To be published as HC 94-vii

House of COMMONS



Justice Committee


Tuesday 4 February 2014

Nick Hardwick and Eoin McLennan-Murray

Rob Allen, mark day, Sarah Salmon and Frances Crook

Evidence heard in Public Questions 380 - 449



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Oral Evidence

Taken before the Justice Committee

on Tuesday 4 February 2014

Members present:

Sir Alan Beith (Chair)

Steve Brine

Jeremy Corbyn

Mr Elfyn Llwyd

John McDonnell


Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Nick Hardwick, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, and Eoin McLennan-Murray, President, Prison Governors Association, gave evidence.

Chair: Good morning. I welcome Mr Hardwick, the Chief Inspector of Prisons, and Mr McLennan-Murray, the President of the Prison Governors Association. We are very glad to have you with us as we revisit the work we originally did on justice reinvestment and see what has happened in the meantime, where things are going and where they ought to go.

Q380 Steve Brine: Good morning; welcome back. I start with the role of prisons in crime reduction. Nick, you have been in before, so you know how I worry. Some of the evidence that we have heard in the inquiry says that Government’s policy on crime reduction is incoherent. Basically, it is different Departments and different agencies, sometimes pulling in different directions but certainly sitting in different silos. I know this is a big question for a Tuesday morning, but what is your overall view on the coherence of cross-Government strategy to reduce crime?

Nick Hardwick: That is a big question.

Steve Brine: I know it is.

Nick Hardwick: You are correct to say that the different arms of the criminal justice system tend to operate in silos. That is particularly true in prisons, although not all prisons and not nationally; it is a generalisation. Inevitably, the agenda for an individual prison is often constrained by their walls. They do not think much about what is happening outside the walls that might bring somebody in who needs addressing and what is happening outside the walls when somebody leaves. Often, their connections with the other statutory agencies that might have an impact on the rehabilitation of the prisoners they are holding are quite limited. So I think it is a limited vision, although there are some exceptions to that.

Q381 Steve Brine: Should it be a less limited vision? Should prisons be considered part of the Government’s approach to crime reduction?

Nick Hardwick: Wherever you stand on the law and order-type debate, we all want our prisoners to leave prisons less likely to offend than when they went in. The problem is that prisons have different functions. In my view, you go to prison as a punishment and are there for the safety of the public, but once you are in prison and the constraints of holding somebody safely and securely have been dealt with, the purpose of that prison and everybody who works in it should be to make sure that you leave less likely to offend than when you went in. Of course you cannot do that on your own, so you need to work co-operatively with the other agencies that will have a role in doing that.

We also have to be realistic about what prisons can achieve. On the whole, my view is that what prisons can tend to do is teach people to be good prisoners. That is not the same as teaching them to be good citizens when they leave. The things that you need to do to get through your sentence-to be compliant, to follow instructions and to keep your head down-are not necessarily the things you need to do to hold down a job and to make your way in the world. We have to be clear about the limitations that the prison experience has. If you can keep people out of prison in the first place, that is probably the best way forward.

Q382 Steve Brine: The National Criminal Justice Board is supposedly a mechanism for this kind of collaboration across all parts of the CJS. How is that working out?

Nick Hardwick: I have to say that this is the first time in my time as chief inspector that anybody has ever asked me about the National Criminal Justice Board or had any conversation with me about it. I asked around contacts in the Prison Service, and people said, "National Criminal Justice what?" People have not heard of it. The missing person at the table is the Prison Service, which is not connected into that at all. From what I can see, anyhow, the work of the National Criminal Justice Board is simply not on the agenda. It has never come up in any conversation I have had since it was established last year.

Q383 Steve Brine: Blimey. Mr McLennan-Murray, have you heard of it?

Eoin McLennan-Murray: I have heard of it, but-

Q384 Steve Brine: How many governors do you reckon have heard of it?

Eoin McLennan-Murray: I checked with my senior management team yesterday, and no one had heard of it. They had all heard of the local criminal justice boards that used to exist but not of this new National Criminal Justice Board.

Q385 Steve Brine: But it is quite new, to be fair.

Eoin McLennan-Murray: It is. I went to an event that Policy Exchange ran where Damian Green gave a talk about it. What was absent-Nick has referred to this-was any mention at all of the Prison Service or NOMS in that. We are a missing piece of that jigsaw.

Q386 Steve Brine: Picking up what Nick was just saying with respect to prisons being part of the Government’s approach to crime reduction, would you concur? Are there any prizes for governors in being the one who has better figures on reducing reoffending?

Eoin McLennan-Murray: No, it is not one of our performance targets at a local level. At a national level there are targets, but at a local level there are not.

Q387 Steve Brine: But when they get together at their awayday, do they like to boast at the bar, "My prison has better reducing reoffending rates than yours"?

Eoin McLennan-Murray: No. Nobody has much to boast about-that is one of the problems. There are a few prisons that do well.

Nick Hardwick: One of the concerns is that most of them will not know what their offending rates are. There is a debate around payment by results. You can have an argument about the payment part of the system, but prisons certainly need to know the results-what happens to people when they leave-and they do not. A lot of the offender management and resettlement services in prison are based on saying, "Is this process in place?"-not "Has it worked?"

Eoin McLennan-Murray: They do publish prison-by-prison reconviction rates, but you have to dig deep into the MOJ website to find them. They are not headline news. Occasionally, in the Prison Service, Michael Spurr or Phil Copple will publish specific results for the service generally about reconviction rates coming down and the effectiveness of interventions that we run. It is broken down by length of sentence; if someone is serving more than four years, you have a greater chance of reducing reoffending rates. They quote what the stats are on that and what they are for short-term sentences. I think governors have a good overview of it, but as Nick has indicated, if you asked most governors what their individual prison results were they would not know.

Q388 Steve Brine: It is quite hard to compare like for like, as different prisons are doing different things for different-

Nick Hardwick: You might want to drill down into particular aspects. For instance, a prison might know immediately somebody leaves whether they have accommodation or a job. They will not know whether they still have that accommodation or job three months afterwards, so they could not have a conversation with me in which they said, "Look, we have changed our resettlement package and we think it is working because the numbers of people offending when they leave are reduced." The information for them to have that conversation is not available.

Q389 Steve Brine: Finally, I want to touch on police and crime commissioners, which are no longer new; they should be well bedded in by now. To what extent have PCCs sought to engage with prison governors? You hear lots of talk from them that their priority is to reduce reoffending, but to what extent do you see them on your patch?

Eoin McLennan-Murray: I have not met the one for Surrey yet. I do not know whether in the past they visited the prison I am currently governing. The last prison I was in predated crime commissioners being in post, so I have very limited experience. I do not hear from colleagues that there is an awful amount of rapport between governors and crime commissioners.

Q390 Steve Brine: Do you hear that, Nick?

Nick Hardwick: I would say that it is slightly starting to pick up now. It was not their first priority, but I am now starting to have police and crime commissioners come to me asking about inspection results for prisons in their area and trying to understand a bit more. There has certainly been more interest from police and crime commissioners over the last few months than there would have been in the very early days.

Q391 Steve Brine: Could you name names? Is there anywhere where this is working and they are engaging particularly well? Do you have any examples of things they are doing?

Nick Hardwick: Not to the extent that I could name names and say it is working particularly well.

Q392 Mr Llwyd: Good morning. What are your observations on the Ministry’s "cheaper not smaller" approach to reducing the cost of imprisonment?

Nick Hardwick: A number of significant things are happening. It is true that at the moment the nature of the prison estate is changing. Some smaller, older prisons have closed and have been or are being replaced by new, much larger prisons. At some of those small prisons, the buildings are practically falling down. I am not being sentimental; some do need to close and be replaced. However, the consequence of that is that at the moment, certainly, the level of risk has increased because new prisons are difficult to establish. Big prisons are difficult to run, so new big prisons are very difficult to run. You have a lot of very inexperienced staff in some of them, and you have closed establishments that may have had poor conditions but had very experienced staff. In prisons that are staying open, you are losing a lot of experienced staff. That is creating risk.

