Localise Criminal Justice Now

All Party Parliamentary Local Government Group (APPG) Inquiry into Justice in Communities: First Oral Evidence Session:

Today, is the first parliamentary oral evidence session for the new APPG inquiry into Justice in Communities. This investigation, coordinated by the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU), in partnership with London Councils, Northgate Information Solutions Limited and the London Borough of Newham, is developing recommendations to localise the criminal justice system (CJS).

Today’s session will discuss the effectiveness of partnerships in the CJS and explore the differences between how youth and adult offenders are managed. We believe there are many gaps in existing service provision and Local Authorities coordinating role in this area should be further developed. This will enable the joined up service provision necessary to reduce the rate of reoffending.

Local Authorities should be incentivised to invest in preventive programmes to reduce offending. Currently if Local Authorities fund programmes to reduce offending it is central Government departments that reap the benefits e.g. less prison places and less hospital admissions. Both Local and Central Government should have a financial incentive to work together to reduce offending rather than simply deal with its effects.

We should ensure offenders released from prison have developed the skills necessary to make a productive contribution to the community on their release. Programmes to deal with any alcohol or drug addictions should be managed seamlessly so they do not cease when an offender is released. Local Authorities should be informed when offenders are released to ensure this transition is managed effectively.

Once offenders are released they become the responsibility of many government agencies but they are often the charge of no single authority. Ex-offenders experience high levels of unemployment, homelessness, mental disorders, alcohol and drug addictions and disability. They need assistance to become law abiding citizens.

Providing simple services such as finding offenders housing and volunteering opportunities can significantly reduce reoffending. This is because it is difficult to find work without permanent housing or character references but with a criminal record. Local Authorities coordinating role should be developed so local communities can trial different programmes designed to reduce reoffending.

A Panel of Parliamentarians led by Clive Betts MP (Labour, Sheffield Attercliffe) and including David Burrowes, Shadow Minister for Justice (Conservative, Enfield Southgate) will ask the following expert witnesses to provide evidence:

  • Ian Mulholland, Governor, HMP Wandsworth
  • John Plummer, Project Director, Young Offenders Academy
  • Bob Ashford, Head of Youth Justice, Youth Justice Board
  • Juliet Lyons, Director, Prison Reform Trust
  • Penelope Gibbs, Prison Reform Trust
  • John Howson, Magistrates Association
  • Peter Burnham, Head of Community Safety, Norfolk County Council

This evidence will influence the APPG’s recommendations, which will be published in a report in July 2009. Before that there are two additional oral evidence sessions planned. We will keep you updated as to the Inquiry’s progress. If you would like to submit written evidence as to successful programmes to reduce reoffending in your area please consult the LGiU site for further information.