report on
reducing re-offending by ex-prisoners, has suggested that the
emphasis of policy in this area should shift more fundamentally:
The primary role of our prisons is to contain
and correct dangerousness that imminently threatens society. Soaking
up community failure weakens and confuses this function. On the
other hand, the role of our community services is to ensure that
vulnerable people can live independent lives and can realise their
aspirations. The "free good" or "pressure valve"
of the prison system diminishes the accountability of community
services to get this right
We should be talking instead about
putting in place firewalls [original emphasis] not pathways,
designed to prevent community failure permeating our prisons.
181. For example, Juliet Lyon set out the obstacles
to implementing well-evidenced programmes to shift the balance
of the system for women. In response to the Ministerial Statement
on the Corston report:
] I have scarcely seen anything quite
so cautiously framed. We just might do this thing possibly one
day, maybe [
] it was terribly disappointing, and it occurred
to me that maybe there has been a problem about finding the money
and about being able to identify a budget for it, because the
Government have indicated in principle that they are prepared
to accept 40 of Baroness Corston's 43 recommendations and seemed
very clear about wanting to go ahead with a ten-year plan which
would, in effect, close women's prisons and establish a large
network in the community of supervision and support centres for
women. So there is clearly is cash outlay for that element alone
of the programme, but in turn, with evidence very firmly on her
side, it is quite clear that if Baroness Corston's plan was implemented,
it would save a lot of money. What I am driving at [
because the money is not available, then there maybe is an argument
for having some flexibility in funding so that when people want
to do something better and different they can find that extra
cost in order to save serious money and to demonstrate they can
save serious money in the medium to longer-term.
Capacity to prioritise resources
182. In March 2007, the Public Administration Committee
published a report Governing the future on strategic thinking
in Whitehall, emphasising the importance of long-term policy
planning and the need for transparency in policy development.
It stated that:
Governing for the future is difficult. Not only
are there notorious uncertainties in forecasting, but governments
are also hampered by the short-termism of the electoral cycle
] Policies agreed now will affect the lives of the next
and subsequent generations [
] Government should be as open
as possible about the way in which it considers long-term issues,
to build public understanding of possible future scenarios. Change
in policy in the light of changing knowledge and circumstances
is a sign of strength not weakness; and a public which recognises
that strategies are made in the light of the best evidence available
at the time, with all the uncertainty that this implies, may be
better able to understand the need for change.
183. We examined the extent to which policy and planning
for criminal justice takes such a long-term view. In early 2008
the Ministry of Justice was subject to a baseline capability review
by the Cabinet Office to assess how well equipped it was to deliver
on its objectives.
The ability of the department to 'plan, resource and prioritise'
was identified as one of three areas in which urgent development
was required. Other areas for development included its ability
to build capacity and base choices on evidence. The Cabinet Office
] the [Ministry of Justice] Board is not
always able to draw on reliable data when taking prioritisation
decisions within a difficult financial environment. It is not
currently able to set a reasonable price for a given level of
services and drive efficiencies by creating incentives for providers
to deliver at or below that price.
184. The National Audit Office's report on the effectiveness
of community orders
concluded that the probation service does not know with any certainty
how many orders it has the potential or capacity to deliver within
its resources, nor has it determined the full cost of delivering
community orders. It also found that neither local areas nor NOMS
could say whether sentences have been fulfilled because data on
the completion of order requirements is not routinely reported.
Lord Ramsbotham said that the same was true for imprisonment:
nobody knows the cost of imprisonment; nobody knows how much it
actually costs to do the things the Government says ought to be
done with and for prisoners. He compared this to his experience
of planning at the Ministry of Defence which worked out what activity
was essential, what it was desirable to have and what must be
left out because there were insufficient resources. 