You can see hard evidence of that risk on the ground. I do not think it is a coincidence that, for instance, we are seeing the highest level of self-inflicted deaths in prisons for many years-already about 50% more this year than there were last year. The number of assaults in adult male prisons is up. The number of incidents at height is up. These incidents are terrible in themselves, but they are a reflection of a system under real strain at the moment. I have concerns about what is happening in that sense.

Q393 Mr Llwyd: Have you made your views known-for example, in connection with the proposed 2,000-inmate prison for north Wales?

Nick Hardwick: I have not commented specifically on that prison. I have certainly made my views known about Oakwood prison, where we have done a report; I think that is clear. To be clear, recently, we also did a report on Parc prison, which is another large prison that works very well.

Q394 Mr Llwyd: Yes, but Parc prison grew organically.

Nick Hardwick: Exactly.

Q395 Mr Llwyd: This mammoth in Wrexham is going to be built in a day.

Nick Hardwick: Quite. What I hope Ministers will not do is underestimate the difficulty of establishing any new prison. The new prisons that have been established recently-Oakwood, Isis and Thamesmead-have all struggled, and those difficulties are exacerbated the larger the size of the establishment. It does not mean that in time you cannot get to a steady state, if it is resourced properly, as you have done at Parc. It is not a simple thing, but the early stages are very challenging to do. It is important that if you do go for that kind of model you resource it sufficiently to be able to manage the risks that are inherent in it.

Eoin McLennan-Murray: There are two bits to this, aren’t there? One is about the size of the prison; the other is about the resourcing that goes into it. What we are seeing at the moment is large prisons and minimal resourcing, which is obviously driven by cost. We do not have to go back that far in history. The Woolf report concluded that 400 or 500 was about the best size for prisons. We know from inspection reports that small prisons have better outcomes for prisoners than large prisons. That has been a truism.

Culturally, within our service we have always dealt face to face. We build relationships with prisoners; that is how we control. Other jurisdictions do not-they use coercion and force. We tend to use a personal relationship. For that to happen, you need sufficient staff facing prisoners. While we are reducing the number of staff and increasing the number of prisoners, you are getting prisoners who feel that they are anonymous and that no one cares about them. That has a psychological impact and will change the culture of our prisons. It will make them inherently more risky. I think that it is a bad move and that we will live to regret the day we thought that big is beautiful. It certainly is not, unless you resource it correctly. We are not doing that.

Chair: Later in the year, we will look at the prison estate itself. Perhaps now we need to concentrate a bit more on the reoffending aspects of this.

Q396 Mr Llwyd: How did NOMS and you as prison governors approach decisions about where best to cut the spending budgets for prisons? Which aspects of prison regimes, if any, do you consider have been protected from these cuts?

Nick Hardwick: To be fair, in most prisons, governors are doing a pretty impressive job spinning the plates necessary to keep everything working, but there are critical savings that have been made. As Eoin said, we see that in some critical areas there are fewer staff in face-to-face contact, or there is less staff face-to-face contact time with prisoners. There is now a restriction on the core day. That means that there are some positive things-prisoners will probably have a guarantee of at least some kind of activity-but, as a consequence, they will spend longer locked in their cells. The activities and contact that are an important part of their rehabilitation process will therefore be under pressure.

Q397 Mr Llwyd: So it is currently right to say that prisoners are spending more time locked up in their cells than previously.

Nick Hardwick: Yes.

Q398 Mr Llwyd: Can I move on to overcrowding? We know, for example, that in 2012-13 over 19,000 prisoners, on average, were in overcrowded conditions. Indeed, 777 prisoners were sharing, three to a cell, cells designed for occupation by two. I know that the Howard League has said that there is a question mark over the accuracy of the Government figures, because they tend to mask the full extent of overcrowding. What is the current position?

Nick Hardwick: Currently, prisons are operating at about 10.2% over their certified normal capacity. Of course, that is not spread evenly through the system, so some prisons will be more overcrowded than others. This is an important point. What has generally been welcomed in the Government’s proposals is the idea of establishing resettlement prisons-the idea that, when people end their sentence or are doing a short sentence, they will be in a prison close to where they will be released. That makes a lot of sense. In order to do that, you have to have enough headroom in the system to be able to put people where you want them to be. If the system is almost full to capacity, you have to put prisoners where there is space.

I think there is a real danger. The biggest challenge for the resettlement prisons will be managing the population such that you can put people where you want them to be. If you do not do that, there is a real danger that in the resettlement and rehabilitation services, which are organised geographically through contracts that governors will not be able to control, there will be a mismatch between service provision and where the prisoners who need those services are. If the governor says, "This isn’t quite working for me and my prison," the danger is that there will be nothing they can do about it, because they will not be managing and controlling the contracts. Those are not things that have happened yet, but they are real risks to a central, important and welcome part of what the Government are trying to do.

Q399 Jeremy Corbyn: Thanks for coming to give us evidence this morning. The prisoner crime reduction survey said that a third of prisoners reported being in paid employment in the four weeks before custody, 13% reported that they had never had a job, 15% reported being homeless before custody and 25% were estimated to be suffering from anxiety and depression. You will be very familiar with this survey and its contents. To what extent do you think the Prison Service seriously meets the needs of complex depression and other issues incoming prisoners are suffering from?

Nick Hardwick: It does not-and I think that, despite some good work by staff, it cannot. A short time ago, I was in Eastwood Park, which is a women’s prison near Bristol, as you will know. About half the women there had some kind of mental health problem. We thought the staff were caring for them pretty well, but if you see and talk to the women there you think, "What this has got to do with the criminal justice system defeats me. It is a care system for people who are struggling to cope." I am not sure prison is the best place to do that, with the effort that goes into it. If you are managing that, you get distracted from the population who more obviously need some of the interventions you can make in terms of employment and stopping reoffending. The levels of mental ill health in prisons and the numbers of prisoners who demonstrate that are scandalous. I do not want to overuse the word, but it is scandalous that the way we deal with so many people with those problems is to put them in a prison. You see it and think, "This is just not sensible."

Q400 Jeremy Corbyn: We have done quite a lot of prison visiting. I have been to Eastwood Park, although a long time ago, and I recognise that there are individual prison officers who work and try very hard. My concern is, in your reporting, have you come across any real, effective results of what happens inside the prison as regards levels of either mental health disorder or other disorders when coming out?

Nick Hardwick: On the whole, the systems for transferring the people with the most serious problems to a secure hospital have improved. The transfer times have improved. Training in mental health awareness is now being rolled out, and quite a lot of prison officers will have it. In lots of places, we see that the level of care has improved-not consistently, but we have seen some improvements. In women’s prisons, you see that through the reductions in the number of self-harm incidents and self-inflicted deaths. However, it would be a mistake to say that prison officers, with the levels of training they have, can cope with the demands of the population they are dealing with. I want to be clear-that is not a criticism of those staff individually. They do not have the resources or, necessarily, the professional training that they need to deal with a population with such complex needs.

Eoin McLennan-Murray: That is absolutely right. We are overwhelmed, really. We do not have the resource to deal with the need, and we do not have the infrastructure or the training to do it. When I governed Lewes prison, where I had an in-patient facility, most of that facility was taken up with psychiatric case prisoners. When I had someone coming from court who was more severely ill than people I had in the hospital, I had to rotate people. I was putting ill people back into a normal location because I had to prioritise who was most ill and needed the in-care facility. That is just a game of numbers. We did not have sufficient resource to deal with the need we were presented with.

