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At a time of punishment, don't forget rehabilitation

By Paul Goodman
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Blunt Crispin I will now grab a previously untaken journalistic opportunity: namely, to draw attention to hard work of  Crispin Blunt, the Prisons Minister, who is not always flavour of the moment with the tabloids.  Having three times stressed the need for the planned closure of 2500 prison places to be reversed, it is only fair to look at the other side of the coin.  For just as crime and punishment go together, so should crime and rehabilitation.

Blunt was scarcely likely to get his announcement of a new rehabilitation programme in the Sun on terms that would please him, and I can imagine the conversation between Ministers and their press officers in the Justice Department about a suitable venue.  "Would it be worth trying the Mail?" "That would be a very brave decision, Minister." "So what do you suggest?" "Well, Minister, the Department has perfectly amicable relations with the Financial Times..."

At any rate, that paper reported this morning:
"Rehabilitation providers across the public, private and voluntary sectors are being encouraged to design their own payment-by-results projects under a scheme to reward contractors with about £2.5m in “success payments” each year if they show clear reductions in re-offending.

The programme – which forms part of the Ministry of Justice’s “rehabilitation revolution” – will focus on cutting reoffending among criminals on short-term sentences, those recently released from prison and those serving community orders."

It goes on to point out that: "Currently, 60 per cent of offenders who receive prison sentences of less than 12 months are reconvicted within a year of their release."  Blunt is apparently looking for "imaginative ideas" about how to reduce reoffending rates “at no risk to the Ministry of Justice’s budget . . . but [taking] the risk themselves”.

The Minister is seeking contractors who will run a regime that will drive down the reoffending rate.  The Justice Select Committee apparently has reservations, but it's worth noting the consistent support for a rehabilitation revolution from writers on this site.  Try Christian Guy's recent piece here or Robert Kaye's here from earlier in the year.

Blunt could do much worse than work closely with Chris Grayling at DWP on anything to do with payment by results.  While Iain Duncan Smith has been leading the charge on the universal credit, Grayling has been doing so on the DWP's Work Programme - its own hugely ambitious scheme to get and keep workless people in work.  It is an impressive effort.

By the way, didn't someone or other warn that "The Wire", the American drama series set in crime-wracked Baltimore, "has become a part of real life in this country, too"?  Now then, just remind me of his name...


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