Cutting crime: the case for justice reinvestment - Justice Committee Contents


ANNEX 4: JUSTICE REINVESTMENT E-CONSULTATION

The Committee wished to conduct an e-consultation alongside this inquiry in order to engage a wider cross-section of the public and interested groups than would be possible through the gathering of written and oral evidence alone.

Profile of respondents

92 people registered to take part in the e-consultation. At the point of registration, participants were asked to categorise themselves according to their interest in the consultation. This is illustrated in the table below:

Interest in consultation
Number of registered users
General public
38
Criminal justice professional
26
Other organisations or stakeholders
25
Ex-offenders
3
Total
92

Participants were asked to address the following questions:

1.  If the Government could take one action that would cut crime and save the taxpayer money, what should it be?

2.  How much do you feel you know what happens in the prisons and probation services? How confident are you in the effectiveness of these services and how well they are run?

3.  Do you know of someone who committed a crime and was helped to become a law abiding citizen? What made the difference to them?

4.  Is it more important to spend money on imprisoning more people for longer or to spend money to ensure that those who've finished their sentence do not commit more crimes?

49 of those who had registered posted a total of 134 messages on the site, including moderators and MPs.

Of these:

  • 45 were posted on the single action page, including 1 from a moderator
  • 23 were posted on the knowledge of prisons and probation page, including 1 from a moderator
  • 14 were posted on the preventing re-offending page, including 1 from a moderator
  • 52 were posted on the balance of spending page, including 1 from a moderator and 2 from Members

The table below shows that half of the contributors posted more than one message, and some made as many as six or more contributions:

Number of postings
Number of posters
One
23
Two
5
Three
7
Four
8
Five
1
Six or more
5
Total
49

Summary of Responses

General observations of public understanding of the criminal justice system

Lack of public awareness

The respondents generally felt that public awareness of the criminal justice system was low:

    "I was very unaware of what happened in prisons until I became a volunteer. I visit the local women's prison about 3 times a year as part of a prayer/activity group. There is much need to inform the general public about prison. Why and how people find themselves there" (odi24).

    "I really feel that probation staff are quietly heroic on a regular business and no one knows about it. The government has never (under any administration) tried to sell probation to the public" (pete1974).

Role and value of staff in the criminal justice system

Most of the respondents who commented on the staff in the criminal justice system felt that they were dedicated and professional:

    "There are many staff that try to do a good job but are hampered by over-crowding and movement of prisoners round the system" (sarah46).

    "The staff I have met appear to be motivated and competent" (ConcernedCitizen).

    "Probation is generally staffed by very committed passionate people. It's a job you tend to have a vocation for and you work hard as a result" (pete1974).

However, one poster alleged that prison staff treated inmates abusively:

    "I hear that most prison officers treat inmates like scum. They call them 'scum'. They feel that it is their duty to get inmates to feel bad about themselves. But of course this does not work" (Optimaxim).

Frames of reference

Participants drew on different frames of reference when responding to the e-consultation, such as their experiences as practitioners, volunteers, or offenders. A few became more aware of criminal justice issues after they attended public talks:

    "I did not know very much until this Sunday when the churches in the city centre of Oxford invited the Criminal Justice Alliance to preach and speak on these issues. We were given key statistics which was very far from what the media reported" (kaihsu).

    "I attended a recent talk by Ann [sic] Owers the Chief Inspector of Prisons, and understood her to be frustrated and disappointed, too, by the inability of the prison service to do what its best officers know they should be doing and know how to do" (jan1937).

Several respondents were critical of the role of the media in creating inaccurate public perceptions of the criminal justice system:

    "What happens inside our prisons… often bares no resemblance to what you see or read in the media. The press of course want to focus on the 'juicy' prison stories of what happens to notorious inmates, reflecting what their readers demand perhaps, but it gives a very skewed view of how our prisons operate" (prisonsorguk).

    "It has been widely publicised by MPs from varying parties that they will get 'tough on crime' all of which translates into sending more people to prison. In my opinion this has caused a lack of tolerance in society which is further fuelled by the media who choose to sit on the fence and berate the justice system for being too lenient or harsh dependant upon the day of the week. … There is a massive amount of good news stories within the criminal justice system that go unnoticed as a reactive approach is taken when things are reported to have gone wrong. It is time to stop being driven by the media and start to lead the change based on what we know works and not on the opinion of people who are being whipped up to fever point by unbalanced reporting" (LAG62).

    "I deplore the attitude taken by our local newspaper, which bays for retribution at every local crime; gives a platform to every victim who complains that they consider the sentence given is outrageously soft; and titillates the public with on-going stories about how a prisoner has attempted suicide, or been moved prison, etc. and stirs up anxiety when a well-known figure is to be released" (jan1937).

Beliefs versus experience and evidence

Where there had been prior knowledge of the prison system, some contributors expressed frustration at the way the service was perceived by the wider public:

    "My picture of what it is like to be in prison or on probation is based on many years' experience visiting prisons and probation services. What I read in broadsheet ('quality') newspapers or see on TV bears no resemblance to reality" (GW-PET-Trustee).

    "Part of the difficulty of having a meaningful debate on criminal justice though, is too often it comes down to people expressing their beliefs rather than using the evidence of what actually makes a difference" (Matt K).

Few responses by members of the public

Most of the respondents to the question "How much do you feel you know what happens in the prisons and probation services?" were practitioners or volunteers in the criminal justice system. There were very few responses from members of the public, suggesting that public awareness of the prisons and probation services in general is not high.

Roles, purpose, and performance of the criminal justice system

Effectiveness of prisons and other current policies

Participants were asked about their confidence in the effectiveness of prisons and probation. Most of the comments were about prisons, reflecting either the public's familiarity or their concern with this aspect of criminal justice. There was a general perception that the prison system has failed. Some of the reasons given were that it is a weak deterrent and that it damages social bonds:

    "Is prison effective—does prison 'work'? Well the truth is that it 'works' for some (it certainly worked— eventually—for me), but it doesn't work at all for the vast majority of the people who experience it; and once you've been there once, the prospect of going there again has no deterrent effect at all; and therein lays the crux of the problem…Seventy-five per cent of people released from prison in the last twelve months will be back inside again within the next twelve months—and in truth around 50% of them are already there" (prisonsorguk).

    "The reason prison has lost its sting as a punishment is because life for many people in Britain is little more than a pathetic existence anyway, caught between drugs, crime, benefits, poor wages, low expectations, social exclusion in other words. To people living this life prison holds no fear because their lives outside aren't much better than prison. This is a pitiful indictment of our neo-liberal society where big business and low taxes rule. It will get worse" (pete1974).