Q401 Jeremy Corbyn: I realise that with large numbers of prison transfers it is often quite difficult to identify what I am about to ask, but when you inspect a prison are you able to look at the outcomes for the released prisoners? Do you have any system for doing sample tracking or overall tracking so that you can see whether a prisoner has spent a substantial amount of time in Pentonville, Strangeways or whatever? Are you able to track how effective or otherwise each prison is in this respect?

Nick Hardwick: We have not been able to do that. We have tried to do it, but it is very difficult to do. We have not been able to do it successfully so far. One of the things about measuring outcomes is that we think some of that information will be more available in the future than it has been in the past. We are having some very detailed discussions with the probation inspectorate about how we can link up our work. That is what we need to be able to do. It inspects in the community and has the contacts with the probation trusts, as they are now-or the national probation service in future-which will know what is happening to people. We are now in detailed discussions with the probation inspectorate about how we can work with it. We hope that when a new chief inspector of probation starts we will be able to conclude that.

Q402 Jeremy Corbyn: How do you evaluate offending and reoffending reduction rates? Are you confident about this?

Nick Hardwick: Whereas with other things we look at we can take an objective view on the outcome-whether or not a prison is safe, or whether the prisoners there are treated decently-a weakness in our system is that on the resettlement side it is more about whether particular processes are in place. We make some assumptions that if those processes are in place and working properly rehabilitation outcomes are likely to be good. Unlike the other parts of the system that we inspect, we are looking more at processes in the prison than at actual outcomes. As I said, I want to work with the probation inspectorate to try to change that.

Q403 John McDonnell: You have touched on this earlier. The Offender Learning and Skills Service is meant to provide prisoners, according to need, with the ability within the prison to pick up the skills and appropriate education to enable them to get a job on the outside. That is its vision. How is that being achieved? Is it being achieved?

Nick Hardwick: You can look at the inspection reports. We work closely with Ofsted in assessing this, and you can look at its gradings. Some do it better than others, but we think it is not being achieved sufficiently well.

There are two bits to this. When I go to a prison, if there is a workshop there, I try to talk to people who employ prisoners on the outside and try to understand what they want. They say that they need basic literacy and numeracy skills. For them, the important thing is not training in a particular trade, which often they are better able to do than the prison, but making sure that when prisoners leave and come to work for them, as ex-offenders, they can be left to manage the shop on their own, can deal with customers properly and can make decisions on their own initiative-all of those sorts of things. Getting prisoners ready for employment is more than something that happens in a prison workshop. There needs to be a whole-prison approach, so that people develop not just the skills but the habits and ethics of working, holding down a job and dealing with difficulties and problems. Prisons are a long way short of delivering that.

I think it is a shame that the Ministry of Justice seems to have abandoned the working prison model. While that never worked entirely, there was a clear sense in our inspections that governors had got the message and were trying to get more of their prisoners out of their cells, working, and that that was seen to be a priority. That is critical to any rehabilitation effort. They have picked up the message that that is no longer the priority that it was, so their attention has turned to other things. I think it is a shame.

Q404 John McDonnell: So it is policy, not just resources.

Nick Hardwick: It is policy. On the whole, governors try to do what is required of them. If they get the message that something is important, that is what they will do. If they get the message that it is less important, their focus and priorities will switch elsewhere. With fewer resources, that is what you would expect.

Eoin McLennan-Murray: One of the problems with OLASS is that it retenders every three years, which is not a sensible time scale. You have so much change, with people shooting across, that you lose momentum and consistency. When you start to build something, it is then fragmented again, only to be rebuilt. That is a real waste of resource. If nothing else changed but we changed the contract period, we would see an improvement.

Q405 John McDonnell: That is helpful. You have touched on mental health issues. The NHS has now assumed responsibility for both mental health and drug addiction. What impact has that had?

Nick Hardwick: Our view is that the NHS assuming responsibility for health care has been a big improvement. That is a big improvement in health care generally.

Q406 John McDonnell: And on drug misuse?

Nick Hardwick: That is a bit more complicated. In our view, the most serious drug misuse problem in prisons now is diverted prescribed medicines. If you ask me how the drugs get into prisons, in a lot of cases health care staff bring them in and hand them to a queue that may be more or less orderly. They then become a tradeable commodity-or a bullyable commodity. I understand from my specialist drugs inspectors that this reflects what is happening in the community. It is not because they cannot get hold of the real stuff-this is the drug of choice.

Prescribing practice is critical, not just to the safety of individual prisoners but to the overall safety and environment of the prison. We go in with specialist pharmacy inspectors from the General Pharmaceutical Council and look at this area very carefully. One of the dangers of contracting on these things is that in some prisons, before NHS England took responsibility, we found you would have a commissioner who was not very engaged in what was happening in the prison and a provider who was not very engaged and perhaps not very good. They would subcontract their services to a GP service, which would then have that done by some locums who would go into the prison. Those GPs were being bullied to prescribe tradeable drugs that they should not have been prescribing. I then had the governor saying to me that he was at his wits’ end because he could not control the situation, because the commissioning process was out of his hands.

There is a lesson from that for commissioning processes generally. You do not disempower the governor: he should be responsible for what happens in his prison. When we have had our discussion, we will make our recommendations to him. He may complain, "Well, I can’t control it." It is really important that there is no dilution of a governor’s accountability for what happens in his or her prison. They need to have adequate control over the contract and commissioning process to be able to achieve that, because increasingly, large parts of the service they are responsible for-health, education and training, and now resettlement services-will be provided by an external supplier. You do not want the governor to be sitting in their office as a kind of contract manager, but you do want them to be saying, "That’s not working in my prison. I’ve got the ability in the contract to change it."

Q407 John McDonnell: That is going to be extremely difficult under the new system, isn’t it?

Nick Hardwick: It is going to be very difficult.

Eoin McLennan-Murray: It also picks up the budget point. Most budgets are not controlled by governors any more. You have a budget for your prison. Most of it is predetermined in many ways. A lot of it is ring-fenced and sorted out by others. We then have this commissioning for the amount of money we have to spend on things that are not already predetermined. Obviously, staff consume most of your budget. What is left is a relatively small amount. I have never gone into the economics of it, but I do not know whether it is cost-effective to set up a large commissioning body to decide how that money will be spent. It costs a lot to set up a commissioning body, yet what is it actually commissioning? I do not know whether it is proper value for money.

In relation to drugs, everything that Nick said is absolutely correct, but there is a far more fundamental problem about drugs, which is the way we deal with drugs in this country. Our approach at the moment, which is to deal with them as a criminal justice issue, is something we probably need to look at again. We will never resolve the problems that we face until we look fundamentally at how we deal with drug offences and drug users. In my view, at the moment we are just making the situation worse. We see that played out in prisons every day. The greatest initiative we could have for crime reduction in this country would be to address the drugs problem, because that drives so much acquisitive crime.

Q408 John McDonnell: I understand the general point that you are making, which is an overall issue that has to be addressed again at some stage, but I want to take you back one step. There is now discussion about an end-to-end approach to drug misuse, from prison into the community. I agree that that is made more complicated by this commissioning role, which is now going to expand. What do you see as the component parts of that that really require to be put in place?

Nick Hardwick: Of the commissioning?

Q409 John McDonnell: No-of the end-to-end approach. What elements are critical to that?

Nick Hardwick: This is obviously an area where you do need a through-the-gate process-RAPt, I think it is called. We go into prisons where they are providing services in a prison but have a network of services in the community. You absolutely can have an effective through-the-gate service that operates. We think that the IDTS-the drug treatment system-works well for prisoners who have a problem with opiates. Again, that needs to be connected with what is happening outside. Leaving aside the wider argument about drug policy, you need to have an effective strategy in a prison for both reducing supply and reducing demand. Both things need to go hand in hand.