185. The Ministry of Justice has recognised the need
to improve the data upon which financial decisions about spending
on criminal justice are made. In February 2008, NOMS acknowledged
in its Commissioning and Partnerships Framework that there
was insufficient information on the costs of various prison and
probation activities to support commissioning decisions, i.e.
how much commissioners should expect to pay for the volume of
It has since embarked on a 3-5 year exercise to examine the capacity
of prisons and probation and to support "best value"
commissioning known as the specification, benchmarking and costing
first phase of the programme is expected to yield efficiency savings
of £50 million in 2009/10.
It is expected that fully-costed specifications for all prison
and probation services will be completed in time to support business
planning for 2010-11.
186. The responsibilities for criminal justice policy,
community development and the voluntary sector and volunteering
rested with the Home Office as recently as 2001. Now these responsibilities
are split between the Home Office, the Ministry of Justice, the
Cabinet Office and the Department for Communities and Local Government.
While the reorganisation may assist in terms of focus on specific
policies it does undermine the idea of a joined-up approach to
the optimum management of resources to reduce crime.
187. There is no coherent strategy between the
Home Office, Ministry of Justice and other departments to ensure
the most appropriate allocation of resources to reduce crime.
A considerable amount of management information about offenders
is held locally by prisons, probation areas and other providers
which, if captured centrally, would provide a wealth of material
to support the case for cross-departmental reform.
188. We welcome the NOMS benchmarking programme
but we are concerned that it is motivated more by a desire to
save money that to ensure that resources are allocated rationally
to best effect; it is also limited to interventions that have
typically been provided by the probation service and does not
seek to consider the cost-effective use of resources for reducing
crime more widely.
211 Q 574 Back
Justice for All White Paper, Cm 5563, July 2002, p 103 Back
Ibid, p 17 Back
Sentencing Advisory Panel, Consultation paper on overarching principles
of sentencing, July 2008, p 12 Back
Ibid, pp 12-13 Back
John Halliday, Making punishments work: a review of the sentencing
framework in England and Wales, July 2001,
p ii Back
Ibid, p 19 Back
Ev 238 Back
Q 131 Back
Q 545 Back
In our recent report on the role of the prison officer we observed
that improving access to education for prison officers would be
likely to increase their ability to positively influence prisoners,
both in terms of educational uptake and in terms of addressing
factors that increase the likelihood of re-offending. Back
Ev 185 Back
Q 141, 513 [Professor McDougall, Lord Dubs]; Ev 292 [Sainsbury
Centre for Mental Health] Back
Ev 265ff Back
Ev 180 Back
Q 511 Back
HC (2007-08) 184-I, para 117 Back
See Justice for All White Paper, Cm 5563, July 2002 Back
Q 484. For example, the Prison Reform Trust found that the re-offending
rate following the use of restorative youth conferencing in Northern
Ireland was 37.7%, compared to 52.1% for community sentences and
70.7% for custodial sentences. Back
Q 516. Based on evidence in Ministry of Justice report, Does restorative
justice affect reconviction? The fourth report from the evaluation
of three schemes, June 2008. Back
HC Deb, 17 March 2009: col 1124W [Commons written answer] Back
HL Deb, 26 June 08, cols 1617 [Lords Chamber] Back
Rt Hon Charles Clarke MP, Speech to Prison Reform Trust,
September 2005 Back
National Offender Management Service, Five year strategy for
protecting the public and reducing re-offending, February 2006 Back
Qq 430, 474 [Mr Tidball, General Lord Ramsbotham]; Ev 234 [Napo] Back
Q 519 Back
Policy Exchange, Locked up potential: a strategy for reforming
prisons and rehabilitating prisoners, March 2009 Back
Ev 252 Back
Q 475 Back
Qq 430-433 Back
Q 381 Back
Ministry of Justice. Delivering the Government response to the
Corston Report, June 2008 Back
See Annex 4, TH2972 Back
HM Government, Justice for All, Cm 5563, July 2002 Back
Q 566 Back
Q 167 Back
