Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Who shot JR? Whatever happened to Justice Reinvestment?

Justice Reinvestment (JR) is an approach to penal policy which contains several important components of a better criminal justice system. At its core is the idea that much of the money spent on justice is used ineffectively and produces a poor return.  People in prison are largely drawn from neighbourhoods characterised by poverty, deprivation and social problems. If some criminal justice funding were spent not on processing individuals in these areas by “cops , courts and corrections” but instead on providing better services and facilities, better outcomes would result for the individuals and the communities where they live.

In January 2010, the Parliamentary Justice Select Committee produced the report ‚Cutting Crime: Making the Case for Justice Reinvestment which called for a radical rethink of the way criminal justice money is spent. It recommended reducing prison numbers by a third and the movement of resources towards spending on prevention in targeted communities. The report encouraged local agencies to play a much more active part in preventing and responding to crime.

The Coalition government took up the slogan at least, describing their rehabilitation revolution as making “the concept of justice reinvestment real by allowing providers to invest money in the activity that will prevent offending rather than spending money on dealing with the consequences.”
But JR is much more than a financing mechanism. It is about reducing the use of imprisonment and encouraging local responsibility for organising and resourcing the alternatives, as well as a focus on effective use of resources. Reductions in prison numbers and a localist approach (to probation at any rate) appear to have disappeared from the government’s agenda.

To be fair, p
ilot schemes to incentivise local statutory partners to reduce demand for adult  prison places and to provide councils with cash to divert under 18’s from custody are producing some technical lessons about what needs to be done. But with disinvestment the overall order of the day, stakeholders in the adult pilots complain of insufficient incentives   to make substantial changes to practice that were not already in train; on the juvenile side two of the four schemes have withdrawn from the pilot.

What’s needed alongside emerging technical models is a renewed political level commitment to JR. It's unlikely to come from a Government which wants to make the system not smaller but simply cheaper - but who nevertheless found £250 million to fund a Titan prison in North Wales as part of investing in Britain’s future.  
But if the Labour party needs a big but affordable idea for criminal justice, JR may be it.  


  1. JR is where PbR should really be used. PbR keeps the focus on the work, removes the bureaucracy via Black Box and approach and instead of profits, incentive is reinvestment. It would be fine to split "profits" 50-50 - half in savings to Exchequer, half reinvested. Provider would have reward of contract being extended...

  2. Agreed that this should have been the stance taken for generations and was what I naively believed the so called New Labour Party meant by 'tough on the causes of crime' but I was wrong about that. they were just stooges for the Tory ambition of a privatised CJS.

    I still cannot understand what turned the likes of a former apparently exceptionally radical left wing Criminal Justice Lawyer like Paul Boateng, who I once saw having a real rant at Brixton Gaol about his or a client's treatment that had him shortly after becoming Prisons and Probation Minister calling Napo's PR exponent Harry Fletcher a dinosaur on a Napo platform of all places.

    As for PbR as far as I am concerned the notion has almost no merit except perhaps for awarding teams of CJS workers some sort of bonuses when they get better outcomes than colleagues. However, the complexity of comparing one teams results with another taking in all the differences between catchment areas and such like, makes it a virtual non starter for me.

    It certainly should not be about individual bonus awards, that culture has caused so much problems in commercial life, look at Banking for a start, that it does not seem worthwhile even attempting to introduce it into the public services. Neither should it be about paying for services commissioned by public agencies who should remain the lead agency in all work that is carried out in matters of Criminal Justice.