I would give that a lot of attention. It is about making sure that there is a consistent, joined-up, through-the-gate service, where the care and services that are provided in the prison are seamless with what the individual gets outside. You can do that even with prisoners doing very short sentences. Even if you start something in prison, the detox or whatever you do will not be enough. You will need to make sure that that prisoner gets to the appropriate external drug agency-at the point where they are released. It is no good leaving it for a few days and then getting round to it. You have to do it at the point where they are released.

We should not ignore alcohol in all of this. Alcohol is a significant issue that sometimes tends to be the poor relation. You need to make sure that the same approach is taken, where that is necessary. There is also now an issue in prisons with synthetic cannabinoids such as Spice. One of the points about those is that they do not show up in current testing regimes, so your testing regimes are a less and less accurate reflection of the extent of the issue you have in the prison.

Eoin McLennan-Murray: I totally agree with what Nick has said.

Q410 John McDonnell: I know the Chair is anxious about time, but I want to talk about young people in prison. What lessons do you think can be learned with regard to the adult population from the reduction in the number of young people being imprisoned?

Nick Hardwick: First, I would pay tribute to the Youth Justice Board under its previous leadership. The way it managed to have an integrated system between what was being done in the youth offending teams-in the community-and what was happening in young offender institutions was important. As it reduced the numbers, in a sense that gave it capacity to do more with some of the young people it had left. So I would pay tribute to the YJB for its leadership.

One of the very important things to understand is that it has been so successful so quickly, and the numbers have dropped so rapidly, that the nature of the juvenile population you now have in custody is different from what it was a year or two ago. The Government need to take that into account in their planning for future accommodation in secure colleges. What you now have is a higher concentration of the most troubled, most at-risk and most risky young people, concentrated in a very small number of establishments. My judgment about how you can manage them is different from what it would have been a couple of years ago, when Chris Grayling was setting out his plans. You have to be very careful about how you do that.

We should have aspirations for these young people. I do not think we should write them off. A focus on education and training is really important at this age, but they will not learn or make progress if they are not safe. You have to make sure that your future accommodation arrangements can guarantee the safety of these boys.

Q411 John McDonnell: What needs to be done for this high concentration of high-need individuals?

Eoin McLennan-Murray: The Government should not think that there is a cost saving to be had just from reducing the numbers. There is an amount of money that needs to be spent on these very damaged young individuals. It is an expensive business; let us not kid ourselves. If we are going to do it, we should try to do it properly. I would hate to think that just because we have reduced numbers we will see corresponding reductions in budgets. In fact, with smaller numbers, we should be able to do more intensive work and should be able to resource that appropriately, so we get the outcomes that we want. I do not think the Government should see it as a cost-cutting measure.

Q412 John McDonnell: I have a simple question. Why are the education hours for young people limited to 12 hours a week?

Nick Hardwick: They should not be. In order to increase the education hours, you have to be able to get the people. It is not simply about the number of teachers you have; it is about whether you have the staff to get young people safely from their unit to the classroom, without trouble occurring en route, and to make sure that the teaching environment is safe and secure.

There is a real cost in increasing the teaching hours, but you do not need that to work for very many for it to have a saving in the longer term. One of the things I have heard Michael Wilshaw say about young people in prison is that these are the education system’s failures, in a way, and that we have an obligation to them. Often they were failed at an early age. You should not now be writing them off-you should be trying to make good the loss of opportunity they had in the past.

What has happened is correct. Custody is not a good place to do it, so I agree with what has happened. The priority should be to try to keep as many out of custody as you can. However, when you are there, you have to try to have some aspirations for these boys. Education and training are at the heart of it.

Q413 Chair: May I clarify a point you dealt with earlier? It is about what happens if the resettlement prisons cannot accommodate all those who need to be in resettlement prisons. The Government appear to have indicated that there will not be resettlement services other than in the resettlement prisons. Are we going to have a batch of prisoners marooned in the conventional prison system and not getting the resettlement?

Nick Hardwick: As I understand it-I have not been able to get a terribly clear answer to this myself-if you are in a prison in a contract area, the provider will be required to provide, at a cost for all the prisoners in that prison. If prisoners leave to go into their own area but they continue to work with them in their community, they will get extra money for them, if they are successful in reducing the rate at which they reoffend. The problem is not that you will not have any services at all; the difficulty is that if you are a provider you get paid more for working with him than working with me, so who are you going to work with?

As I said, the governor will not be able to control it. That is a particular problem with women’s prisons. Because of the smaller number of women’s prisons, the women come from much wider areas. Using the example of Eastwood Park again, if you go into the governor’s office there, he has a map on the wall that shows where all the women come from. Basically, it goes from Wolverhampton, right across Wales, down to the south coast and as far out through the south-west as Penzance in Cornwall. The women come from a very large area, so he is working with a big number of contract areas. NOMS has tried to reassure me. I think they are aware of the problem, because I have harassed them about it, but I have yet to be reassured about how this will work-the point that you make-in prisons generally and in women’s prisons in particular.

Chair: Thank you very much. We are very grateful to both of you for your help this morning.

Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Rob Allen, Independent Consultant, Mark Day, Prison Reform Trust, Sarah Salmon, Criminal Justice Alliance, and Frances Crook, Chief Executive, Howard League, gave evidence.

Chair: I welcome some very familiar faces before us this morning. Mr Allen, you helped us with our original inquiry. You are now an independent consultant on these issues. Ms Crook is also a familiar witness for us from the previous inquiry, and now in this one. Ms Salmon, welcome; we are very glad to have you. Juliet Lyon is not very well today, I am sorry to say. Mark Day, who is the head of policy, has come in her place. We are very grateful to him for doing so at short notice.

Q414 Steve Brine: Welcome back-and welcome. As many of you will know, the Government’s action plan "Transforming the Criminal Justice System" identifies crimes where either there is evidence of systematic failure in how the criminal justice system tackles them or they have a particularly devastating effect on victims. Do you support the primary crime reduction priorities identified by this Government?

Frances Crook: Yes. We all want to reduce crime. That is obviously really important. The emphasis on communities coming together to do that is really important. The emphasis on people taking responsibility is very important. I think there is a failure at the heart of it, which is the emphasis on prison. As we know from the last 100 years’ experience, that is not a great crime reduction mechanism. In fact, it tends to make things worse-and is a very expensive way of making things worse.

There was a missed opportunity to deal with a particular group of prolific offenders who are a real nuisance but are not particularly dangerous. Those are the people who tend to go in for short prison sentences and often have multiple issues to deal with-perhaps mental health, drug addiction, alcohol addiction, homelessness, poor family relationships and poor employment records. The Government were given plenty of advice that that relatively small number of people-some 60,000 or so every year-who cause quite a considerable amount of mayhem in local communities but are not particularly violent, could have been dealt with in a different way. They could have been dealt with by the probation service, which wanted to deal with them, wanted to take them on and has a track record of success.

Instead of doing that, the Government have gone down this route of adding to their short time in prison-maybe two or three weeks, which they have probably had several times-a whole year’s extra sentence, which will set them up to fail and will be very expensive. We know that the criminal justice system is not the route out of crime. The route out of crime-the route to desistance-is through a job, secure housing, mental health services and the panoply of services that these people require, which is individual and which the probation service has a history of being able to provide and get access to. It is a real pity that this rather expensive option-which I predict will be a failure-has been chosen, instead of a route that we knew could have succeeded better.

Q415 Steve Brine: We know that the Howard League and the Prison Reform Trust both say that many of the solutions to reducing crime lie outside the criminal justice system, which you have just said. Whose responsibility should it be to drive the strategy that Frances has just outlined about employment, resettlement and housing? Where should the balance lie when it comes to local versus national accountability? Mark, do you want to pick that up?

