Reducing reoffending is the central objective of the national offender management service.
This will be achieved through more effective management of offenders as well as better targeting and co-ordination of custodial and community sentences.
The Department's figures show that 55 per cent. of those who are imprisoned are reconvicted within two years, whereas only 45 per cent. of those who are given community sentences are reconvicted within the same period. If the national offender management service is to be evidence-based, should we not be giving preference wherever possible to community service sentences, particularly for non-violent offenders?
The thrust of the reforms under the NOMS system is to rebalance our correctional services so that those in prison are those who need and deserve to be there and from whom we need protection. Those who are non-dangerous and commit less serious offences should be dealt with effectively in the community. The reoffending rates of those who complete sentences in the community are encouraging. It is an important message that effective work and tough sentences can be carried out in the community where that is appropriate for particular offenders.
Will my hon. Friend tell the House when the national rehabilitation action plan will be published? When it is published, will it include the key recommendation of the social exclusion unit report on reducing reoffending—a going straight contract?
I cannot confirm the contents or the precise date of the national rehabilitation action plan. However, I can confirm that work continues apace to draw up that plan. In the Prison Service, much greater emphasis is being placed on housing advice, advice from Jobcentre Plus staff and advice on drug treatment and education. All those ingredients need to be joined together much more effectively with what happens in the community after release from prison. That will be the focus of the national rehabilitation action plan.
Does the Minister accept that reconviction rates would be lower if the recommendations of the Carter report were agreed to, which would see prisoners placed in prisons nearer to their families?
One of the considerations of the Prison Service when allocating prisoners to prisons is closeness to home. It is somewhat regrettable that a third of all prisoners are more than 50 miles away from home. However, other considerations have to be taken into account. It is essential that contact is maintained with families throughout the prison sentence, and we do everything we can to encourage visits by families to prisoners, but the pressures on our prisons sometimes make it unavoidable that prisoners are further away from home than would ideally be the case.