The Inspector of Probation gets paid in excess of £140,000 a year. For that she is expected to evaluate the Government’s performance and handling of the probation services. An important job as this is vital in ensuring that ex-offenders are rehabilitated and do not commit crimes again.
I recently discovered that Dame Glenys Stacey, HM Inspector of Probation, is now working two jobs: one for the Ministry of Justice in her current role and the other advising Michael Gove MP in DEFRA. I was informed by the Departments involved that Dame Glenys will be giving up 2 days a week in her role as Inspector and still receive the same pay and conditions.
I was shocked at the responses I got to my questions, as were the whole of the Justice Committee. It is clearly wrong that someone undertaking such an important job is now only working on it 3 days a week. Even the minister, when pressed later on by myself, agreed that this was not the best situation to be in.
The contracts being used by the Ministry of Justice to manage our prisons are failing. We saw the lack of ability by Amey to manage the difficulties in HMP Liverpool and many other independent monitoring boards for prisons have complained about the maintenance of their prisons.
I was able to challenge the new Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice on his department and what he will be doing to rectify these expensive mistakes.
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.
The Chair of the Justice Select Committee and I successfully secured a debate in the Commons on the shocking state of our prisons. I focused my contribution on the safety of our prisons. This included deaths in prisons, self-harming, drug use and attacks on prison officers.
The statistics are clear for all to see: prisons in the UK have become more dangerous and less conducive to rehabilitation. The ultimate goal of our prisons should be to ensure that those convicted of crimes are turned into productive members of society. There will no doubt be a small, but significant. minority who will never be allowed to return to civil society and will remain in prison. But for the vast majority we must be able to provide them with education and skills to ensure that they never return to prison. But this needs a safe environment for the prisoners and the prison officers to fulfil that goal.
I put a number of questions to the minister which he needs to answer. There have been a number of moves taken by this Government which have undermined prison safety – such as the huge cuts to prison officer numbers. There was a unanimous voice from the Commons during the debate and it said the Government has failed to provide a prison service we can be proud of.