Mark Day: There should be a much more cross-Government emphasis. There has been a failure to capitalise on those areas where there has been a cross-Government agenda. For instance, on liaison and diversion, we have just had the announcement of £25 million from DH to fund the trial sites. We had a commitment to have a national liaison and diversion service by 2014 but that has now slipped until after the election, until 2017. That is a very welcome initiative. It is a practical example of what justice reinvestment could look like, when we are talking about a cross-Government approach. We have £25 million committed there, but look at the prisons and probation budget of around £4 billion, I think.

Frances Crook: A lot.

Mark Day: We just do not have the resources to back up what could be an effective cross-Government approach. To go back to what Frances was saying, the danger around the Transforming Rehabilitation proposals is net widening. We know that community sentences are more effective than a short prison sentence at reducing reoffending, but the Government are looking at prison as the route into rehabilitation. We know from the impact assessment of the proposals that, first, there is a danger that the courts could end up committing more people to short prison sentences because superficially it looks attractive, but you will have a very long period of supervision after the prison sentence. There is a danger that you will have more people go into prison for a less successful intervention than a community sentence would have been in the first place.

Then, attached to mandatory supervision, we have the risk of breach and recall to custody. Rather than stopping the revolving door of crime, which is what we all want to see, these proposals will potentially put an extra spin on it, in that you will have people being repeatedly recalled to custody. As Frances said, we know that this is a difficult group to work with. That means that the supervision requirements attached to their sentence have to work with them effectively to get the outcomes that we want to see-effective rehabilitation. The danger of compulsory supervision is that you get an over-emphasis on enforcement and simply get this pointless return back and forth to prison.

Q416 Steve Brine: Maybe you just said this and I did not pick it up, but there seems to be universal agreement-about the only bit of universal agreement there is on Transforming Rehabilitation policy-that bringing the under-12-month cohort into supervision is desirable. The Government’s answer as to how they can do that within budget is Transforming Rehabilitation. Are you saying that it is not desirable to bring that cohort into supervision?

Mark Day: It is absolutely desirable to bring them into supervision. The question mark was whether it should have been compulsory supervision with breach requirements attached to that and, therefore, recall to custody as part of the enforcement. The Peterborough pilot, for instance, was a voluntary pilot and had some successful results attached to it, so that was potentially another model the Government could have looked at. Instead they have gone for compulsory supervision. We simply do not know, because we do not have a pilot for it, what its impact on reoffending will be.

Q417 Steve Brine: Sarah, from the Criminal Justice Alliance’s point of view, what would a broad, coherent strategy on crime reduction comprise? I know it is a big question, but this is a big inquiry. We have the luxury of looking broad-brush. A couple of weeks ago we had a fascinating discussion about research. From your point of view, whose responsibility should it be to drive such a strategy? What would it look like?

Sarah Salmon: We agree completely with what has been said. The answers to this do not lie in the criminal justice system. There needs to be an interdepartmental, top-level Government strategy. I have had previous experience of trying to have joint work between the DFE and the MOJ on working with families of offenders. It was incredibly difficult, but, when you can get people to the table, that is where the answers lie-in cross-working and in using communities and families in order to help desistance and to encourage the things that lie in desistance. As Frances said, the solutions lie in work, employment, family relationships and communities.

This group of prolific offenders, with short-term sentences, is likely to be the young adults group of 18 to 24-year-olds. There are other proposals around putting the over-18s into adult custody. One of our proposals is that there should be a young adults board to deal with that group, because they are at the crux and are the ones who are most likely to desist if they get the right intervention. Again, that needs a cross-Government strategy. They are likely to have short sentences and to be prolific offenders, but they are absolutely at the point where something could be done with them, if it is the right thing-if they get the right supervision programme, help in the community or whatever it is, which needs to be tailored to them.

Q418 Steve Brine: Has there ever been one?

Sarah Salmon: A young adults board? No, I do not think so, because, before, they were under 21. The Youth Justice Board could extend its remit, as has now happened for care leavers. Other Government Departments are seeing that 18 is not the cut-off that it used to be. Other Government policies on care leavers or work allow up to 24.

Q419 Steve Brine: Mr Allen, you were a member of the Youth Justice Board for quite a long period during the big spend years. Now we see, and we know from the youth justice Report that this Committee did last year or possibly the year before-time flies when we are having such fun-that the number coming into the youth justice system is dropping. In our Report, we could not identify specifically why, to be honest; maybe you have a view. Are we now reaping the dividend of the big spend years in terms of those coming into the youth justice system?

Rob Allen: It was a bit of a paradox. I spent a lot of time on the Youth Justice Board trying to drive down the numbers in custody, in particular, but that did not start happening until after I left the board. I do not know what the lesson is there.

One of the big things that happened was that the incentives for the police changed entirely. One day they were encouraged and incentivised to bring offences to justice, which meant that very minor cases were brought into the formal system. Then the incentives changed and they were incentivised to keep youngsters out of the system-to develop restorative disposals, informal warnings and constructive ways of doing it-so the numbers coming before the courts fell dramatically. To an extent, though not wholly, the fall in the use of custody is explained by a huge reduction in the numbers coming before the courts. The issue is whether crime by young people has come down to that extent or whether we have redefined it and changed the ways in which we deal with it. I suspect there is a bit of both.

May I answer your question about the crime reduction? I endorse some of the things that this Committee put in its report of 2010, where a lot of the answers do lie. Today, I have published a report for Transform Justice about justice reinvestment-what has happened to it since your report and what might happen. I think the answer is ultimately to shift the resources away from NOMS and the Prison Service and to get them to the more local level somehow, so that, in the case of juveniles, local authorities are responsible. If kids from their area go to custody they should pay. They pay for remands now-why should they not pay for all custodial sentences? They should have the budget and use it to develop alternatives. If they want to pay for custodial places, that is fine, but if they want to develop alternatives-prevention, restorative, intensive alternatives or fostering-they can do that. On the adult level it is more complicated, but I would like to see-

Q420 Steve Brine: Doesn’t that already happen? I am thinking back to our youth justice inquiry. In my area, Hampshire, we had something called the Wessex Dance Academy, which is funded by Hampshire county council. It is an incredibly impressive programme of intensive street dance; Jeremy has visited it, I think.

Jeremy Corbyn: Yes.

Steve Brine: That kind of investment is already happening, isn’t it?

Rob Allen: Local authorities do an awful lot on the young offender side, but at the moment, if a young person is sentenced to a detention and training order and goes off to a custodial establishment, the cost of that is met by the Youth Justice Board-by central Government. As I said, it has changed on the youth side, since April last year.

Q421 Chair: It is even more marked as far as adult prisoners are concerned. The sentencer has no real involvement in the cost. The provider is involved in the cost.

Rob Allen: That is right. We need to shift responsibility for resourcing the use of custody somehow. I do not have a clear answer; some thinking needs to go on about the mechanisms. Maybe the policing and crime commissioners, working with local authorities and the health service-and these new probation arrangements that we seem to be getting-could provide a locus through which the funds could be vired. Those bodies could commission the number of prison places they think they need and could work to develop alternatives to drive the numbers down. If they had savings from not buying so many prison places they could invest them in the alternatives, creating the virtuous cycle that everybody wants. It is too difficult to do at a big national level-it needs to be devolved. The report that is out today, which I will send to the Committee, has some ideas about how that might be done.

Steve Brine: Please do send that to us.

Chair: We need to move on.

Steve Brine: We do. There are so many questions.

Q422 Mr Llwyd: We are touching on some questions that I have about local versus national. Before that, can I ask, what are your observations on the way in which the police and crime commissioners have tended to approach the "and crime" element in their title?