    "We believe prison to be largely counter-productive and destructive of social cohesion because of the damage it does to individuals, families and communities. Tackling the reasons for offending behaviour should take priority over expenditure on imprisoning people whatever the length of the sentence" (CCJG).

The lack of resources and overcrowding were among the most frequently cited concerns that affected the effectiveness of the prison system:

    "Chronic over-crowding, cost-cutting, and high turn-over of the often excellent but under-funded projects provided both within the services and by the voluntary sector, have undermined useful skill-building work in education and training, and disrupted vital links with the families of offenders" (CCJG).

    "There are many staff that try to do a good job but are hampered by over-crowding and movement of prisoners round the system" (sarah46).

    "The failure of prison is a result of overcrowding and this in turn is due to many convicted persons being sent to prison inappropriately" (ConcernedCitizen).

    "What probation needs is more resources. Staff are not replaced, programmes are not being run and offenders are being turned away in some cases. We are paying lip service to rehabilitation in many cases" (pete1974).

Several posters registered strong objections to incarceration but did not provide reasons:

    "Prison and the other methods deemed lawful have over the years achieved nothing but produce a moral pit where neither society, or those brought to account for crimes of various magnitudes, know where or what is being achieved on their behalf" (northwoody).

    "Prisons are an expensive problem causing apparatus. The more widespread their use, in all but the most necessary instances, the greater the magnitude of problems that those who enter them face on release back into the world before the walls" (TH2972).

Purposes of sentencing and ethos of the system

Respondents were asked about their priorities for criminal justice interventions, in particular between spending on expanding the number of prison places or on preventing re-offending through rehabilitation. The resulting discussion centred on the relative importance of the various roles of criminal justice and its sometimes conflicting aims.

Role of prisons

Several posters remarked that the role of the prisons is to combine incarceration and rehabilitation. Hence, in their views, there is no trade-off between these two aims:

    "The question implies a false dichotomy between spending on prison places and spending on rehabilitation. That false dichotomy is central to the attitudinal failures of the present administration in dealing with crime and punishment effectively. Criminal justice does not involve a choice between deterrence and rehabilitation: all sentences should be strongly deterrent, and most sentences for all but relatively minor crime should be also rehabilitative where there is at least some prospect of rehabilitating the offender" (jamesfleetstreet).

    "The spending should be balanced, to ensure that offenders receive the appropriate level of rehabilitation whilst in custody and then followed up comprehensively when released. Using the services that are best equipped to look after the individual" (Kitchener).

    "It is essential to try to re-educate the poor performers who are unable to express themselves or carry out basic numeracy tasks, but it is also important that prison strikes them as a prison and not just a distraction from their pre sentence way of life. It must be realised that most of them have deliberately rejected the opportunity to enjoy a good education, and have decided that the illegal way of life gives better returns than many of the legitimate jobs that so many of the people who are inside the law are obliged to take" (Petronius).

Contributors discussed the perceived aims of the criminal justice system, including deterrence, rehabilitation, discipline, punishment, and treatment. With regards to deterrence, the posters expressed views about the importance, effectiveness, and futility of incarceration as a deterrent measure:

    "The deterrence is vitally important, since the existence of such deterrence is what provides the necessary disincentive to committing crimes in the first place. Many people reach the grossly flawed conclusion that, because people who have been to prison often re-offend, prison is not an effective deterrent to committing crimes. In fact, that information shows no such thing: all the people who are in prison in the first place are the people whom prison has not deterred. If it has not deterred them already, it is unlikely to do so again. Conversely, the very large number of people who do not commit any crime at all (or, at least, any serious crime) are the people who are deterred from committing crime by the prospect of imprisonment" (jamesfleetstreet).

"Prisons must exist. Without prisons as described above, there can be no 'fear of being imprisoned'" (stellaeec).

    "The majority of folk who are in prisons have no fear of returning again and again. This has to be stopped in its tracks if the system is going to be made to work" (Petronius).

    "As long as prisons are kept in the way they are at the moment, offenders will keep on re-offending as prison is not seen as much of a deterrent. They are allowed to socialise, watch tv, work, participate in workshops and go to the gym, what kind of 'deterrent' is that - it isn't! Prisons should be a place of minimal leisure and luxury! There should be no tv, no gym, a limited amount of outdoor exercise and no games. … If they think that they will have to be locked up in a cell with 4 walls and nothing but themselves and their conscience they it might make them consider what they are doing" (alexj).

    "However prison has not and is unlikely to ever work as a disincentive to re-offending. Most prisoners will face circumstances and situations far worse on their release than before. I would send only those to prison for whom we need protecting or for whom a just punishment is the loss of liberty" (HCCJ).

Related to deterrence is crime prevention. One participant suggested that the fall in crime rates can be attributed to detaining more offenders:

    "Prison is also an effective means of physically preventing people from committing crimes: It is likely no accident that the present time of falling crime rates coincides with a rising prison population" (jamesfleetstreet).

Several posters saw the main purpose of criminal justice as rehabilitation, or the shaping of law-abiding attitudes, because this will prevent re-offending:

    "It is trite to state that simple incarceration has no rehabilitative effect. What is needed in order to ensure that those who are sufficiently delinquent to commit either serious crimes, or wilfully refuse to submit to lesser punishments or persistently commit crimes of any nature, is a regime in prisons designed to bring about a permanent change in attitude of the prisoners…It is a person's attitude that determines whether the response to living in difficult circumstances will be a law-abiding one or not, and the most important part of rehabilitation is to change that attitude. If, and only if, that is successful, then other measures (such as education and training of various kinds) can be invaluable in helping people to capitalise on their new, law-abiding attitudes, and incentivise their retention" (jamesfleetstreet).

    "Surely the main point of prison ought to be to offer the offender the opportunity to start a new life without offending on release. If prison only reinforces the attitudes of the offender or fails to deal with the problems which contributed to the offence, then there is nothing gained. However long people are imprisoned for they are mostly eventually released, so we have to do all we can to ensure that they do not re-offend. It is inhuman to deprive people of their liberty merely to exact revenge on them for their crime, or even to 'keep society safe'" (jan1937).

    "Aside from protecting public safety the most important task of the prison system must be to reduce re-offending" (PeterO).

