Privatisation of probation services branded a failure by two watchdog inspections

Not one of 86 offenders studied 'had any help in relation to training, education or employment'

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Tuesday 04 October 2016 12:54 BST
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling was the Justice Secretary who put through the overhaul
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling was the Justice Secretary who put through the overhaul (PA)

Inspectors have painted a devastating picture of the Government’s privatisation of probation services – warning that ex-prisoners are being failed and the public put at risk.

Two watchdogs have sharply criticised the overhaul put through by ex-Justice Secretary Chris Grayling, concluding the help promised is not being delivered.

All prisoners sentenced to a year or less are now supervised for 12 months on release, increasing the number watched over by 50,000, or around 25%.

Mr Grayling promised his “through the gate” services would prepare inmates for life in the community - including finding accommodation, employment or training and managing finances.

But a joint report from HM Inspectorate of Probation and HM Inspectorate of Prisons concluded that nowhere near enough was being done to help prisoners.

Furthermore, the risk of harm to others was not always recognised, which meant victims were not always protected - particularly in cases of domestic abuse.

In one case, a registered sex offender released without any accommodation has since disappeared, according to the report.

Rates of re-offending were high. A quarter of the prisoners in the inspection sample had already been put back in prison for alleged new offences, or for failing to keep appointments under their licences.

Dame Glenys Stacey, HM Chief Inspector of Probation, said it had identified multiple failings after studying the cases of 86 offenders who had been jailed for less than 12 months.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “One in three was released with nowhere to live.

“We also found that not one of our sample had had any help in relation to training, education or employment.

“Indeed, many of them had not had sufficient help across a wide range of issues that they faced - drug dependency, alcohol dependency, mental health problems and debt dependency.”

The 2014 shake-up created the National Probation Service (NPS) to deal with high-risk offenders, while remaining work was assigned to 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs).

It is the mostly privately-run CRCs, working on a payment-by-results basis, which are responsible for the “through the gate” services.

At the time, campaigners labelled the changes a “reckless experiment” and urged delay, but Mr Grayling accelerated the timetable to get them in place before the 2015 general election.

Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “Transforming Rehabilitation was supposed to turn lives around, reduce re-offending and make us all safer.

"It is doing precisely the opposite - failing to help people find homes and employment, failing to prevent people committing further offences, and failing by exposing victims of crime to more danger.”

But justice minister Sam Gyimah said: “We are already carrying out a comprehensive review of our probation reforms to improve outcomes for offenders and communities.

“We want to incentivise good resettlement outcomes to cut crime and protect the public.

“Public protection is our top priority and we will not hesitate to take the necessary action to make sure our vital reforms are being delivered to reduce re-offending, cut crime and prevent future victims.”

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