Rob Allen: In this report, which I will send to you, I note two or three examples of commissioners who have taken it seriously and have started to look at the broader question of who the people are whom the police are arresting-are they repeat offenders, and what should we be doing in our area to try to intervene with these people so that they do not carry on being arrested? There are examples of police and crime commissioners setting up boards of local stakeholders from the health service, probation and all the other agencies and saying, "Look, we have some people here who are coming to the attention of the police over and over again. What can we do to tackle their alcohol problem, their drug problem or whatever?"

There are several who are doing that, but I suspect there are some who have not yet taken that step; it varies enormously. It depends a bit on the previous interest. I know you have heard evidence from Alun Michael, who is developing a number of initiatives in the area where he is police and crime commissioner. Bedfordshire is the other area where I talked to the police and crime commissioner extensively about what he is doing. There are some good examples.

Q423 Mr Llwyd: But there are also some examples of where there is a huge amount of inertia. I spoke with the commissioner for the Swindon area-Wiltshire, presumably-who is doing a lot of good work to draw all these threads together. That is really what it is about, isn’t it? It is about trying to get a proper co-ordinated approach, so that everybody knows what their role is in the whole partnership. Ms Crook, do you want to say something?

Frances Crook: There are some idiosyncratic PCCs-I will not name them-and there are some who are doing some really good work. The problem for the future is that all this good work will disappear because it is not embedded in systems. It relies entirely on one official-not an elected committee, council or board, but one person. If that person stands down or is not elected, it will all disappear. The new person coming in will start all over again, with a new plan, a new system and new structures, so we will have constant flux and change over the period. That is very destabilising. It also gives the message to local authorities, health authorities and the police themselves-everybody else-that we will not put that much effort into this new structure and these new plans that this person has because they will be here for only a couple of years and it will all change. That, at the heart of the system, is the real problem.

Q424 Mr Llwyd: Dare I say it, but there is also the possibility of politics dictating what people’s priorities are.

Frances Crook: Yes.

Q425 Mr Llwyd: I do not know whether anybody else has a comment on that particular question. I have others, of course.

Mark Day: One quick point about the PCCs is that there is also a wider question about how they fit into the Transforming Rehabilitation proposals, particularly in terms of where the commissioning sits. In the original probation consultation, there was a proposal to devolve commissioning down to local probation trusts. You could have seen probation trusts and PCCs working together in order to commission services effectively locally. Now we have a model where the commissioning is very much focused on the national level. How the PCCs will co-ordinate with that commissioning function-let alone how you bring in local authorities as well, which are absolutely crucial to this overall agenda-is a question that needs to be looked at.

Q426 Mr Llwyd: Mr Allen helpfully led us into that particular field earlier. It seems to me that a national strategy is doomed to failure. If any work is going to be done constructively, there must be a huge local input, because local conditions vary in terms of types of crime, intensity of crime and everything else. One hopes that there will be a more focused approach on local answers for local problems; I sound like the League of Gentlemen at the moment. Is that a question? I am not really sure.

Sarah Salmon: We would completely agree. The Criminal Justice Alliance very much supports the idea of justice reinvestment. The police and crime commissioners can hold budgets that are not ring-fenced and can bring people together. I very much agree with you that different conditions need different responses.

Q427 Mr Llwyd: I would like to ask one further question. Ms Crook touched on this earlier in an answer to my friend Mr Brine. What can we learn from desistance research about effective approaches to reduce crime?

Rob Allen: The general point about desistance is that people who move away from committing crime, particularly persistent offenders, do not do it in one magic leap. There is no magic bullet here-no one-medicine-type approach that will cure them. It is a process, and one that almost always involves a personal relationship with somebody who is on the side of the person who is trying to give up whatever it is, whether it is taking drugs or a particular kind of lifestyle. The kind of mechanisms we want to invest in are ones that encourage that kind of strong, continuing relationship, ideally with the same individual, where there is mutual respect and an acceptance that that may take time, there may be setbacks along the way and it may be that a person does not immediately stop committing crime, taking drugs and so on.

If you accept that, it affects the way in which you need to organise the criminal justice system. Courts perhaps need to be informed about the progress that individuals are making if they do commit another offence. Is the trajectory generally a positive one or is it one of, "No, he has committed another offence and has got to go to prison"? There are quite wide implications both for the provision of rehabilitation services, if you want to call it that, and the way in which the courts, the police and other enforcement agencies deal with people who are in trouble with the law.

Frances Crook: You went to look at Red Hook and the problem-solving courts, didn’t you? The issue of responsibility is really important. Going back to your question, Mr Brine-

Q428 Steve Brine: Not Red Hook-that is in New York. We were in Texas, but we saw the downtown community court in Austin.

Frances Crook: The question you asked about who is responsible is really important. The kind of people we are talking about have lots of different identities. The trouble is that their criminality-their crime behaviour-takes over their whole identity, whereas actually they have other parts to them, which are other needs. Those are mental health, family responsibility and unemployment-all the things we all know about.

In America, it is very seductive to see that responsibility being taken by the courts, because it is the only way that people get access to the other services. The answer to your question is that you get desistance because you get access to services and support. The only way you can do it in the States is through the justice system, but here we do not need that. There are other services available. There is the national health service, there are mental health services and there is housing. So actually we have a more complex patchwork of responsibility for individuals.

The trouble is that we have fallen into the trap of seeing the action of the crime as being the overriding element that triggers other interventions. That is at the heart of the mistake that we are making. We are expecting that to solve the problem of taking responsibility, but responsibility is more diffuse and more complex than that. As Rob said, the way you get desistance is by long-term interventions and support that are outside the justice system, in the end. The justice system is not the solution to crime.

Q429 Mr Llwyd: But arguably, it is the very paucity of the external services to which you refer that could very well be a driver of crime anyway.

Frances Crook: That may be.

Q430 Chair: There are two portals into the system you are talking about. One is somebody who has gone through the criminal justice system and needs to be connected to those services in order to be encouraged to desist from crime. Then there are people who are at the edge of entering the criminal justice system. We saw that in the way women’s centres operate, for example. We have also seen it in the youth justice area, where there are some other ways of bringing or drawing people into that access. Both are necessary, aren’t they?

Frances Crook: Yes. I would like to see men’s centres. There are 50 or so women’s centres around the country and they are all operating fantastically well. I was in Isis on Friday; we are going out to Anawim and are celebrating their fantastic work. But it is exactly as you say-it is a wraparound service. The justice system is one of the routes in, but they serve and support a range of women who have not come into contact with the justice system to prevent them from doing so-to prevent the crime. Something that has not happened is very difficult to quantify, but that is what they are very good at. They keep families together, give women debt counselling and help with domestic violence and with a wide range of stuff. They do reading groups-lovely stuff that is really supportive. Let us have men’s centres as well.

Q431 Jeremy Corbyn: Some time ago, our Committee did a report on justice reinvestment. The general line we took was that if the crime rate falls, the prison population falls and there are greater resources available for reinvestment in crime reduction policies-a wholly virtuous circle. It was a great idea. Has it happened?

Rob Allen: I will start on that, because I have been looking at it. The short answer is not nearly as much as I think the Committee would have hoped when it produced the report. There have been some examples. On the youth side, I mentioned giving local authorities a responsibility for paying for remand, which has stimulated them to take some actions that mean they do not have to go to custody and they use the money more constructively.

There have been two sets of pilot schemes, one for juveniles in which money was given up front by the Youth Justice Board to a number of pilot areas for them to spend however they wanted, with some targets to reduce the use of prison. There was a problem in two of the areas because the pilot started just before the riots. In two of the areas, the numbers spiked because of that and they were able to pull out of the pilot, but the two that remained in have shown quite successful reductions in the use of imprisonment. Money that was being spent on custody is being spent instead on working with families, working with young people, helping them stay at school and so on.

