Prisons and Probation

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:29 pm on 14th May 2019.

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Photo of Imran Hussain Imran Hussain Shadow Minister (Justice) 3:29 pm, 14th May 2019

I absolutely agree and will come on to that point shortly. I would have liked to say a lot more but have been given firm instructions by the Deputy Speaker that I must stick to a strict time-limit, so have had to cut a lot of my contribution.

Much of the focus of today’s debate has been on the privatisation of probation, and I thank my right hon. Friend David Hanson and my hon. Friend Stephanie Peacock, who made important contributions which I will come on to later. The Chair of the Justice Committee, Robert Neill, spoke about the impact on probation and made the point that there have been numerous reports, all of which highlight the failure in probation.

We have seen offenders released into the hands of private companies whose concern is, not the public and their safety, but shareholders and profits. It is right that this has been a key focus, for the Government have not transformed rehabilitation but have destroyed it—crushing rehabilitation, not transforming it.

The failure of private provision companies on reoffending is singled out for particular criticism, as while the principal aim of the plans was to reduce reoffending, the MOJ’s own proven reoffending statistics instead show a rise in reoffending. The blame for this lies squarely with the privatisation of probation and the horrendously delivered through-the-gate services, which are so ineffective that prison and probation inspectorates found there would be no impact at all if they were removed. It is easy to see why they reached this conclusion, as private probation companies have consistently failed to deliver effective support for offenders around accommodation, welfare and employment, all of which are factors determining the likelihood of reoffending.

But it gets worse, as inspections of private probation companies routinely found that they were not just delivering a poor level of supervision of offenders but were carrying it out in non-confidential open public spaces such as libraries, and shockingly in some cases through texts, rather than in private locations. So poor is the record of the community rehabilitation companies in providing support that a 2016 report found that none of those serving a sentence of less than 12 months who were met by the inspectorates had been helped into employment or training after release by through-the-gate. That is absolutely shocking.