As to the role of punishment, the posters discussed their views on the effectiveness or otherwise of prison regimes:

    "Prisoners should be rewarded for their progress, and punished for lack of progress, or for ill-disclipline, by a strict hierarchy of status amongst prisoners. Cells should be segregated depending on where in the hierarchy that prisoners are; prisoners should only be allowed to mix with other prisoners on the same level. New entrants should be admitted to the lowest level, in which no socialising between prisoners at all would be allowed. At that, lowest level, prisoners would have no visiting allowance, no spending money, no access to telephones, and no access to any sort of leisure facility" (jamesfleetstreet).

    "At present prison appears to be a soft touch where prisoners have more rights than the average law abiding citizen. Prison needs to be a place where criminals are made to work for their upkeep and are also forced to participate in educational courses. Having prisoners working and participating in education would mean that there would be no time for them to enjoy the pleasures of play-stations and gyms, etc." (pete1974).

    "'Prisoners have more rights'. Er, no they don't. They can't walk down the street, they can't buy a pint, they can't hug their kids, etc. Being in prison IS the punishment. Being in prison at the moment is not a soft touch. It means being held in unpleasantly crowded conditions with lots of other men who don't want to be there" (morty105).

    "Those who put stress on punishment—in the belief that it either deters or reforms, seem to feel little need to provide the evidence. Punishment is seen as self-evidently justified. I have known plenty of offenders where getting a home or a job has completely changed their mindset. … It's not a simple prescription, but it is pretty clear" (Matt K).

A few contributors spoke in support of using incarceration to instil discipline. In contrast with punishment, the argument for discipline was that it can create positive change in the inmates:

    "Punishment = discipline. How do we discipline? The surrounding must be lack of leisure and pleasure. This alone will cut costs and make it more economical for the justice system. No games, no TV, and other enjoyment. Rooms must have bare walls and sufficient place for a single hard bed, without a pillow. That will help reform" (stellaec).

    "I am not an advocate of the bread and water days, but in my personal opinion we are at risk of abandoning discipline in the name of decency. Prisons can be decent, humane places without resorting to appeasement. … Custody should be hard work—it should require effort to improve oneself and recognition for that improvement. It should build moral attitude and insist on respect for others" (Trish123).

Posters identified treatment for drug dependency and other mental health problems as important components of rehabilitation. One contributor went as far as to say that long prison sentences are justifiable only on the grounds of providing an opportunity for treatment and training:

    "Drug dependant prisoners and prisoners with significant mental health problems should be identified early and subject to an entirely separate, specialist, regime in entirely separate, specialist establishments. Ordinary prisoners, drug dependant prisoners and prisoners with mental health problems should never be allowed to mix with each other in prison. This scheme should also apply in Young Offenders' Institutions, but the details modified to make it more suitable for youths" (jamesfleetstreet).

    "Many offenders have unaddressed mental health problems, learning difficulties, emotional problems and/or addictions. Unless their needs are addressed the circumstances which lead to offending are highly likely to recur" (CCJG).

    "Most inmates especially repeat offenders have both mental health and drug misuse problems and have a life story of suffering harm abuse and neglect. They are more to be pitied than feared" (tommydoc).

    "Assuming the individual is going to prison - whatever plan is made for the prisoner, and progress against it, should follow the prisoner if he is moved and followed up on release. Priorities should be: addressing drug dependency….; addressing alcohol misuse; mental health care; learning needs—literacy, numeracy, communication skills; care of the vulnerable (e.g. those with learning difficulties)…; addressing behaviour (e.g. anger management)" (Doug49).

    "It must be important to spend money on education, mental health care, training, etc. or what is prison for?… A long sentence is only justified if the prisoner requires a course of treatment or training that cannot be done in a shorter time" (jan1937).

Sentencing

Criticisms of sentencing policy centred on three issues—the automatic reduction of custodial sentences weakens the effectiveness of prisons as a deterrence; sentences are too lenient considering the serious nature of some offences; and sentences are too short for rehabilitation to work.

    "Of what benefit is it to the public if a 12 month sentence is reduced to 3 months through them being released on automatic sentence discounts? Is there a real deterrent to assaults and violent crimes - from my experience a person carrying a knife or knuckle duster in the street is not likely to incur more than court costs and a meagre fine? When will the financial penalties catch up with the costs involved in prosecuting the offender?" (ThinBlueLine)

    "Look at the case of ***, he was attacked for no reason whilst waiting for a lift with his friend, the attack was caught on camera… You could blatantly see that all three thugs were involved yet two were only sentenced to a minimum of 5 years! …5 years behind bars for taking the life of a young man for absolutely no reason in an unprovoked attack! What sort of message is this sending out?" (alexj)

    "Prisons at the moment are a complete joke, the whole 'justice' system is appalling, these days a murderer will get on average 12 years for taking somebody's life, that isn't exactly justice for the victims family is it [?][…] it seems as though the offenders get an easier ride than the families of these victims" (stellaeec).

    "Why must he expect an automatic reduction in sentence for a guilty plea and why serve only half of the sentence in prison […] Prison cannot do anything effectively in this time to change the offender […]" (tonyt).

    "There's a lot to be said for prisoners spending a full calendar year inside, the full four seasons. Certainly there is no point in handing out three month stretches. A full year offers a good long pause for thought, it's time enough to do some literacy work, and any other bits and pieces that need to be taught, banking, cooking, washing and dressing, those sorts of skills" (313jones).

    "It is a complete waste of money, time and effort when the majority of women are imprisoned for short periods of time. Detox, or IDTS as it's now grandly called does not get the time to work when prisoners are back on the streets within weeks if not days" (birdman).

Meeting social needs

A few participants said that prisons have an unintended effect of providing some offenders with a welcome respite from difficult life circumstances:

    "Many offenders have a vastly improved life in prison to that which they experienced outside, and are in the main managed by committed professionals who have a genuine desire to rehabilitate and reduce re-offending. This presents itself as receiving attention on a plate from people who care—often for the first time in their lives. Why would this put these people off?" (Trish123)

    "…I know a fair few people from where I live and they actually enjoyed their prison sentence, and I also know homeless [people] that are committing crime in the attempt to be sent to prison, because it means a roof over their heads and 3 square meals a day as well as other gadgets that many people that are honest law abiding citizens don't get" (Rich219).

Community interventions

Several posters expressed the view that community interventions are a poor deterrent:

    "I am a serving magistrate and do visit prisons regularly […] The community punishments don't appear to work or they would not progress to prison" (tonyt).

    "The suggestion, for example, to require 'a sentencing judge, who would otherwise have imposed a sentence of 6 months imprisonment or less, to impose a Community Supervision Sentence instead' is grossly misconceived. In England and Wales […] 6 months' imprisonment is the maximum penalty for a range of offences that are, in themselves, really quite serious, such as driving whilst disqualified, assault and battery, assaulting a police officer in the execution of his duty, and driving with excess alcohol or while unfit through drink or drugs. To make people who commit such offences absolutely immune from imprisonment would grossly undermine the rule of law by fatally undermining the deterrence for… such offences" (jamesfleetstreet).

