Criminal justice policy briefing

 

Clinks Members’ Policy Briefing | March 2017

In this month’s edition…

The policy briefing is a key benefit for members of Clinks and we want to make sure that you’re getting all the information you need in the most accessible way. We’ve designed a very short survey to give us some feedback on how useful the policy briefing is to you and how this could be improved. The survey will be open until 4th April 2017. Take the survey here

The Reducing Reoffending Third Sector Advisory Group (RR3) met in February to discuss government policy agenda  with officials from the Ministry of Justice and National Offender Management Service. The discussion focused on providing stronger community responses to vulnerable people involved with the criminal justice system, through effective community sentences and high quality liaison and diversion services. The notes from the meeting will be published on the Clinks website soon.

Our TrackTR survey is still open, gathering information from voluntary sector organisations either involved in or affected by Transforming Rehabilitation in prisons and in the community. The information from these surveys allows us to understand the voluntary sector’s role in and experiences of probation reforms and to present this information to the Ministry of Justice and National Offender Management Service. The survey is open until 31st March 2017. Take the survey here.

On 21st February, Clinks’ Head of Policy and Communication Nathan Dick gave evidence to the Justice Select Committee on prison reform. Nathan discussed how voluntary organisations can support prison governors in achieving their outcomes and emphasised the importance of more flexible approaches to commissioning in engaging the voluntary sector in the prison reform agenda.  Clinks also gave evidence on accommodation for people in the criminal justice system to the Supported Housing Task and Finish Group set up by the Department for Communities and Local Government, highlighting the challenges faced by the voluntary sector in criminal justice in providing accommodation for the people they work with.

Justice Secretary launches new prison and probation service to reform offenders On 8th February, the Secretary of State for Justice, Liz Truss, announced that the HM Prisons and Probation Service (HMPPS) would replace the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) on 1st April 2017. HMPPS will have full responsibility for the operational management of people in custody and the community. The current chief executive of NOMS, Michael Spurr, will become chief executive of HMPPS and for the first time, there will also be a Board Director, Sonia Crozier, with specific responsibility for women across the whole system. The Ministry of Justice will have responsibility for overall future policy direction, setting standards, scrutinising prison performance and commissioning services.

A speech on criminal justice reform by the Secretary of State for Justice On 13th February, Secretary of State for Justice, Liz Truss, gave this speech at the Centre for Social Justice. She highlighted the underuse of Mental Health Treatment Requirements by courts and discussed ongoing work with the Judiciary and Health Secretary to ensure better access to mental health professionals and services for people going through courts with mental health needs. Stating that children with parents in prison are also likely to end up in custody, the Secretary of State emphasised the need for early intervention to break this cycle.

Prison and Courts Bill 2016-17 This bill, brought to the House of Commons on 23rd February, defines the purposes of prison in legislation for the first time. These are to protect the public, to reform and rehabilitate offenders, to prepare prisoners for life outside prison, and to maintain an environment that is safe and secure. The Bill also strengthens the role of the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman and requires the Secretary of State to respond within 90 days to HM Inspectorate recommendations made to her.

Youth justice update In a written ministerial update on 24th February, the Secretary of State for Justice announced the creation of a new Youth Custody Service, as a distinct arm of HM Prison and Probation Service. This Youth Custody Service will take on all operational responsibility for the youth estate from the Youth Justice Board, while responsibility for commissioning youth custody services will come into the Ministry of Justice. The Secretary of State said that the changes will enable the Youth Justice Board to focus on its statutory function of providing vital independent advice on, and scrutiny of, the whole system, advising the government on what standards to set for the youth justice system and monitoring delivery of those standards. It was also announced that Charlie Taylor will take over as the new Chair of the Youth Justice Board after the current Chair’s term comes to an end.

Clinks publications

Clinks response to the Review of the Youth Justice System in England and Wales The final report of the Taylor Review of youth justice was published in December 2016, together with the Government’s response. Clinks’ response, published in partnership with Nacro and Peer Power, evaluates both sets of proposals against the issues highlighted in our original submission to the Taylor Review in April 2016. While the response expresses disappointment that the government response does not indicate full implementation of Taylor’s vision of a truly child-centred ‘welfare system with justice’, it does identify opportunities for the voluntary sector to both advise on and deliver the government’s proposals for mentors for young people both in custody and the community. It emphasises the importance of involvement of children and young people in policy making, as well as the need for urgent action to address black, Asian and minority ethnic disproportionality in the youth justice system.

