On Monday 22nd October, David Cameron delivered a speech on law and order at the Centre for Social Justice. He stressed the Government’s continuing commitment to the rehabilitation revolution and stated that the prison system can work for offenders, in terms of both punishment and rehabilitation. How this can be achieved successfully, however, requires some further exploration.
Mr Cameron proposed a ‘middle ground’ approach to crime and justice as an alternative to what he termed the current ‘polarised crime debate’ where the rhetoric is either focused on ‘blame the criminal or blame society.’ He acknowledged that simply being tough on offenders is not a strategy in itself and highlighted the widespread social deprivation and complex needs experienced by the majority of prisoners.
Personal responsibility, he stated, is ‘at the heart of the criminal justice system’ with prison being the only real option for certain offences. Indeed, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling announced at the recent Conservative party conference that in December a ‘two strikes and you’re out’ automatic life sentence for serious sexual or violent offences will be introduced. The likely impact of this and other policies upon the size of the prison population has caused some concern to VCS organisations and criminal justice practitioners.
The Prime Minister also called for more support to be provided to those leaving prison saying, ‘once people are on the outside, let’s stick to them and give them proper support.’ This is a welcome assertion, especially if short-sentenced prisoners will receive support upon release as currently there is no statutory provision for this to occur. However, it remains to be seen how the Government will implement this strategy in light of the current cuts to services, with organisations being required to ‘do more for less.’
During the speech, Mr Cameron demonstrated his commitment to payment by results and stressed that private firms and charities should have greater opportunity to work with all prisoners, including those on short term sentences. Payment by results is also championed by Mr. Grayling, who told the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme ‘The benefit of a payment-by-results system is it forces the organisations working with you to look for what really does work because they don’t get paid unless they do.’ He cited the PbR pilot in HMP Peterborough as a good working example, although stated that detailed evidence of this scheme’s effectiveness is not yet accessible. However, it remains Mr Grayling’s intention to implement payment by results schemes more widely within the criminal justice system.
What are your views on the Prime Minister’s approach to Crime and Justice? Can an offender be both punished and rehabilitated at the same time? What do you think about the rolling out of PrB schemes more widely within the criminal justice system?