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Jeremy Wright MP: The state doesn't have a monopoly on good ideas when it comes to cutting reoffending

WRIGHT JEREMYJeremy Wright is Member of Parliament for Kenilworth and Southam.

If you are a victim of crime, the chances are the person responsible has offended before.  Nearly 50% those released from prison commit another crime within a year.  The economic cost of reoffending is as much as £13 billion and the human cost incalculable.  That’s unacceptable and that’s why earlier this month we set out what the Government proposes to do about it.  We can, and we will, do more to ensure prisoners work, learn and address their addictions while inside but what happens when they leave prison matters just as much.  At the moment, too often there is a swift lapse back into the wrong company, a chaotic lifestyle and more crime.  That’s bad for the prisoner and bad for all of us.

So, instead we want to see offenders met at the prison gate by a mentor, someone whose job is to turn their lives around, to find housing, arrange training, organise drug treatment, and to make sure offenders take advantage of those opportunities.  We want to see the best thinking and practice employed to do this from wherever it comes, whether that is charities, private sector organisations or those currently working in the Probation Service, or any combination which will be most effective and economical.  Crucially, we want to use hard earned taxpayers’ money to reward success, to pay for what works in reducing reoffending.

Labour say these proposals take unacceptable risks with public safety and are all about wild ideology.  Wrong on both counts.  Probation officers would remain responsible for managing the risk of serious harm for all offenders and would manage the higher risk offenders directly.  As for ideology, bringing new solutions to bear on rehabilitation and paying for what works is more like common sense.  What is truly ideological is continuing to believe that only the state can have good ideas, but it wouldn’t be fair to accuse Labour of that in this context.  After all, they legislated to bring competition into rehabilitation in 2007.  As so often, they passed the law, but did nothing with it.  We intend to put it to work to drive down reoffending.

Our proposals have another significant benefit.  Every year 46,000 offenders sentenced to prison terms of 12 months or less leave custody with no ongoing supervision or intervention.  Their reoffending rates are even higher than the average, at nearly 60%.  A lack of engagement with this group of offenders is crazy and we intend to close that gap, making those who secure contracts to provide rehabilitative services responsible for turning around those lives too.  By competing rehabilitation services, we can afford to do so.

We are changing sentencing so that more of the right people go to prison, for example with a mandatory life sentence for the second serious sexual or violent offence.  We are expecting more of prisoners as they serve their sentence, including more purposeful activity, and we will work with those inside and outside the criminal justice system to transform rehabilitation.  We will do this to bring down reoffending, because that means fewer victims, less misery for communities and less cost to the taxpayer.


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