Rehabilitation of prisoners is one of the most important roles of our criminal justice system. But this important job was completely wrecked when the UK Government part-privatised rehabilitation companies. We are now footing a bill worth millions to unpick the damage done by the former Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling MP, and the Government is scrabbling for ways to improve rehabilitation.
I pressed the Secretary of State on how the Government would turn around this disgraceful service and ensure that the privatised Community Rehabilitation Companies are either brought back into government control or fixed for a better deal for the taxpayers.
All good policy is based in evidence. Privatising rehabilitation services was based in ideological fervor. At the time I, and the Labour Party, kept telling the UK Government that splitting rehabilitation into a privatised industry which handled ‘low level cases’ and a public which dealt with ‘high risk cases’ was for the birds.
The Justice Committee has been investigating this matter and today I noticed that we had been discussing CRCs for some time and no one had mentioned the role of the Ministry of Justice. What we were told was shocking. There seemed to be no in depth oversight of these private companies and no strategy from the MoJ to ensure that people leaving our criminal justice system could return to society reformed.
To add insult to injury, recently the MoJ pumped money into this failing system as many of these privatised companies said they could no longer operate the service the pledged when bidding for the contract.
Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) were established in the 2010-15 Parliament when the Government privatised rehabilitation of offenders. Separating offenders into categories (low, medium and high risk). The low and medium risk offenders are handled by the privatised industry and the high risk by the government. This reform has proven to be badly thought out and implemented.
I asked the Lord Chancellor why he has given additional resources to support contracts that have already been agreed and to whom this money has been given. When rehabilitation was part privatised contracts were agreed and it now has to come to light that some companies cannot manage with the resources they bid for. We don’t know which of the 21 CRCs have asked the Government for extra support.
The problem with the new system is that offenders may be classed as low risk but can very quickly move into high risk and the private sector cannot manage this effectively. The Justice Select Committee, which I am a member of, has done investigations into this policy and I would recommend anyone interested in learning more to visit parliament’s website to see our full findings.