Coalition prison policy

The UK spends 2.8% of GDP on public safety and order. This is a rate higher than the US or any EU country. Up my 40% in real terms, prison expenditure steadily rose through the Labour years of 03-09. However 6 out of 10 prisoners return to crime on release. Re-offending is the biggest problem facing Britain’s prison system and despite prison population growth from 44,628 in 1992 to 85, 450 in 2012 and longer sentences, the problem has not gone away. With the Justice Select Committee concluding that ‘prison is a relatively ineffective way of reducing crime’, why are we still spending £40,000 a year on keeping people in prison?

Rehabilitation is needed to ‘break the cycle’, in 2003 55% of prisoners reported committing offences connected to their drug taking. 71% of children in custody have been involved with, or in the care of social services before. The facts go on. The current Justice Secretary is Chris Grayling (who got the post following the 2012 reshuffle) has announced that he will go ahead with the ‘rehabilitation revolution’ championed by his predecessor Kenneth Clarke.

Grayling has tried to strike the balance between being hard and soft on crime. His appointment was seen by many as a way to appease the Conservative right and he talked tough at the beginning however since then, his policies have focused much more on addressing the re-offending problem.

Grayling has proposed a mentoring system to help prisoners reintegrate back into society. The idea is that all short-term prisoners meet a mentor who would then be paid based on the results so whether or not the prisoner re-offends. The ‘payment by results’ pilot scheme has had a high take up from short-term prisoners with almost 6 in 10 of those released from jail taking part. Nearly half of prisoners themselves say they will need help to find a job when they leave prison. Over a third say they will need help to find somewhere to live when they are let out. So the current moves by  Grayling seem to be a step in the right direction.

The cheapest and most effective method of reducing crime was rehabilitation, said Cameron, who promised that in future, all prisoners, not just those on longer sentences, would be eligible to take part. In future it would be the “norm” to use private companies and charities to deliver such programmes, and those providers would be paid on results, he said.

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