    "A harsher community penalty with the risk of a long prison sentence for those who breach them would be a better use of resources. Then we could work on those sent to prison over a longer period of time" (birdman).

But another participant argued that community interventions are more cost-effective than incarceration:

    "Of course it's better to spend the money on rehabilitation and ensuring offenders do not re-offend. To this end, robust community sentences are much more effective than prison which should be reserved for the truly violent and those who are genuinely a risk to the public"(devonpractioner).

    "YJB innovation has demonstrated that intensive supervision and surveillance, which includes tagging for 3 months and is very demanding of the young person, has a much better success rate than prison if you consider frequency and seriousness of offending rather than crude offence counts. These programmes demand high numbers of skilled personnel but cost-wise compare very favourably with custody. For adults, more probation officers working with low risk offenders would be far more effective than short term prison sentences at the end of which people are tipped out with no support" (devonpractitioner).

Particular groups

Some posters questioned whether the system was appropriate to deal with particular groups of offenders, such as women and young people. For women, there was concern with regards to the unique circumstances which led to their imprisonment and the impact of incarceration on their role in the family:

    "It seems many [women] are there not because they are evil or committed a terrible crime but because of circumstances in their own country. Women were coerced to bring in illegal substances or sometimes they are just in because they failed to possess the correct documentation to be in this country. I think a way to save money would be to have arrangements worldwide so that the person was sent back to their country to do community service or indeed prison…This way, the many mothers who are in, far away from their homes and children, might at least keep in contact with their families" (odi24).

    "The vast majority of [female] offenders I have dealt with have histories of victimisation of which their drug use is a symptom. …We need more smaller, women's prisons so they can stay near to their families and we need to imprison less women in the first place"(pete1974).

    "One of the worst things that happens in the penal system is that female inmates who give birth while in prison can keep their babies for no longer than six months after birth. If their sentence continues then the babies are taken into care and the women are sent back to the wing again. This can break a woman. There are not many prisons that serve this function. In Peterborough Prison the women go back to the wing without even the dignity of a single sex environment to support their grief" (313jones).

As to young people, the respondents commented on a wide range of issues including the effectiveness of imprisonment and current sentencing policies, and the provision of children's services in the community:

    "I think putting more money into young offenders institutes could work as it may be easier to get through to them, but as for these youths who have killed other teenagers, in my opinion they should serve at least 25 years and their age shouldn't be considered. I think the younger they are the worse it is, as they will still be young enough when their sentence is up to go out and do the same thing" (alexj).

    "Once you've let them out it's difficult to see how much more can be done. Young people particularly can't be told. They must find their own way. But while you have them you can put material in front of them from which they might learn. Plus of course a minimum twelve month stretch, or two years if you are planning on giving half remission" (313jones).

    "It is no coincidence that the apparent rise in youth crime has coincided with the more systematic criminal justice approach to youth offending. The establishment of Youth Offending Teams coincided with considerable shrinking of children's services so that it is now virtually impossible in many areas to get a service, especially accommodation, for teenagers" (devonpractitioner).

Impact of custody

Several posters were concerned that custody had negative outcomes that lasted beyond the term of imprisonment:

    "Most prisoners will face circumstances and situations far worse on their release than before. Much rehab out of prison is merely putting right the pains of imprisonment" (HCCJ).

    "Don't forget, the vast majority of those sentenced by the courts will be released and could return to live in our communities. Do you want someone who is at best as bad or even worse than when they entered custody" (birdman).

Titan prisons

There were several specific mentions of the Titan prison proposals, including criticisms of its effectiveness and cost. But one poster also saw it as an opportunity to attempt a different approach to rehabilitation:

    "Titan prisons are an appalling idea. It is already known that small local prisons have a lower re-offending rate. In order to become a responsible citizen a prisoner needs to have a job and relationships. Links with firms/ employers can be made from local prisons and family contacts can be maintained more easily. Titan prisons are a confession of failure. …We seem to be going backwards. Anyone who really knows what it is all about knows that we are heading in the wrong direction because penal populism has taken over" (sarah46).

    "Am I right that three-quarters of imprisoned young offenders re-offend within 2 years? If so, it doesn't seem sensible to spend £50,000 a year on imprisoning them. Especially not in Titan prisons. Please try something else with a better success rate" (paul554).

    "Titan prisons, huge 2,500 place establishments due to come on stream by 2014, offer the opportunity to do something different" (prisonsorguk).

Proportion of responses supporting prevention of re-offending versus imprisonment

Of the posters who responded to Question 1 in the e-consultation, 26 (57%) preferred greater investment in preventing re-offending, 5 (11%) preferred investment in expanding the use of imprisonment, while 5 (11%) advocated a balanced approach. Another 10 did not express a clear position on the matter.

Cost and cost-effectiveness of the criminal justice system

Costs and balance of resources

Several contributors felt that we should be mindful of the cost to society of operating the prisons and that there should be limits to investing in incarceration:

    "Prisons and other sentences should be about repaying the debt to society, however it seems that society is paying the debt incurred by criminals. On the CCTV Cities TV programme the other night a hand bag snatcher was caught and got £90 costs and compensation. The cost of apprehending him, police time, camera operator time, court costs, admin costs, etc. would far exceed the £90. Make the perpetrators pay. Add to fines, seize assets, community work, so on. If a year in prison for an offender costs £25,000 then make them pay that one way or another, instead of us, the law-abiding tax payers. It does seem that we pay for their mistakes and it appears to me the biggest deterrent is a financial one" (KPyper).

    "Help inmates by all means, deliver courses, and more than once if necessary, but at some point if that help is spurned, if the lessons of the course are ignored and not translated into action then the State is entitled to draw a line with our money—in fact it has a duty to do so. At that point the focus must shift from helping the offender to protecting the public" (prisonorguk).

    "We have to make economic choices—as individuals and as a society. We all want to feel safe from crime. We also want good healthcare, education, public transport and so on. We can't have it all, and we need to make sure that whatever service is provided is efficient and effective" (MattK).

Question 4 of the e-consultation asked about an action that the Government could take to reduce crime and save the taxpayer money. This drew two types of responses—some participants felt that spending on prisons cannot be justified because it is ineffective; others pointed to the need to balance spending between incarceration and reintegration.