Response to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons public consultation on new expectations for adult male prisons Clinks responded to HM Inspectorate of Prisons’(HMIP) consultation on their draft revised expectations. Clinks worked with HMIP to hold three consultation events in order to ensure the active involvement of voluntary organisations in this process and to inform our response, which highlights how prisons can work more closely in the voluntary sector, suggesting that HMIP look at key behaviours such as having dedicated staff co-ordinating partnership services and supporting innovative services when inspecting prisons.

Clinks’ response to the DCLG and DWP funding for supported housing consultation Many people in contact with the criminal justice system require supported housing. In Clinks’ response to this consultation our key recommendations include: that the Ministry of Justice develop a cross-departmental accommodation strategy to support positive accommodation outcomes for people in contact with the criminal justice system; that people with a conviction are defined as a vulnerable group by the Department for Communities and Local Government, with guidelines circulated to local authorities; and that there is a statutory duty on all local authorities to assess the supported housing needs of their population.

Clinks’ response to the Justice Committee sub-inquiry on governor empowerment and prison performance Clinks has submitted additional written evidence to the Justice Committee’s sub-inquiry on governor empowerment and prison performance in response to some of the supplementary questions posed. While welcoming many of the commitments made in the Prison Reform and Safety white paper, Clinks’ evidence highlights the need for the Ministry of Justice and National Offender Management Service to disseminate timely information to the voluntary sector about governors’ new budgetary and commissioning responsibilities and ensure that existing providers, including voluntary organisations, are fully consulted and engaged with those plans at the earliest possible date.

Are the accommodation needs being met for people in contact with the Criminal Justice System? Clinks and Homeless Link commissioned a short scoping exercise to understand how the accommodation needs of people in contact with the criminal justice system are being met since the implementation of Transforming Rehabilitation (TR). The results show that some of the challenges in securing safe and appropriate accommodation are directly related to the implementation of TR, such as a lack of accommodation advice given by some community rehabilitation companies, yet many of them exist due to external factors including pressures on housing supply, leading to fewer housing options and reductions in local authority budgets.

Criminal Justice System

Preventing prison suicide: Staff perspectives This report forms part of a series by the Howard League and the Centre for Mental Health aimed at preventing suicide in prison. Based on examples given by prison staff of positive approaches in their workplaces, the report identifies four key steps to address prison suicide: engaging the whole prison estate in collaborative working towards ‘stepped care’ – supporting people with the lowest appropriate service in the first instance and ‘stepping up’ as clinically required; recognising the role of key partners such as peer mentors, gym staff and chaplains in preventing the escalation of problems; investing in staff training and support; and developing robust assessments for identifying issues.

Doing It Justice: Breaking barriers to criminal justice transformation This report details the findings of Breaking Barriers: Doing it Justice, an independent review led by the Rt. Hon Hazel Blears, Professor Lord Patel of Bradford OBE and Dr Jon Bashford. It looks at the most significant barriers to improving the Criminal Justice System in England and Wales, exploring what can be done to prevent offending, help improve people’s lives and make communities safer, with a focus on devolution. It identifies three main barriers to transformation: tensions between central control and place-based change, limited capacity for innovation and lack of integration with other sectors. It makes twelve recommendations, suggesting that Central Government should ensure greater devolution of both powers and budgets for the Criminal Justice System to Combined Authorities, that Government and Combined Authorities should agree integrated outcome measures to support local areas in developing a life opportunities approach and that the Ministry of Justice should replace the women’s estate with smaller, community focused establishments.

The Implementation and Delivery of Rehabilitation Activity Requirements HM Inspectorate of Probation has published this thematic review of rehabilitation activity requirements (RARs) – requirements included in community or suspended sentences that the defendant participates in activity to reduce the prospect of reoffending. The inspection found some problems in the use, planning and delivery of RARs, such as a lack of correlation between the seriousness of the offence and number of days ordered and insufficient attention paid at the engagement stage to diversity factors and engagement with service users. The review’s recommendations include that HM Prisons and Probation Service should make sure case management systems give an accurate record of rehabilitation activity requirement activity days and appointments, and that probation agencies should make sure rehabilitation activity requirements are started promptly and keep their progress under regular review.

The Free Prisoner: From Removal to Inclusion This feasibility study explores a community generation hub model to place prisoners in the heart of their communities in order to provide rehabilitation, integration and a reduction in reoffending. The study suggests that community and criminal justice budgets should be devolved and pooling  devolving and pooling community and criminal justice budgets and giving more responsibility to local authorities, Police and Crime Commissioner partnerships and agencies. The model proposes the use of secure assessment centres located in city centres employing skilled staff to make assessments of prisoners’ health, risks, readiness to change, aspirations and potential. The intensive environments of the assessment centres would prepare prisoners for their transition to community generation hubs that facilitate restorative justice interventions, deliver community regeneration projects, develop local industry and social enterprise and provide a resource to the community whilst building positive and sustainable prisoner, family and community relationships.

