Last week was packed full of criminal justice related announcements from government, as MPs returned to parliament after recess.
Last Monday, the Secretary of State for Justice Michael Gove announced a review of prison education to be led by Dame Sally Coates, you can read my blog about that announcement here. Then last Friday he made a second announcement - a year long review of the youth justice system.
The youth justice review will focus on prevention and rehabilitation, including how the system can better link with children and young people’s services that operate outside of the Criminal Justice System. In the announcement, Gove made reference to the successful reduction of young people entering the youth justice system, but criticised the persistently high re-offending rates of those that do find themselves in the system. The review will be led by Charlie Taylor, the former Chief Executive of the National College of Teaching and Leadership and a former head teacher.
The announcement did not address the increasing over representation of Black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) young people entering the system. In addition any focus on links with wider children's services must have a particular focus on improving outcomes for young people who were in local authority care before entering prison - Care leavers have been estimated to make up 27% of the adult prison population, despite the fact that less than 1% of under 18s enter local authority care annually.
After the announcement of the youth justice review last Friday the Prime Minister David Cameron made a speech about public service reform and the rationale behind the forthcoming Comprehensive Spending Review. The youth justice and prison education reviews were mentioned, and reference was made to Michael Gove’s proposal to raise revenue through selling off inner city prison sites.
A significant proportion of this speech was focussed on the devolution agenda, and how central government could, or should, be passing responsibility and accountability to local areas so that they themselves can govern aspects of the justice system. This agenda started under the last Government with the announcement that Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) would get its own directly elected city wide mayor with powers over transport, housing, planning and policing, support for business growth, skills, health and social care budgets. This policy of devolution is likely to feature strongly in this Government, and although we aren’t sure yet how it will impact on the Criminal Justice System we will be keeping track of developments. As a start Clinks set out some initial proposals in our submission to the Comprehensive Spending Review 2015.
It's clear there is a busy time ahead for those of us interested in and working to inform criminal justice policy and practice. These reviews, alongside the policy debate around devolution, offer opportunities to raise some important issues which Clinks and our members have been concerned about for some time. Clinks will engage with both the reviews and work to ensure our members knowledge and experience can be appropriately utilised by them.