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Rehabilitation Revolution

September 25, 2012 6:26 PM
By David Goodall in Liberal Democrat Autumn Conference 2012

Good morning fellow Liberal Democrats I am particularly interested in this motion because on November 16th I hope to be the new Police and Crime Commissioner for Hampshire and Isle of Wight. For those that are unaware in less than 60 days time on November 15th there are nationwide elections taking place and they are not using first past the post.

Now if elected as Police and Crime Commissioner I will be commissioning Police services throughout Hampshire, Southampton, Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight. But I must stress I will not be following the job title and commissioning crime throughout the area. As our own Liberal Democrat minster Jeremy Brown pointed out he is the minister for crime prevention. And for crime prevention to work there must be a rehabilitation revolution.

It simply has to be the aim of the criminal justice system that the first time they see an offender is also the last. Yet too often this is not the case. Too often offenders leave the system only to return within a year or two of release from prison. It was reported in May this year that of the offenders sentenced for serious crimes in England and Wales last year - 90% had offended before. And the proportion of all offenders with 14 or more convictions has increased from 29% in 2001, to 38% in 2006 to 44% last year.

Yet in the middle of that list Michael Howard in the 2005 general election claimed prison works. Now at the same general election in 2005 as a candidate in Southampton, I said at a hustings meeting that the most effective way to cut crime was to cut reoffending. By getting hold of the offender and sorting out their problems - to rehabilitate them.This drew condemnation from the Tory and UKIP candidates, as being soft on crime and not thinking about the victim. Conference nothing, I repeat nothing could be farther from the truth.

An offender creates one victim, a repeat reoffender creates a sea of victims. This we must stop. This we will stop with a rehabilitation revolution.

It is simply not good enough to have prisons with reoffending rates of 70%, We must have prisons where the main thought from day one is how best can we reintroduce this person back into society. And nearly all prisoners do come back into society. So can a different approach work. Yes it can. Just go and talk to the Langley House Trust in the exhibition area of this conference. Now they too have reoffending rates, for the last 12 years their rate is less than 10%. And last year it was only 2%.

That is what you call effective. That is being effective on crime for the victims of crime. That is truly being tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime. Taking criminals and making citizens is taking a hard tough course of action. Yet for too long successive governments have simply not had the bottle. It has required the Liberal Democrats to be in government to make the difference.

Conference this is an excellent motion, back it and our minster to make a Rehabilitation Revolution.


Notes

See www.langleyhousetrust.org for more information on Langley House Trust.


Rehabilitation Revolution

The conference motion as passed in the Autumn conference 2012 in Brighton is in full below:-

Conference notes that:

A. The Government is increasing the role of payment by results in the probation services.

B. Private companies are not currently subject to Freedom of Information requests.

C. Prisons like Doncaster are already providing innovative rehabilitation schemes both inside and outside the prison.

D. The welcome establishment of drug recovery wings in some prisons.

E. Currently there are approximately 4000 women in prison, two thirds of them serving sentences of less than 12 months.

F. There is an over-representation of Black and Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) people in the prison system and yet an under-representation of the BAME community and socio-economic diversity in the judiciary and an ethnic imbalance between prisoners and prison officers.

G. Sentencing reforms passed in Canada in 1996 explicitly incorporated Restorative Justice Programmes into the sentencing phase of the criminal process resulting in far fewer custodial sentences.

H. The introduction of Restorative Conferences in Chard and Sheffield has helped bring about drastically reduced reoffending rates.

Conference believes that:

I. The probation services industry is dominated by a few large companies like Serco and G4S.

II. Too many illiterate offenders are leaving prison or community service still illiterate and lacking in basic skills.

III. Prison is not the right vehicle for the rehabilitation of offenders with severe mental health problems, including drug addiction.

IV. Restorative justice conferences tackle reoffending more effectively than short-term sentences because they ensure that offenders face up to their actions and engage with their communities.

Conference calls for:

a) A presumption in favour of robust community sentences and restorative justice against ineffective and costly short sentences of up to six months.

b) The wider incorporation of restorative justice principles into the sentencing process following the Canadian example; that would allow the court, on the application of either party, or of its own motion, to adjourn sentencing for a limited amount of time to allow a restorative justice conference to take place, provided that the victim and offender were willing to engage.

c) The court to be required to take into account both the outcome of any conference and the willingness or otherwise of an offender to engage with the restorative justice process when determining sentence.

d) Where restorative justice sentences are available, efforts to increase uptake to show how effective they are.

e) Providers of probation services to keep records of ex-offenders educational and employment pursuits, to gauge the success of community sentencing.

f) The government to make sure credit is available to assist small firms in entering the market.

g) Mandatory rotation of service providers and contract sharing between large and smaller firms and ones as well as charities, cooperatives and voluntary organisations to encourage competition.

h) Local authorities to have a right to be consulted over the selection on service providers, encouraging localism and preventing the duplication of service provision.

i) Prisons to be held to the same 'payment by results' rule based on reoffending rates some existing private prisons already operate under - a prison that consistently releases prisoners who go on to re-offend should be held to account.

j) All companies with a large market share of probation services to be subject to Freedom of Information requests.

k) A strong focus on literacy and life skills within prison and community sentencing.

l) Judges to visit community sentencing and restorative justice schemes to gauge for themselves their effectiveness.

m) Further roll-out of Neighbourhood Resolution Panels.

n) Continued roll-out of Women's Centres across the UK.

In the longer term, conference also calls for:

1. Establishment of a network of Women's Centres and the introduction of a Women's Officer at the National Offender Management Scheme.

2. The establishment of an Institution of Justice Excellence based on the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, to establish and publicise best practice and establish definitions for terms like 'effective punishment'.