The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) published a report on 16 December 2016 which argued for a ‘whole-system’ approach to offender management, and ‘rehabilitation devolution’ - with powers, resources, and decisions being transferred to a local level in England and Wales. This would entail Mayors, or Police and Crime commissioners being in charge of custody budgets and probation services for young, female and short sentence offenders. Their recommendations also call for greater incentives for the reduction of reoffending.
The report states that the current system is overly centralised and complex and in need of reform. Services are not integrated and reoffending remains high. The introduction of Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) has added an additional layer of complexity, and due to the fact that contracts are ‘locked in’ until 2020 there is limited scope for radical reform in the short term. IPPR nonetheless suggest that their outlined methodology would streamline a currently complicated system.
Key findings included in the report are:
- Reoffending rates are high, prisons are overcrowded and magistrates are not confident in alternative sanctions to custody;
- Evidence suggests that practical supports make a difference to the reduction of offending, with employment, accommodation, education, mental health and drug treatment all making a difference in reducing offending behaviour;
- Practical supports must be combined with a motivation for the offender to change their behaviour to be effective;
- Environment is an important contributing factor to criminality and effective policy can affect this positively;
- Police activity can directly reduce reoffending by means of restorative justice practices and criminal justice diversion schemes;
- Many local schemes can make a difference to reoffending; such as housing and homelessness support, substance misuse and mental health provision, and the Troubled Families programmes;
- The current overlapping and highly disjointed system of offender management makes effective rehabilitation and offender management more difficult;
- The centralisation of the current system does not encourage those at the local level to assist in programs that would reduce reoffending. The lack of control over their own custody budgets means that they see no financial gain to fewer people going to prison;
- The introduction of private probation companies has impeded the possibility for local stakeholders to be involved and assist in offender rehabilitation.