On the adult side, there is a pilot scheme that works rather differently. The local authorities and local agencies involved are not given any money up front but are given reward payments in the event that they reduce demand on the criminal justice system, by which is meant prosecutions and custody. In most of the areas, particularly Greater Manchester, which is the area that has done most work in this area, there has been a substantial set of reward payments. The problem is that the reward payments that they get are only a fraction of the savings that the Government make. They have been quite successful in reducing the number of people going to custody. The annual average cost of a custodial place is whatever it might be-£25,000 a year-but the money that comes back to Manchester is nothing like the £25,000 per prisoner per year that they are saving; it is a fraction of that.

This is one of the reasons why I am in favour of a more localised system, so that there can be more like-for-like movement and shift of resources. If agencies are working together and taking the pressure off the prison system, they should be able to reinvest that money in their own services to create this virtuous cycle. With the national Prison Service it is quite difficult to do that, because it will always be able to back-fill the places that are reduced by the action in a particular area. We have had pilot schemes that have been relatively successful. There is an opportunity to look to the next stage, which would be more thoroughly to localise or devolve some of these responsibilities and to develop the machinery to do that.

Q432 Jeremy Corbyn: Governments have generally been reluctant to set as an article of faith that they would reduce the number of people in prison. They have tended to leave it to the sentencing courts, basically, to deal with it. Do you think there is a case for stronger central Government guidance or pressure to say that we should not look so automatically at custodial sentences but should look much more at a whole range of other things?

Rob Allen: Yes. I would go further than that. When the coalition Government started and, basically, public services were asked to find 20% to 25% cuts across the lifetime of the Parliament, why did somebody not say, "Let’s have 20% to 25% cuts in the average length of prison sentences, which are the largest consumer of resources in this field"? Instead of getting 48 months, somebody might get 40 months; we would have a recalibration of sentencing. That would be a straightforward way of responding to the straitened economic times and freeing up resources. It would be very brave politically to do that, but there is a Sentencing Council that sits between the Government and the judges. Its role could be bolder in looking at the evidence on reoffending and the fact that, in comparison with many European countries, our sentencing levels are higher for particular offences. We send people to prison for longer.

Q433 Jeremy Corbyn: Is there any evidence that longer sentences in general reduce reoffending?

Rob Allen: People serving longer sentences do reoffend less-

Q434 Jeremy Corbyn: They have less time to reoffend because they spend more time in prison, I suppose.

Rob Allen: Yes. The short-term prisoners do have high rates of reoffending, but they include people who are in prison for very short periods of time.

Q435 Chair: That is probably one of the reasons why they are in prison for short sentences. It is the despairing magistrates wondering what to do with people who keep appearing before them.

Rob Allen: Yes.

Frances Crook: Could I say something quite controversial?

Steve Brine: Yes.

Jeremy Corbyn: Please do.

Frances Crook: I rarely do this. I think the judiciary and the magistracy are the last unreformed public service. They are the only people around who are not asked to account for their decision making. We had a very interesting lecture from the then head of the Sentencing Council. He talked to a packed audience at the Howard League about the processes the Sentencing Council goes through when it issues guidelines to sentencers. There was nothing about outcomes. There is no responsibility for the decisions that they make.

Earlier, you talked about the reduction in the use of prison for young people. It has nothing to do with the magistrates; they take no responsibility for what happens outside. When there is a death in custody, there is a huge investigation into what has happened in prison, but there is no investigation into the decision making that sent that person to prison in the first place. A lot of people who take their own lives are on remand or have not committed a serious offence. I remember Zahid Mubarek, who was murdered by his cellmate and who was in prison for only a few weeks. At some point somebody has to say to judges and magistrates, "You have to take responsibility for the outcome of your decision making."

Chair: I should point out that in our comments to the Sentencing Council we have regularly referred to whether sentences-particularly custodial sentences-are likely to be effective.

Q436 Jeremy Corbyn: You have made a very interesting suggestion. On that point, have you as an organisation ever done sample surveys or something like that of magistrates and Crown court judges, the decisions they have made and what happens to the individual prisoner all the way down the line? I realise that it is not a simple process.

Frances Crook: No, it is not simple.

Q437 Jeremy Corbyn: But it is something that might well be interesting to do.

Sarah Salmon: Last week a report by NEF, the New Economics Foundation, and the Centre for Justice Innovation, called "Better Courts", was launched. It is very much about the idea of problem-solving courts. There is a variety of local initiatives around the countries. There are some ideas in America-in Hawaii there is a very famous example called the HOPE-where sentencers regularly review their sentence. They sit in panels that allow regular revision. They use them in drug courts and domestic violence courts. That is about giving sentencers feedback. Going back to the issue of the offender having a relationship with somebody, it shows that somebody is taking an interest in them and that their progress is noted by the sentencer-they are not sent off into the criminal justice system somehow. I can send that report to the Committee.

Jeremy Corbyn: That would be very helpful.

Q438 Chair: Do you think that we are too squeamish about recognising that financial incentives make a very significant difference to how the system operates, not just in the private sector, with payment by results, but also in the way decisions are made by the various bodies that are involved here-except, of course, the judiciary, who are not invited to consider that point in any way? If we do not get the financial incentives right, will we continue to make the wrong decisions?

Rob Allen: Yes. Following the money is probably quite a good principle for analysing how certain things happen. In a way, prison is a sort of free good-if it is indeed a good. There are people who make suggestions that courts could be given some responsibility and could be given a budget. Depending on their record over the previous few years, they would be able to sentence to a certain number of months of imprisonment and so on. That is too much for me, as an enthusiast for this sort of approach. I think giving the local agencies more responsibility would allow them not simply to respond to demand from the courts but to try to shape that demand by offering the courts alternative sentencing options and working in a more creative way with the individuals who appear in court to reduce their likelihood of reoffending.

The gist of the justice reinvestment report was that you could drive down reoffending and therefore, in a sense, starve the courts of the need to deal with these people and use the resources more creatively, particularly in the communities where large numbers of people are coming before the courts. There is that local dimension to justice reinvestment as well, which is about recognising that prisoners are not randomly drawn from our communities. They tend to come from particular areas, and those are the ones where some investment can really make a difference.

Q439 Chair: After all, local agencies are invited to make judgments about how much to make available to the courts in the way of drug rehabilitation programmes, accommodation and various other things. They are expected to make judgments, but they are not expected, invited or enabled to make a judgment about how much custodial provision to make available to the courts. Is it not the case that the courts are presented with what is available in one sphere but with unlimited access to custodial provision in the other?

Rob Allen: Yes. I am sure there are many magistrates who say, "Look, we would like to be able to do something with this person, but the options aren’t there." The courts would need to be involved in dialogue with the local agencies to develop things, but if we could fashion a system and there were some mechanism by which they were involved in planning and commissioning a range of services so that those sorts of facilities and work could be done-whether it be mentoring or particular kinds of wraparound services that really get alongside these difficult individuals-perhaps they would not feel the need to impose these short prison sentences. Then the trick would be to find a way of getting the money away from the Prison Service, which would not have to look after this person, into the community, so that that resource could be used more creatively. It is not easy to find a way to do that, but that is the next stage to develop justice reinvestment.

Q440 John McDonnell: Going back to the sentencing issue, the Sentencing Council develops the guidelines. It is meant to look at effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of sentencing policy. How is that disseminated among sentencers? How are they made aware of this? Are they made aware of it effectively?

Frances Crook: There is a lot of training that goes on. It is disseminated, but it is very process-driven. Earlier, you asked about how prison governors know the outcome of their work with prisoners. Of course, judges and magistrates do not know that. They know about the guidelines for what they are meant to do for any particular offence; what they do not know and are not told about is the likely outcome. The lay magistrates sit only occasionally. There is no accountability because people do not come back to them. They do not see the same person from a committal to a sentencing hearing.

