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.
Yesterday, I called for immediate reform of the Magistrates court system. This follows the House of Commons Justice Select Committee, which I am a member of, report into the role of the Magistracy and its workings.
Established over 650 years ago, the magistracy is recognised as an integral part of the judiciary of England and Wales. There are just over 17,000 magistrates, all of whom are unpaid volunteers. They deal with over 90% of criminal cases and a substantial proportion of non-criminal work including family law cases. Traditionally, the linked principles of ‘local justice’ and ‘justice by one’s peers’ have underpinned the role of the magistracy, and for many magistrates these principles remain important today. Read more “Calling for reform of the magistrates court”