    "Imprisonment is not effective in preventing re-offending: the levels of re-offending and in particular the 'revolving door' aspect of imprisonment must show that the £5 billion is ill-spent. In no other area of social spending would we countenance such a poor outcome for the expenditure" (CCJG).

    "The use of custody for young people and adults continues to rise at enormous financial and social costs. Insufficient investment is made into supporting offenders particularly those coming out of custody in key areas such as accommodation, education, training, employment, and health" (Brian).

    "More incentives should be given to offer work and accommodation to break the cycle of offending. The money saved by working in the community should be seen as a future investment and provided for greater community sentence management. Too often the govt introduces schemes which offer alternatives to custody but then cut the funding year on year, making it more difficult to ensure effective provision and management. Instead they tell us how much they have spent, but should these sentences have been custodial the spend would have been four times greater" (Badger).

    "It is more expensive to imprison people than helping them to reintegrate properly into the community, and the latter is more effective and better for everybody" (kaihsu).

    "The spending should be balanced, to ensure that offenders receive the appropriate level of rehabilitation whilst in custody and then followed up comprehensively when released" (Kitchener).

Cost cutting through private prisons

One poster suggested that private prisons should be considered a viable alternative to public sector-run prisons, as they offer better standards of rehabilitation:

    "Before we had private prisons I was against them in principle, being of the mind that it was somehow wrong to make a profit out of punishment. My experience of the actuality has been that the introduction of private prisons has been a major contributory factor in allowing us to do something about some of the worst aspects in the state system. Anyone who experienced the conditions and working practices in prison in the 1980s (i.e. before the first private prisons) would agree that despite the current level of overcrowding, things are decidedly better" (Matt K).

However, this positive view of private prisons was in the minority. Most posters who mentioned private prisons objected to their use because they believed that it will generate pressure to build more prisons to the detriment of other rehabilitation alternatives, and that the prisons are best operated by the public sector.

    "Because of the economies of scale involved, private providers will generally be much keener to bid for large blocks of work rather than for one-off or small scale contracts. The concern, shared by many within the criminal justice system, is that contestability/privatisation 'drives forward' a prison building programme, takes up scarce resources and detracts from meaningful debate about managing a rising prison population and progressive penal policies that would look to genuinely tackle the issue" (Peter O).

    "There is no evidence that private establishments are generally even as good as public sector prisons… The public sector is also better at running prisons, training staff and dealing with prisoners, their needs and the needs of their families, which is what this is all about" (Petronius).

    "To make money from this expression of state disapproval is unjust. It will lead, as it does in the [United S]tates to a private prisons lobby with a vested interest in stricter laws and increased use of prison…the public sector is not perfect in terms of efficiency and waste and money etc. but it is dispassionate and professional. If the main aim of the criminal justice system is efficiency then we are abandoning justice—the two are not compatible unfortunately" (pete1974).

    "The government seems happy to pay out to the private sector higher fees, which it must be stressed are usually 'per capita', and to impose on the public sector economic cuts on a year after year basis" (Petronius).

Another respondent argued that for private prisons to work, they must be incentivised to provide rehabilitation in addition to custody:

    "Under the private system companies are paid money to hold inmates in custody. If rehabilitation was part of the remit then companies could be paid more or less according to the rate of recidivism. This would amount to an annual bounty for success" (313jones).

Other countries

Two posters pointed to Scandinavian models of criminal justice which incurred lower costs through preventive intervention and lesser reliance on incarceration:

    "In Finland teachers are trained to spot potential future offenders and problems are addressed at an early stage. Containment as our only option is expensive and does not help those who are willing to be helped" (Optimaxim).

    "Countries who use prisons sparingly—as a last resort—have far lower levels of recorded crime than those countries who effectively perpetuate generational cycles of crime through incarcerating—at a huge financial cost—individuals who are for the most part in some way damaged and then further damaged through the penal process. [We] could do worse than look to Scandinavian solutions to crime problems" (TH2972).

Barriers to change

Lack of political will in asserting against popular opinion

Contributors cited a perceived lack of political will as a key factor that prevented effective reform of the criminal justice system, especially since crime often attracts heated interest from the media and the public.

    "As has often been said we need political courage when dealing with crime not populism… Responses to crime are too important for party political games" (pete1974).

    "As many other comments show, it is a question of political will. Many only want retribution and sequestration, not true rehabilitation for prisoners…Alas, the public would react as the toxic tabloid owners would like them to, unless the politicians start acting statesmanlike and talk sense"(kaihsu).

    "We make punitive laws regularly, like clockwork or at the drop of another knife crime headline. Our reliability on so-called opinion formers to support political posturing is divisive and expensive" (Ralph000).

    "First you have to stop national politicians grovelling to the Daily Mail tendency. … Then you have to wean them off launching constantly changing 'eye-catching initiatives' with different names and targets every year" (Lulu).

    "At the moment the two main parties play to the worst elements in the gallery (who would probably vote back capital punishment if they could). A non-party approach would make a big difference" (Sarah46).

    "The system over the past decade has become reactive to public pressure for vengeance, and sentencing is too often influenced by a political need to respond to that pressure" (CCJG).

    "Many people can identify simple things that would reduce levels of crime. …You could put a guaranteed roof over an ex-prisoners head, give them a guaranteed income from work… The difficulty arises when it becomes apparent that each of these measures is deeply unpopular with one or other lobby group. (313jones)

Some respondents felt that decision-makers should not give in to public pressure but instead should have greater regard for professional opinion:

    "I would like to see more attention paid by government ministers to the views of the professionals in the field who are, it seems to me, often ignored in favour of more punitive measures seen to be needed to satisfy 'public opinion'" (jan1937).

    "The health service has NICE to examine the evidence base for medicine. Perhaps we need a similar body for criminal justice. But of course if the findings ran counter to what we believe, some people would soon conclude that it wasn't working and what we really need is more 'hanging and flogging'. Not too many votes in being rational about crime I guess" (Matt K).

Resources

Another barrier to change is the lack of resources, seen most evidently in falling staff numbers.

    "What probation needs is more resources. Staff are not replaced, programmes are not being run and offenders are being turned away in some cases. We are paying lip service to rehabilitation in many cases […] For example there are only five prisons in the country running a domestic violence programme. Another fact is the fall in the numbers of prison officers. There are now far less staff per prisoner and yet more men in jail […] You cannot make prisoners do productive work at present because there are not the numbers. A prisoner of mine was recently allocated to a work detail (for which he is paid). The detail is for 8 men but due to overcrowding 26 have been allocated. As a result all he does is play cards… Staff ratios in private prisons are even worse—look at HMP Ryehill. A serious prison riot is now just a matter of time and I fear for the prison officers who will get hurt. We can have effective punishment systems, prisons and probation, but they will cost money. You cannot do this on the cheap as this government, and successive governments have tried to" (pete1974).