Q441 Chair: It is the higher courts that get the sentence seriously wrong.

Frances Crook: That is right. They do not know how much a sentence costs, they do not know what the likely outcome is and they do not say that. Perhaps one of the things we could look at would be for the judge or magistrate to have to say in any sentence decision in open court, "This is likely to be the cost to the public purse of this sentence," and, "This is likely, on research that we know about, to be the outcome"-the success rate. When they got exasperated and sent somebody to prison for three months, they would have to say, "I am exasperated. I know this isn’t going to work and is going to make things worse, and I know it is going to cost more, but I am going to do it anyway."

Q442 Mr Llwyd: With respect, the majority of magistrates that I know-and judges, who are in a no better position than magistrates-

Frances Crook: That is true.

Mr Llwyd: Both magistrates and judges really want to know what the outcomes are. Some magistrates do follow these things through somehow, but judges are blissfully unaware of what happens. They want to be involved, because they want to do something that is efficient and that works as well. Frankly, I think the system needs to be changed. I am sorry; that is not a question, is it?

Chair: It does not need answering.

Mr Llwyd: No, it does not.

Q443 Jeremy Corbyn: A fair point has been made. Maybe somebody can help us. Is there a system by which a magistrate or judge, if they wanted to follow an individual convict through the system, could do so?

Rob Allen: About 12 years ago, there was a big review of sentencing, conducted by John Halliday, who was a senior civil servant. In a way, that gave rise to the Criminal Justice Act 2003, which had in it a provision for review courts-the idea that a court could ask somebody to come back at some stage during the sentence in order to see how they had got on and, depending on progress, could revise the sentence.

I do not think that has been implemented other than in a number of pilot areas where there are problem-solving courts that adopt that kind of approach. At the time, the judiciary was uncertain about it. It would create a substantial work load for the courts if it was done extensively. Some judges also felt that it was not their job. Once you make a sentence as a member of the judiciary, you pass the implementation of that sentence over to the Executive branch of Government and have no interest in it. Some take the view that, once they impose the sentence, it is over to probation and prisons to execute it. However, I think there is a growing recognition-I do not know whether it is the preponderant view among the judiciary-that that is not good enough and that they need to take an ongoing interest, if only to know what the outcome of their decisions is.

Frances Crook: There was the drug testing and treatment order, which was exactly that. People were sentenced to drug treatment and came back to the same judge. That operated for only a few years, but I sat in court sometimes and watched it happen. It was very much like the problem-solving court. You found that a relationship between the person who was sentenced and the sentencer built up over a period of time. That was great. Of course, there was the Liverpool problem-solving court, which was expensive but seemed to work. The research did show it was having an impact. So we have done experiments. We are very good at experimenting with justice in this country-we just never learn the lessons.

Sarah Salmon: Sentencers do need to be involved in local courts to know what programmes are available to them locally, but they also need more information about the person they are sentencing-maybe the diversion and liaison schemes will add to that-as that would be key and would help. It is about knowing the options you have, what goes towards desistance, what you have available and the person you have. It is not about saying, "This person has to fit into this sentence because it is the only option we have got." They should be able to provide a sentence that works for that individual, if we are serious about desistance.

Mark Day: That is absolutely key. Only last week, the inspectorate did a report that looked at the experience of people with learning disabilities, who are about 20% to 30% of offenders who come before the courts. It found there was some very good practice in a few local areas but, on a national scale, the provision was lacking. What was happening was that people with a learning disability were coming before the court but there was no way for the court to know that this was that person’s particular need. It was not able to sentence them to an appropriate requirement because there was no way of recognising that particular need.

Chair: We have Justice questions in the House this morning, so we have to wind up the session fairly quickly. I come back to Mr McDonnell so that he can complete his questioning.

Q444 John McDonnell: It is on the liaison and diversion schemes that you have mentioned. It is five years on since Bradley. Why do you think the Department has taken so long to commit?

Rob Allen: My sense is that there is a level and pool of mental ill health within the criminal justice system and among the prison population that would be expensive for the health service to deal with properly. There are many people in prisons who should be in hospitals. There are many others in prison who should be in intensive programmes of treatment in the community. I am not sure there is an honest appraisal of the resources required to deal with those people. That is why I think it is absolutely crucial that health is involved in any new funding arrangement.

If we had a brave new world of justice reinvestment, it might mean that some more resources were needed for certain prisoners. It is not just a question of spending less; there are certain individuals who are not getting enough spent on them in order to meet their needs. The Prison Service, which is doing the best it can in very difficult circumstances, is not really equipped to deal with many of these problems. There is a need for a more honest appraisal of that.

Q445 John McDonnell: In the £4 billion budget cost, only £25 million is allocated to liaison and diversion. Why are the Government so reluctant on this?

Frances Crook: We have a whole system that locks up people who are mentally ill. We lock up the poor, the naughty and the mentally ill: that is what the system does and is designed to do. The Chief Inspector of Prisons said that: we are locking up people who are mentally ill. When we closed the mental hospitals, we built prisons on the same site. That is what the system does.

Q446 Jeremy Corbyn: Or luxury housing, in some cases.

Frances Crook: Yes, that is true.

Q447 Jeremy Corbyn: For as long as I can remember, we have had an awful lot of rhetoric from all major parties that they will reduce crime and will also reduce reoffending. If you say to almost any random member of the public that crime has gone down, they simply do not believe you. They imagine that crime is continually rising, whatever facts say to the opposite. Have you detected any particular change or effect in the rhetoric in the past three years on this, during the time when the big cuts have been made, that has had any effect on either public perceptions or prison populations?

Rob Allen: I know you had evidence from the polling organisation last week and had some discussion about this. I think crime is a less prevalent issue. When people are asked what things really worry them at the moment, crime is not up there in the way that it was at the end of the ’80s and in the early ’90s, when there was a lot of frenetic policy making in the prison area.

I am less pessimistic about this. There has always been this strange finding that people say, "Oh yes, crime is getting worse, but in our area it’s not so bad." There is this distinction that suggests that people take a cue from some of the more gory coverage in some of the newspapers about terrible crimes and assume that there must be more of it, which is not necessarily true at all. My sense is that the climate of opinion in this field is certainly not as bad, as repressive or as encouraging of politicians to take very punitive approaches as it has been at times in recent history, so there is an opportunity to develop some more constructive approaches.

Q448 Jeremy Corbyn: We still have the largest prison population in Europe by a long way. While the USA is higher in all respects, the British experience is one of a very large prison population. It is now over 80,000 male prisoners.

Frances Crook: It has gone up by 1,000 in the last four weeks, which is a big prison. I do a lot of local radio and local phone-ins, so I talk to people locally a lot. These are the kind of people who phone up local radio stations, so they are usually cross about something-or intrigued. People are interested in the idea of restorative justice. They want something to be done. If something has gone wrong, they want something done and they want it healed. They do not necessarily want punishment. This is the big gap between politicians and the public. People want something done, but they do not necessarily want revenge or to be vengeful or nasty to people. They want the problem solved, they want healing and they want some amends to be made for the wrong that has been done. They also quite like the idea of justice reinvestment-of putting money into local communities instead of squandering it on huge prisons, because they know they do not work. Support for prisons is actually very low-it is just out of frustration.

It is about political leadership. When the coalition first came in, we were getting some political leadership about the role of prisons-that they should be busy and there should be work and activity, but that was at the extreme end and we should be doing things in the community, with the rehabilitation revolution and so on. All of that has gone. The rhetoric now is very vengeful and punitive. In the end, it will cost a lot of money and cause more crime.

Q449 Chair: Thank you very much. We are grateful for your help this morning.

Frances Crook: I wanted to go on for longer.

Chair: Order.

Prepared 7th February 2014