Each of the major political parties are due to launch their general election manifestos over this week and next. As each manifesto is published Clinks will be analysing and summarising the key commitments of relevance to criminal justice policy and the work of voluntary sector organisations working in criminal justice. We hope that this information will be useful to the sector in planning for the potential policies of the future government.
This blog outlines key policy commitments in the Liberal Democrat manifesto Stop Brexit Build a Brighter Future that will be of interest to voluntary organisations working in criminal justice. Find the costings for this manifesto, the online version, and accessible versions on the website here.
Prison, probation and sentencing
The manifesto frames the following policy commitments as aimed at reducing reoffending:
- Reduce the number of people unnecessarily in prison, including by: introducing a presumption against short prison sentences; ending prison sentences for the possession of drugs for personal use; and increasing the use of tough community sentences and restorative justice where appropriate
- Transform prisons into places of rehabilitation and recovery by recruiting 2,000 more prison officers and improving the provision of training, education and work opportunities
- Reform criminal record disclosure rules so that people do not have to declare irrelevant old and minor convictions, and remove questions about criminal convictions from initial application forms for all public-sector jobs
- Improve and properly fund the supervision of offenders in the community, with far greater coordination between the prison service, probation service providers, the voluntary and private sectors and local authorities, achieving savings in the high costs of reoffending
- Ensure that all prison-leavers have a suitably timed release and are supported with suitable accommodation, a bank account and employment or training, and are registered with a local GP
- Improve mental health support and treatment within the criminal justice system and ensure continuity of mental health care and addiction treatment in prison and the community.
Tackling inequalities in criminal justice
The manifesto outlines a number of policies to address the over representation of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people in the criminal justice system. The first of these echoes the Lammy Review recommendations:
- Reduce the overrepresentation of people from BAME backgrounds throughout the criminal justice system, including by:
- Uniformly recording data on ethnicity across the criminal justice system and publishing complete data to allow analysis and scrutiny
- Introducing a principle of “explain or reform”: if the criminal justice system cannot explain disparities between ethnic groups, then it must be reformed to address them
- Promoting greater diversity in the criminal justice system by ensuring that the police, prison service and judiciary all adopt ambitious targets for improving the diversity of their workforce and requiring regular reports on progress to parliament.
The manifesto also outlines a number of policing policy commitments to address race inequality:
- End the disproportionate use of Stop and Search
- Immediately halt the use of facial recognition surveillance by the police.
In addition, the manifesto makes the following broader commitments to tackling race inequality across policy areas:
- Develop a government-wide plan to tackle BAME inequalities and review the funding of the Equality and Human Rights Commission to ensure that it is adequate
- Develop a free, comprehensive unconscious bias training toolkit and make the provision of unconscious bias training to all members of staff a condition of the receipt of public funds.
The manifesto outlines commitments that recognise the need to address the distinct needs of women in the criminal justice system:
- Establish a Women’s Justice Board and provide specialist training for all staff in contact with women in the criminal justice system.
Justice devolution in Wales
Commitments regarding justice devolution in Wales echo the recent recommendation of the Thomas Commission:
- Devolve powers over youth justice, probation services, prisons and policing to allow Wales to create an effective, liberal, community-based approach to policing and tackling crime.
The manifesto commits to:
- Make mental health services 24-hour, including placing mental health liaison teams in all hospitals so that those facing a mental health crisis are not put in police cells
- Ensure that no one in crisis is turned away, improving integration between mental health trusts, local authorities and hospitals, to promote a holistic approach to improving mental health services. Work to make mental health crisis services 24-hour, including mental health liaison teams in all hospitals, and ending the use of police cells for people facing a mental health crisis.
The Liberal Democrats will:
- Divert people arrested for possession of drugs for personal use into treatment, and imposing civil penalties rather than imprisonment
- Move the departmental lead on drugs policy to the Department of Health and Social Care, and, crucially, invest in more addiction services and support for drug users.
The manifesto commits to:
- Urgently publish a cross-Whitehall plan to end all forms of homelessness
- Introduce a ‘somewhere safe to stay’ legal duty to ensure that everyone who is at risk of sleeping rough is provided with emergency accommodation and an assessment of their needs
- Ensure sufficient financial resources for local authorities to deliver the Homelessness Reduction Act and provide accommodation for survivors of domestic abuse
- Scrap the Vagrancy Act, so that rough sleeping is no longer criminalised.
Policing and serious violence
In line with a long standing Liberal Democrat policy regarding police and crime commissioners, the manifesto commits to:
- Replace Police and Crime Commissioners with accountable Police Boards made up of local councillors.
Other policing commitments focus on implementing a public health, trauma informed approach and supporting youth services and interventions:
- Adopt a public health approach to serious violence: restoring community policing and youth services and supporting them to work together with other services to reverse the spread of violence.
- Invest £1 billion to restore community policing, enough for two new police officers in every ward.
- Adopt a public health approach to the epidemic of youth violence: identifying risk factors and treating them, rather than just focusing on the symptoms. This means police, teachers, health professionals, youth workers and social services all working closely together to prevent young people falling prey to gangs and violence.
- Invest in youth services. Provide a £500m ring-fenced youth services fund to local authorities to repair the damage done to youth services and enable them to deliver a wider range of services, reach more young people and improve training for youth workers.
- Embed Trauma-informed Youth Intervention Specialists in all Major Trauma Centres.
- Introduce a target of one hour for handover of people suffering from a mental health crisis from police to mental health services and support the police to achieve adequate levels of training in mental health response.
We have also published a blog on the Labour manifesto. We will publish a blog on the key commitments in the Conservative manifesto when it is released.
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