    "Prison services and probation services are under-resourced and overstretched. Individually most have the right dedication and attitude to ensure a reasonable level of delivery, but the services are constantly targeted as areas where savings can be made. This is a short term gain which will come back to bite society in the future. We have to break the offending cycle, and resources should be targeted to that end" (Badger).

Complexity

Several posters felt that effective criminal rehabilitation is a complex challenge:

    "I wish it were as easy as it first appears to punish, rehabilitate and send offenders out to a new life" (Petronius).

    "The trouble is that we seem pretty powerless in the face of growing prison numbers to do much by way of starting to reduce the demand for prison places" (Matt K).

In particular, the posters highlighted the need for a long-term strategy rather than quick fixes:

    "Crime is a social problem that needs a social answer. Answering crime with short term fixes will not work" (pete1974).

    "Worthwhile programmes require investment. It is reckless to attempt to achieve anything of that nature whilst reducing immediate investment, and dishonest to claim that it can be done" (jamesfleetstreet).

What makes the difference to offenders?

Individual support and the value of individual staff

Question 3 of the e-consultation asked if posters knew anyone who had been successfully rehabilitated and what made a difference in that process. One respondent shared his personal experience and how he benefited from the support of a prison staff:

    "I am a former prisoner and two prisoners I was in prison with all succeeded on making law abiding lives for themselves on the outside […] The difference in our case was a prison officer who went beyond the remit of his job and treated us as his friends. He lost his job for keeping in touch with us—as it is against the rules of the prison service—but without his empathy and support none of us would have made the transition from custody to community and criminals to citizens. Positive role models and mentors who can look beyond the criminal label are needed in prisons to prepare individuals and help them with desistance—prisons need fewer prison officers and more pedagogists" (TH2972).

Opportunities to change

One respondent identified skills training as providing an opportunity for change:

    "A prisoner in a northwest prison had been put onto a brick laying course and on completion of his sentence was released and went to London. Some time later he wrote to the instructor who had trained him, thanking him for the work he had put into training him and stating that he was now happy and working as a bricklayer earning a wage of which he was proud" (Petronius).

For other respondents, they felt that the outcome of rehabilitation often depended on individual commitment to change:

    "I do know one chap who escaped from the circle of crime and re-offending… There wasn't much in the way of rehabilitation. I think he found it useful to get away from society for a while, and he eventually made up his mind that he'd had enough of prison cells, and determined never to get locked up again…" (313jones).

    "In my 16-year experience as a professional in the criminal justice system, there have been very few offenders that I have come across who have genuinely 'turned the corner' as a direct result of the not inconsiderable help they have received in custody. I have seen a number of offenders who give up crime, but almost exclusively this was due to the fact that they have eventually woken up to the impact of long periods of custody on themselves, their families, children etc." (Trish123).

Mentoring and other positive influences

Mentoring and participation in church activities were mentioned as positive influences:

    "Monies would be best spent on interventions, diversions from custody, mentoring and skills delivery programmes" (TH2972).

    "I know a lot of people, especially males who have been in and out of prison, but only one of them has managed to stay out of prison for good… He also became part of the church, he has stayed a member of the church and has risen in terms of status within the church, his children are also members, he now teaches younger males who are on apprenticeships" (alexj).

Restorative justice

There was uniform support for restorative justice approaches where it was mentioned:

    "People are capable of change. Criminals are responsive to coming face to face with victims, and understanding the impact of their crime. Restorative justice works" (LT999).

    "I would say that daily moderated discussion groups intended to confront criminals with the consequences of crime both for themselves and for others should help a lot eventually […] And meeting with victims too! (Optimaxim)

    "An increased use of restorative justice approaches, together with properly applied community sentencing and other community initiatives, would reduce the need for custodial sentences and the level of reoffending, and increase public confidence in the effectiveness of the criminal justice system" (CCJG).

    "I have rarely come across individuals who have any consideration for the direct victims of their crimes. If I am honest a disturbing majority of prisoners appear to have little remorse for their actions, especially amongst the under 35's. Of course any justification individuals use to stop offending is a good one if it works, but I believe more involvement with victim agencies and the use of reparative justice schemes will more ably focus the minds of offenders into perhaps eventually appreciating that they have done wrong" (Trish123).

Barriers to change for offenders

Specific concerns were raised about the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 and its impact on offenders' reintegration prospects after release:

    "Repeal the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 and overhaul the processes governing the disclosure of former convictions which currently is a huge obstacle to many former offenders who wish to enter into education or work—both of which, if secured, lead to reduction in offending" (TH2972).

    "It's not clear to me what the purpose of Rehabilitation of Offenders Act is. No-one needs a license to lie and there are no sanctions for the applicant so far as I can see, apart from not getting the job! And although the employer is not allowed to ask awkward questions on the application form they are quite capable of working out for themselves what's going on" (313jones).

Recommendations for change

More funding

Ensuring adequate resources was a common recommendation in order to have effective rehabilitation. Posters emphasised that the cheapest solutions were not always the most effective:

    "Once in prison, the need to rehabilitate is imperative, and funding in the area of rehabilitation needs some serious investment. If the government is truthful about wanting to reduce re-offending, then let's have some decent funding into the prison systems we already have, instead of the cutbacks it is having to face over the next year" (Rhona).

    "We can have effective punishment systems, prisons and probation, but they will cost money. You cannot do this on the cheap as this government and successive governments have tried to. Despite its failures prison is absolutely necessary for certain people. I would urge the committee to campaign for more resources for prisons and probation" (pete1974).

    "Custody should… build moral attitude and insist on respect for others. This is not achievable in the current restricted financial climate… Better planning of new initiatives and reform based on the service need rather than the cheapest option, may go a long way towards saving needless expenditure" (Trish123).

One poster also recommended the reallocation of spending decisions on custodial facilities to local governments:

    "The costs of crime and funding for these supportive services are met by local areas and in some cases regional agencies whilst the cost of custody is met at a national level. If local areas were responsible for spending on custodial places (through a grant from central government based on a formula of historical custodial trends), there would be a greater and more co-ordinated commitment to reducing the use of custody in the first place and creating opportunities for offenders on release" (Brian).

