A “reboot” of the government’s “rehabilitation revolution”, including the early release of well-behaved prisoners, could free up more than 7,000 prison places, according to the latest report from a centre-right thinktank.
The Centre for Social Justice report by former prisoner and Conservative cabinet minister Jonathan Aitken and a retired judge, John Samuels QC, says that despite the “rehabilitation revolution” having been championed by two former home secretaries, five former justice secretaries and a previous prime minister, both reoffending rates and the prison population have remained stubbornly high.
The scale of the prison crisis was underlined this week by the official pay review body, which recommended a 1.7% pay rise for prison officers. It said staff motivation, morale and confidence in the prison service were “undoubtedly very low” with assaults and other forms of violence in jails at their highest levels since 2000 and rising.
The report from the Centre for Social Justice, which was founded by Iain Duncan Smith, published on Thursday, calls for a 10-point programme to resuscitate the drive to cut reoffending rates, including a limited programme of executive release to reduce prison numbers.
The measures advocated by Aitken and Samuels that could reduce the prison population in England and Wales from a record 86,000 and potentially save £246m a year include:
“It is our view that such a lowering of the numbers held in custody would assist with reducing overcrowding and mitigating the shortage of prison staff. It would therefore aid in the creation of opportunities for genuinely rehabilitative work in custody: education, vocational training and addressing substance misuse would all be enhanced,” say the authors.
“The fruits of such rehabilitative opportunities would be seen in a lowering of the numbers returning to custody through reoffending in the future. Furthermore, a reduction in re-offending would contribute positive advantages to the community,” they add.
The CSJ report says that successive governments have failed to live up to their bold promises of rehabilitative criminal justice reform: “Although some small steps towards this ‘rehabilitative revolution’ have been started, there has been little significant progress.” Instead, they note the government’s “myopic and almost exclusionary emphasis on prison security” following the increases in numbers of suicides and assaults.
“The rehabilitation revolution requires a reboot. The political and public consensus that rehabilitation is a vital and necessary part of an effective criminal justice system remains intact and the government should seek to turn this ambition into a reality,” they conclude.
Source: The Guardian