HC Deb, 3 Feb 2009, col 45WS [Commons written ministerial statement] Back
Ev 213 Back
As this report was being prepared for publication the Ministry
of Justice announced a new policy initiative to reduce women's
prison places by 400 (around 10%) by March 2012 to free up funding
for specialist services in the community aimed at turning vulnerable
women away from crime (MoJ press release 181-09, 14 December 2009)
Justice Committee, Fifth Report of Session 2007-08, Towards effective
sentencing, HC 184-I, para 117 Back
Lord Bradley's review of people with mental health problems or
learning disabilities in the criminal justice system,
April 2009 Back
Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health, The Bradley report and
the Government's response, July 2009 Back
Q 145 Back
Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health, Diversion: a better way for
mental health and criminal justice, February 2009 Back
Bradley Report, p 96 Back
Ev 247 Back
Renshaw, J. Waiting on the Wings: A review of the costs and benefits
of secure psychiatric hospital care for people in the criminal
justice system with severe mental health problems, January 2010,
Laing and Buisson Back
Ev 229 Back
Ministry of Justice, Working in partnership to reduce re-offending
and make communities safer, October 2008 Back
The Criminal Justice Act 2003 made provision for the introduction
of a custody plus order - a new sentence of imprisonment for 12
months or less. Part of the sentence would have been served in
the community under statutory supervision. The Government's intention
was that this order would replace short prison sentences with
effect from November 2006 but implementation was postponed. Back
Q 344, 543 [Ms Greatley, Mr Scott]; Ev 183 [Magistrates' Association].
New research by Matrix has calculated that diverting one offender
from custody to residential drug treatment would save £75,000
to the criminal justice system over the lifetime of the offender.
There are further savings of £13,000 to the NHS and £112,000
to victims. Back
Qq 321-324 [Mr Hadjipavlou], Q 541 [Commander Jarman] Back
Qq 344 [Ms Greatley]; Q 349 [Mr Rinaldi, Ms Hennessey] Back
Ev 286 Back
Q 349 Back
Ev 287 Back
Q 344 Back
Ev 287 Back
Social Exclusion Task Force, Reaching out: an action plan on social
exclusion, 2006 Back
The volume of re-offending has fallen by 28% since 2000 but this
age group still re-offends at the highest rate (178.8 offences
per 100 re-offenders). Back
Ev 269 Back
Transition to Adulthood Alliance, A new start: young adults in
the criminal justice system, July 2009 Back
Ev 235 Back
Ev 258 Back
Ev 236ff Back
Ev 304ff. For example, at least 50% of women in prison have been
victims of childhood abuse and/or domestic violence, see Ev 304 Back
Q 235 Back
Q 181 Back
Oral evidence taken before the Justice Committee on 3 June 2008,
HC (2007-08), 649-i, Q 15 Back
Q 574 Back
Speech by the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice,
28 October 2008, Royal Society for the Arts. Back
Q 337 Back
Q 484 Back
A revised strategic plan has not materialised and it appears
to have been superseded by the broader update on the direction
of criminal justice policy entitled Punishment and Reform. Back
Strategic Plan for Reducing Re-offending 2008-11. Working in Partnership
to Reduce Re-offending and Make Communities Safer: A Consultation,
Ministry of Justice, 2008 Back
Office for Criminal Justice Reform, The Criminal Justice System
Business Plan 2008-09, February 2008, p 6 Back
Q 577 [Mr Campbell] Back
Q 453 Back
Julian Corner, From pathways to firewalls-a more 'solid' approach
to prison reform in Advancing Opportunity: routes in and out of
the criminal justice system, The Smith Institute, 2008, p 116 Back
Q 167 Back
Public Administration Committee, Governing the future on strategic
thinking in Whitehall, Second Report of Session
2006-07, HC123-I, p 3 Back
Cabinet Office, Civil Service Capability Review: Ministry of Justice
Baseline Assessment, April 2008. Back
Ibid, p 6 Back
National Audit Office, National Probation Service: The Supervision
of Community Orders in England and Wales, January 2008 Back
Q 472 Back
National Offender Management Service, National Commissioning and
Partnerships Framework 2008/09, February 2008,
p 17 Back
Ev 222 Back
Ev 222 Back
Ev 222-223 Back