Long term, coordinated strategy

With regards to the expenditure on criminal justice, participants felt that decisions should be taken with a long-term perspective:

    "The executive may well find that such a [mental health treatment] scheme has non-trivial start-up costs: all worthwhile schemes do. The short-term price of such a scheme is inevitably higher than the short-term price of any arbitrary or unprincipled reduction in prisoner numbers. Any administration, however, that focuses solely on short-term costs and ignores the long-term is ideologically destitute and doomed to catastrophic failure" (jamesfleetstreet).

    "I do not have a magic solution that will provide the required financial investment, but… our history of knee-jerk reactions has cost us dear and resulted in a system of containment rather than reduction of re-offending. (Trish123)

In the postings, there was also an emphasis on joined-up government and better coordination between departments:

    "When surveys show that 70% of offenders have some kind of mental illness the major input should be in special education not in prisons. The LEA (Local Education Authority) are just fighting to save a budget. The LEA are not responsible for the consequences of their decision and because there is no joined up thinking the prison service could end up with the problem. Until there is holistic thinking and more emphasis on education to stop people going to prison there will always be a need to waste money on further prison building etc." (mark54).

    "One action to save money is simply [to] join all the various bodies, departments, institutions that are bound by confidentiality agreements into one joint agreement. In this way, YOTs, social services, police, probation, health authorities, some voluntary groups, local authorities etc. could all share the excellent work they do and have time to apply their resources to the individuals who need it" (Ralph000).

    "Unfortunately there is not a magic wand that will cure all, but it will need a structured response working at a 'whole package solution' almost 1987 all over again" (northwoody).

    "A Royal Commission to oversee justice issues and make evidence based judgments would be able to drive things forward" (sarah46).

Public debate

The posters were divided in their views of the value of public debate in criminal justice issues. Some felt that public debate is unproductive:

    "Consulting 'the public' about law and order is a daft idea to start with" (pete1974).

    "Cutting costs by obtaining free comments through forums will not provide a holistic strategy for change" (stellaeec).

However others argued that open public debates are essential to criminal justice reform:

    "The criminal justice system needs a proper debate about what works and what can be done to tackle the [size of the] prison population" (PeterO).

Prisons policy

Contributors offered numerous suggestions on various components of the rehabilitation regime.

Education, training, and employment

Posters were in agreement that education and training were crucial to improving offenders' prospects for staying crime-free after release:

    "We strongly believe that it is more important to spend money on increasing the possibility of and opportunity for those offenders who have completed their sentence not to re-offend. One way of achieving this is through investing in increasing education opportunities, at all levels, from Basic Skills through to academic and vocational qualifications. The benefits of such investment will include enhancing offenders' skills for employability, enhancing offenders' self-esteem, and improving the experience of offenders with long custodial sentences" (GE-PET-Trustee).

    "The one action that government could take to reduce crime, reduce re-offending, and reduce government expenditure on the consequences of crime and re-offending is to ensure that offenders are encouraged and enabled to complete education and vocational training programmes. This would entail two main strands of activity by HMPS/NPS/NOMS: Ensuring continuity of offenders' programmes as offenders in custody are moved between prison establishments…and…as offenders in custody move to the community to complete their sentences" (GW-PET-Trustee).

Securing employment was equally emphasised:

    "As I pointed out elsewhere, in order to escape the cycle of offending the inmate will need to be able to access paid work and a roof over their head. Paid work is effectively unobtainable for those without marketable skills and a recent criminal record. They will need to become self-employed, or work in a Remploy-type community" (313jones).

    "Put more money into custodial sentence management, accommodation and employment incentives for employers" (badger).

Treatment for mental health and substance use

Specialised treatment programmes for mental health and substance use issues were raised as important components of the rehabilitation regime:

    "In the short term the most pressing priority is to deal effectively with the mental health needs of prisoners" (jan1937).

    "Much more resource needs to be put into treatment for drug dependency and mental health problems and into teaching socially responsible behaviours that many have never learned" (tommydoc).

    "Drug dependant prisoners and prisoners with significant mental health problems should be identified early and subject to an entirely separate, specialist, regime in entirely separate, specialist establishments. Ordinary prisoners, drug dependant prisoners and prisoners with mental health problems should never be allowed to mix with each other in prison. This scheme should also apply in Young Offenders' Institutions, but the details modified to make it more suitable for youths" (Rhona).

    "The greatest priority for crime reduction is addressing drug dependency: the vast majority of all acquisitive offences, and a very significant proportion of offences generally, are committed to fund drug habits. The present system of rehabilitation is half-hearted at best: people who are addicted to drugs are not forced sufficiently resolutely to submit to rehabilitation and to continue to submit until they are rehabilitated. What I propose is a system that takes drug-dependant offenders outside the general sentencing regime, and give them their own, specific sentencing regime" (jamesfleetstreet).

    "The probation service is funded to provide very expensive treatment services to drug users but, outside of London, we have no funding for alcohol treatment. There are other areas of concern of course but this misdirection of attention, funds and effort is a major blight on public health and on crime" (pete1974).

Housing and resettlement

One contributor highlighted the importance of integrating housing and resettlement plans with other aspects of rehabilitation:

    "Accommodation needs are top priority, closely followed by education, training and employment opportunities, all with appropriate support to reduce risk of failure. But there are some (all ages) who will not be able to engage in ETE without mental health and/or substance misuse problems being sorted out (which links to appropriate accommodation provision with the right support)" (devonpractitioner).

    "The one thing that would really address reoffending is to CUT the number of prison places… The money saved should be spent on proper support especially appropriate and properly supported accommodation options. … This is especially important for young offenders, around 30% of whom are effectively homeless on release (this means unsupported B&B or sofa-surfing), and women who need accommodation which supports reuniting them with children" (devonpractitioner).

Changes to sentencing

Posters' suggestions regarding sentencing varied widely. Some favoured shorter sentences, others preferred longer sentences, while one poster recommended special sentencing policies for repeat offenders:

    "Prison sentences should be shorter but the prison environment harsher. Money saved from secure containment should be used in the community environment to help reintegrate people back into the community they come from" (Badger).

    "Short sentence prisoners are the highest risk group of offenders (in terms of future of offending), but if they are adults and serving less than 12 months they are under no form of supervision by the probation service when they get out of prison…So maybe for this group we have got to do something radical. Given how often they bounce in and out of prison on short sentences, maybe it would be better if these were rolled up a bit to a longer term of over 12 months. Put this together with a really intensive and properly resourced post release package and you might have a valid argument for longer sentences" (Matt K).

