Criminal Justice: Rehabilitation of Offenders

– in the House of Lords at on 20 June 2007.

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Photo of Lord Judd Lord Judd Labour

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How important the rehabilitation of offenders is among the priorities of the Ministry of Justice.

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice, The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

My Lords, one of the six core aims of the new Ministry of Justice is to reduce reoffending and to protect the public by combining punishment with rehabilitation. We are committed to reducing reoffending by 10 per cent by the end of the decade. At the heart of our vision is end-to-end case management for offenders and a strong focus on commissioning the most effective interventions for men and women which will best support the management and rehabilitation of offenders.

Photo of Lord Judd Lord Judd Labour

My Lords, I thank my noble and learned friend for that reply. Does he agree that as his new ministry sets out on course, it is terribly important to send an overriding message that the key priority in policy should be rehabilitation? Of course, protecting the public is crucial, but, if rehabilitation helps to protect the public from future crime, it just does not make sense, economically or socially, to have anything else as the purpose and reality of the Prison Service or other parts of penal policy because ofthe social and economic costs if we fail. Does my noble and learned friend further agree that there isa tremendous job to be done in building up aculture among all concerned that rehabilitation is the priority that matters and that we have appropriate institutions, not just prisons, in which successful rehabilitation can be undertaken?

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice, The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

My Lords, I agree that the priority for the penal system must be public protection. One way to do that is to reduce reoffending; one critical way to reduce reoffending is by stopping offenders committing further offences, which means rehabilitation when they are in the community.

Photo of Lord Henley Lord Henley Shadow Minister for Constitutional Affairs & Legal Affairs, Constitutional Affairs, Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

My Lords, if rehabilitation is so important, why does not the manifesto of the noble and learned Lord's new department, Justice—A New Approach, say much about it? He states that that is one of his department's principal objectives but there is very little in the document about it. How will releasing 1,200 prisoners early assist rehabilitation?

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice, The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

My Lords, those prisoners are being released 18 days before the end of their sentences. It is part of the existing prison rules, which allow temporary release on licence at the end of a sentence to try to improve family ties and to reintegrate someone into society. Adult reoffending has been reduced by 6.9 per cent when comparing 2004 figures with 1997. Perhaps I did not mention this enough in my manifesto because we are doing it.

Photo of Baroness Masham of Ilton Baroness Masham of Ilton Crossbench

My Lords, is the Lord Chancellor aware that many young offenders have drug and alcohol abuse problems? If they are released in the middle of their rehabilitation because their crime may not have been too serious, what will happen? Will there be a co-ordinated continuation of their rehabilitation in the community? The BMA is very worried about this problem.

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice, The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

My Lords, I accept that it is a real problem. In too many cases there is nota continuation, which is why end-to-end offender management is so important in order to ensure that when someone is in prison and then goes out into the community, there is co-ordination between what has gone on in prison and what then goes on in the community, including drug rehabilitation.

Photo of Lord Thomas of Gresford Lord Thomas of Gresford Spokesperson in the Lords (Shadow Attorney General), Home Affairs, Spokesperson in the Lords (Shadow Lord Chancellor), Ministry of Justice

My Lords, does the noble and learned Lord recall what Anne Owers, the Chief Inspector of Prisons, said in her 2006 annual lecture? She said:

"It is also clear that anti-social behaviour orders are widening the net of the mentally ill in prison: non-criminal behaviour that causes serious nuisance and, by definition, will be repeated is leading to imprisonment".

What provision is made for the treatment and rehabilitation of those who are filling up the jails because they have breached anti-social behaviour orders so that they can be prevented from anti-social behaviour in the future?

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice, The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

My Lords, health treatment in prisons has increased considerably since 1997, in part as a result of arrangements made with the Department of Health. But all noble Lords would accept that not enough is being done for those with mental health problems. As the ministry made clear at the outset, we are trying to ensure that those with mental health problems who are in prison get the best treatment.

Photo of The Earl of Listowel The Earl of Listowel Crossbench

My Lords, is the noble and learned Lord aware that not all probation officersare receiving proper supervision? Will he consider reducing the targets for the Probation Service to allow more time for such important activities? I apologise to noble Lords for speaking from this position.

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice, The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

My Lords, I am rather disappointed in the apology, if I may say so. I am not sure whether the noble Earl is talking about probation officers supervising offenders or—

Photo of The Earl of Listowel The Earl of Listowel Crossbench

My Lords, I am talking about probation officers being supervised.

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice, The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

My Lords, probation officers are subject to proper supervision arrangements. If there are problems, I should be grateful if the noble Earl would let me know and I will deal with them.

Photo of The Bishop of Coventry The Bishop of Coventry Bishop

My Lords, I assume that the whole House welcomes the principle enunciated by the Government on many occasions of involving faith communities and voluntary organisations in the process of offender rehabilitation. Can the noble and learned Lord assure the House that the groups that are involved in that work can look forward to a stable funding regime in the future?

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice, The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

My Lords, we are keen to encourage both voluntary organisations and faith groups to play an appropriate part in the rehabilitation of offenders, in particular in relation to interventions both in custody and outside. We cannot fund all interventions, but we will evaluate them and fund those that we think are effective.

Photo of Lord Low of Dalston Lord Low of Dalston Crossbench

My Lords, if the noble Earl can speak from the Government Benches, perhaps I can get in a word from the Cross Benches. The outgoing chairman of the Youth Justice Board, Rod Morgan, has raised concerns about the police practice of charging children with very minor offences—a recent case involved stealing a tube of toothpaste costing 49p—so as to meet government targets for offences brought to justice. Has the Minister any plans to encourage diversion from prosecution in such minor cases so that children do not end up with a criminal record?

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice, The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

My Lords, we are as keen as we possibly can be to divert people from the criminal justice system altogether where it is appropriate to do so, and that means in relation to very minor offences. I do not know the details of the case the noble Lord has referred to, but if it was a first offence of stealing a tube of toothpaste, it sounds eminently like a case for diversion from the criminal justice system.

Photo of Lord Elton Lord Elton Conservative

My Lords, does the noble and learned Lord recognise that no matter how heroic the efforts at rehabilitation in prison may be, all will be undone within hours if a prisoner is discharged with no arrangements for resettlement into the community? This is what happens habitually with young people coming out of young offender institutions. There is delay in their getting benefits, so they have no income; there is delay in getting them training, so they have no job; and often they must first travel home 50 miles or more with hardly a penny in their pocket. What is going to be done about that?

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice, The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

My Lords, I agree completely with the noble Lord's analysis. He will have read the National Reducing Re-offending Plan, published in November 2005, on which I am sure it is based. It is delivering that plan which will make the difference.