Wednesday, 5 June 2013

The Rehabilitation Revolution Will Not Be Televised

Today the House of Lords starts its detailed scrutiny of the Offender Rehabilitation Bill. Lord Ramsbotham wants to delay the process until the Government produce some proper information about the costs and likely impact of its proposals to introduce compulsory supervision for short term prisoners. Labour wants parliament to authorise the far reaching plans to dismantle the probation service- savings from which are to be used to pay for the supervision of the additional 50,000 prisoners.   It is unlikely that these laudable efforts to get the government to “show their workings” will get very far. A much more robust process of examining the case for change, and the plans for implementing it is surely needed. I have previously argued for a Probation Futures Task force to be set up along the lines of the body which looked at the NHS reforms in 2011.  .

At last night’s Annual General Meeting of the Parliamentary All Party Penal affairs Group,  Justice minister  Jeremy Wright  used his smooth lawyerly   tones to try to justify the case for the rehabilitation revolution . But while he accepted there are many design challenges, we were left to trust in  his confidence   that these would be overcome. We will not have people doing probation  work who are not properly qualified , he promised, but then went on to say that they would not need a probation qualification. He told us that plans for prisoners to spend their last couple of months  in a local resettlement prison had been  warmly welcomed by NOMS who in any event would have introduced them without ministerial instruction. He said he was very confident that  outsourcing probation would produce savings to fund the new supervision, on the basis of the experience of contracting out  Community Payback in London.  He will safeguard the interests of small voluntary organisations through “speed dating” events where they can meet other  organisations with whom to bid for contracts .  Much will be done to encourage charities and probation mutuals to engage with the market place.   He was not pressed about what happens to the losers.

Wright was asked if there was any international experience to draw on . “ I don’t think there’s anywhere in the world that’s doing it like this”, he replied . He’s certainly correct about that.