    "If someone is convicted of a crime that carries a prison sentence within 12 months of being released from their last period of imprisonment then it should be open to the Prosecution to apply to the sentencing judge before sentence to have that offender designated a Persistent Offender. If that application is granted the effect will be they will serve a minimum 80% of their sentence and in conditions that are humane but austere. No in-cell television, no education, no training, no gymnasium, no smoking—they've had all of these before and failed to take advantage" (prisonorguk).

Investment in alternatives

Some contributors, taking a broader view of offending behaviour, felt that tackling crime required efforts at a higher, societal level, in areas such as education and parenting.

    "We do not as a country spend sufficient on education at any level from pre-school to universities. We do not make our social agenda inclusive, we actively make it exclusive" (Ralph000).

    "This needs to begin a base level—society generally in this country has degenerated into a situation where many parents don't or won't give their children any moral standards or respect for rules and regulations. If an individual has been raised from birth by parents, who encourage a belief that no effort is required to prosper and that the individual want is greater than the mass need, then the chances of changing that belief in adulthood are slim to none…We need to breed respect for themselves and others into our children to have any hope of redressing the downward spiral of anti-social behaviour" (Trish123).

    "Re-order sentencing policy to make the top priority the achievement of responsible citizenship, not punishment or the prevention of crime by incarcerating offenders. The re-ordering needs to be part of a wider policy of preventing crime by giving everyone the best possible start in life. Ingredients are likely to include more effective education with involvement of citizens as individual volunteers and as members of voluntary organisations" (ConcernedCitizen).

    "Prisons are not the answer to crime. Crime is a social problem that needs a social answer. Answering crime with short term justice fixes will not work. If there is an attitude of brutality in our young men leading them to pick up knives then throwing the worst offenders in prison (to be brutalised by 'tough' prison regimes) will cause more problems" (pete1974).

    "[In the] longer term we need policies to support a more caring, communally-minded society in which all have a voice and a chance to fulfil their potential in life. We need to tackle poverty more effectively—but also to address the poor training and opportunities offered to young people; and the poor example set before us in the media of greed for a quick gratification of our wants as our celebrity culture suggests" (jan1937).

Prevention work with children from high-risk backgrounds was also highlighted as an area that required more attention:

    "Our focus should be prevention, prevention, prevention. Why do we not target (properly) the impoverished areas where we know the next criminals will come from. […] if any child is shown attention and input, they flourish. Even if we had to employ one teacher for every one of these kids, we would save the money when they didn't end up in prison. Many of these kids marvel at a reassuring hand or a genuine interest in themselves as a person" (ThinBlueLine).

    "How about prevention? I know of nowhere, anywhere, where all the kids are offered something useful/interesting/creative etc. to do, all the time they are not in school. Spare time and holiday schemes are run by schools, local authorities, arts facilities, football clubs, libraries, churches, the police etc—but always on the goodwill of a few individuals and on puny funding […] Just fund sustained, commonsense provision of somewhere to go and something to do. Properly. Consistently" (Lulu).

    "Invest in the right kind of support for children in care (including state boarding schools if necessary) and make sure that the right kind of CAMHS (child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) support is available for all children that need it. […] Linked to this is the need to ensure that enough resources are available in schools to identify when children may need extra support from CAMHS or other professionals (because teachers say that they don't have the time). I'm ashamed to live in a country where we can be sympathetic to a child who has been neglected, tortured or abused until s/he is 10 but then after having offered nothing much by way of therapeutic support we lose patience with them, call them hoodies and fast track them to the Young Offenders' Institute" (Nugent1).

Radical ideas

Other innovative ideas raised by respondents include deploying offenders into community work, decriminalising drugs, and raising alcohol tax:

    "The money wasted for minor offenders should be invested by sending these people [to] poor countries to build hospitals, water channels and so on. In this way these people might gain some skills and most of all will learn what is real life struggle" (aggi56).

    "Serious offenders can be changed by a short time in Sudan, Congo or Namibia (no more expensive than prison and certainly no holiday)" (LT999).

    "Personally I think if the government were to do one thing, that would guarantee a cut in crime and save tax payers money it would be to decriminalise all drugs and supply them instead in a safe and controlled environment… If drugs were decriminalised/ legalised and the control of them was taken away from the gangs this would benefit all of society… No more sick people needing help being slammed in prison without access to rehab programmes, and the government could monitor and tax the drug use, much as they do with alcohol or cigarettes" (nerd).

    "Increase the tax on drink. Alcohol is at its lowest price for years. The government is totally delusional on this subject. The problem cuts across the classes […] In my job as a probation officer […] violence equals alcohol in 99% of cases" (pete1974).

Other countries

A few contribiters referred to Scandinavian countries as providing useful models of criminal justice, in particular their lower use of incarceration, higher community involvement, and attention to prevention:

    "Countries who use prisons sparingly—as a last resort—have far lower levels of recorded crime than those countries who effectively perpetuate generational cycles of crime through incarcerating—at a huge financial cost—individuals who are for the most part in some way damaged and then further damaged through the penal process. [We] could do worse than look to Scandinavian solutions to crime problems" (TH2972).

    "Society should move away from the American models to Scandinavian models of more community involved and open prisons" (TH2972).

    "In Finland teachers are trained to spot potential future offenders and problems are addressed at an early stage. Containment as our only option is expensive and does not help those who are willing to be helped" (Optimaxim).

Value of the e-consultation

Positive towards e-consultation

Overall, the participants welcomed the e-consultation:

    "Congratulations to the committee on the innovative use of technology to widen and deepen public involvement in the deliberation. I hope this carries on in other parliamentary work" (kaihsu).

    "I think that opportunities like this which offer to a wide range of interested people the chance to have their say is very useful, it is low in cost and has the added bonus on being anonymous. I would willingly take the time, as I have done here, to pass on my opinions, but would need to know that they have been considered" (Petronius).

Negative towards e-consultation

However several respondents criticised the use of e-consultation for this issue. They felt that it reflected an attempt to cut costs by avoiding paying for professional consultation:

    "Cutting costs by obtaining free comments through forums will not provide a holistic strategy for change. Paid consultation is recommended so that all angles are covered by those with integrity" (stellaeec).

    "I actually question the purpose of this public consultation as you should really be asking experts not the public" (pete1974).

Concerns about use of information

Some respondents were wary that the Committee would not listen to their views:

    "I would willingly take the time, as I have done here, to pass on my opinions, but would need to know that they have been considered. To ask and then say we asked and then just ignore what has been said is a very nasty insult. Good idea, use this system well, but carefully" (Petronius).

    "Your website contains a majority of opinions against increasing numbers in prison (which we can surely not afford). Please take note of this and have the courage to look at evidence" (sarah46).


 
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