- There has been a big increase in criminals re-offending since the probation service was reformed.
- Recent figures indicate a sharp rise in re-offending rates in Gloucestershire from 33% to around 50%
- Police and Crime Commissioners who opposed the privatisation of the probation service say their worst fears have come true
- Gloucestershire PCC Martin Surl says ex-prisoners will continue to offend if they aren’t supported better on release.
It was intended as an upgrade on the Probation Service, an outsourcing subcontractor that provided offenders with welfare and help in finding jobs.
Working Links, Community Rehabilitation Company, was one of Britain’s biggest private providers of probation services until it went into administration in mid-February.
Gloucestershire’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Martin Surl, one of many PCCs who opposed the changes, said, “The privatisation of part of the probation service in 2015 focused on what the Government refers to as medium to low risk offenders. But these are the people who commit the vast majority of crimes. Things like burglaries and assault that concern people the most.
“As a result, re-offending rates are now well above 40% with the blame often falling on the police who have to deal with the consequences.
“Equally shocking is almost half the offenders being released from Bristol Prison, our nearest prison, are homeless with nowhere to go and little funding - and little evidence of any follow-up to deter them from returning to crime.
“The situation is unacceptable and hardly a good start to getting them back on the straight and narrow”.
In order to ensure greater oversight and to provide direction and support, a new South West Regional Reducing Reoffending Board has been created. Members include the region’s five PCCs, senior leaders from Criminal Justice, Health, the voluntary sector and the Ministry of Justice.
Among the topics discussed at the first meeting were:
- A regional strategy and working towards the shared goal of reducing reoffending
- An update from the Ministry of Justice on the impact of the insolvency of Working Links and future probation structures
- The Ministry of Justice’s relationship with the board
- The voluntary sector’s engagement with the board going forward
- A future south west event
- Community Rehabilitation Company provision in the south west
Mr. Surl said, “If offenders are not supported effectively on their release from prison, then reoffending rates will remain high. More crime means more victims of crime which is unacceptable. Clearly, the system is broken.
“Like many PCCs who opposed the changes I firmly believe probation is a role for the state. We all now have a responsibility to ensure that any future government plans based on this broken approach do better and my office and I are now an integral part of that”.