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London: Justice reinvestment aids ex-prisoners and cuts reoffending

12th July 2010

A senior police officer has called for a radical reform of the criminal justice system, arguing that money should be taken from failing prisons and given to community-based schemes, led by police, to cut reoffending.

So reports Vikram Dodd in the Guardian, in an article on the Diamond initiative, a justice reinvestment scheme run by the Metropolitan police, which has seen re-offending rates drop in six London boroughs.

Tim Godwin, deputy commissioner of the Metropolitan police, has praised the scheme, which is based on the American theory of "justice reinvestment". An independent review of the scheme, which aims to tackle the social inequalities that help drive people to crime, has found that it cuts reoffending.

The concept of justice reinvestment was originally developed by the George Soros Open Society Institute. The scheme sees police assist offenders on release from short sentences to find treatment for addictions, as well as jobs and training.

The scheme has seen special police-led teams comprised of uniformed officers, and probation and social workers set up in six boroughs. The scheme targets deprived areas.

The review identified that the initiative has cut reoffending among those released from short-term prison sentences by a third; in economic terms, an outlay of £8m could save the criminal justice system £60m a year in London alone. It has also countered police morale, which in 2006 saw more than half of all police officers feel the criminal justice system was failing in the face of high reoffending rates.

Andrew Morley, chief executive of the London Criminal Justice Partnership, is quoted as saying: "It's not soft, it's a stick and carrot. It recognises that people are in part driven to crime because of social inequalities and we need to address what leads them to crime in the first place.

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