Women

Why focus on reducing women’s imprisonment? This Prison Reform Trust briefing makes the case for a distinct and gendered approach to women in the criminal justice system, highlighting the specific barriers and additional needs experienced by women. The briefing notes that 53% of women in prison report having experienced emotional, physical or sexual abuse as a child, 60% of women in prison have dependent children and that, on average, women are held 64 miles from their home. It explores alternatives to custody and identifies a number of opportunities to accelerate the reform agenda for women such as the expertise provided by the Ministerial Advisory Board on Female Offenders, the Prison Safety and Reform white paper’s commitment to reducing the number of women in custody and the government’s commitment to a whole systems approach in order to join up commissioning and service delivery across different agencies.

Youth justice

Restorative Justice and black, Asian and minority ethnic children in the youth justice system This report, published by the Restorative Justice Council, examines the delivery and experiences of restorative justice (RJ) with black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) children who have offended and seeks to increase the number of BAME children accessing RJ. The report makes several recommendations for the Youth Justice Board, Youth Offending Teams (YOTs) and RJ practitioners, such as requiring all YOTs to offer RJ, ensuring that RJ is offered to BAME children by agencies other than the police and building relationships with the parents of BAME children to ensure they have a clear understanding of restorative justice.

Findings and Recommendations of the Youth Custody Improvement Board The Youth Custody Board explores and reports on the current state of the youth custodial estate and makes recommendations for improvement. The report reiterates previous concerns around poor behaviour management of young people, a lack of skilled staff, and risks to the safety of young people. It supports the Youth Justice Board’s statement that the Youth Secure Estate is not fit for the purpose of caring for or rehabilitating children and young people. It makes a number of recommendations for improvement including that Ministers should clearly define what the youth custodial system is attempting to achieve, that one national body should be accountable for leading and taking responsibility for overseeing the Youth Secure Estate and that the Ministry of Justice should identify immediately what additional measures can be taken in each Youth Offending Institute and Secure Training Centres to improve the safety of young people.

Voluntary sector

The Road Ahead: A review of the voluntary sector’s operating environment The National Council for Voluntary Organisations has published its annual report on the upcoming challenges and opportunities for the voluntary sector.  The report predicts a challenging year for organisations, noting a continuing decrease in government funding as well as a prioritisation of contracts of grants. It emphasises the ongoing relevance of the voluntary sector in this new environment and suggests that 2017 could be a time for the sector to reset its relationship with the government through demonstrating the resources it can offer to bridge divides in society.

Employment

Support for ex-offenders In April 2016, Clinks and Homeless Link responded to the Work and Pensions Committee inquiry into support for ex-offenders. The Committee have now published their report, which focuses on education and employment in prison, transition into the community and changing employer attitudes. It makes a number of recommendations to support into employment for ex-offenders, including that all prisons should be required to demonstrate strong links with employers, that claims for Employment Support Allowance should be made in prison and paid on day one of release and that all Jobcentres should have a specified person who specialises in helping ex-offenders into employment. On 27th February the government published a response to the report, highlighting changes made in the Prison Reform and Safety white paper.

Families

The impact of parental imprisonment on the mental health of children and young people Action for Prisoners’ and Offenders Families has published this guide for professionals and organisations working with children and young people to raise awareness of the impact on child mental health of the imprisonment of a parent, carer or close family member. It explores the impact of parental imprisonment on a child, such as having to care for younger siblings, experiencing family break up and dealing with stigma. It highlights a number of key issues relating to mental health including a sense of loss and grief, low self-esteem and inability to concentrate on schoolwork.

Promoting family ties in the changing criminal justice system Charlotte Caldwell, Research & Policy Assistant at i-HOP, has written this guest blog taking a look back at the conference jointly held by Clinks and i-HOP in December 2016. She discusses the role of family ties in improving outcomes for people in the criminal justice system and their families and highlights some examples of best practice looked at during the conference.

5 ways prisons can benefit from having a voluntary sector co-ordinator In this guest blog Marie Waterman, the Voluntary Sector Co-ordinator at HMP Guys Marsh, highlights the benefit to the prison of her role in bringing those services together and supporting their day to day work through Clinks’ Good Prison Project. She writes, “Despite the challenges that prisons and voluntary organisations currently face, HMP Guys Marsh is progressing with their strategy to develop stronger links with the voluntary sector and the local community. They are looking to the sector to support their aims and support prisoners to improve their lives.”

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Written monthly by…

Oonagh Ryder

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