The announcement by the Secretary of State for Justice to undertake an evidence-based review of the benefit of custodial sentences of less than 6 months is to be welcomed.
The evidence points to fact that sending people to prison for a short-term custodial sentence acts as a college of crime. People who enter prison for minor offences may develop substance abuse problems, exacerbate mental health issues and connect them with hardened criminals.
I want to see a sensible sentencing policy put in place. One that takes into account the individual, their record on repeat offending and the risks they pose to communities. Prison will only work if it is used against people correctly. It fails when it trains a new generation of criminals who put our safety at risk.
In my Topical Question to the Secretary of State for Justice I asked if he believes that the Local Government Association were right to point out that the slashing of youth justice funding is having a detrimental impact upon our community safety.
Youth justice grants, which fund council youth offending teams, have tumbled from £145m in 2010-11 to £71.5m in 2018-19, according to the Local Government Association.
Councils have already set their budgets for 2019-20 but are still awaiting their allocations for youth justice grants, making it “extremely difficult” to plan services aimed at preventing gangs and violent crime, the LGA said.
The group, which represents 370 councils in England and Wales, called for funding to at least be maintained at last year’s levels.
Instead of getting a proper answer I merely received platitudes. This is not good enough, especially with violent crime rising so quickly across England and Wales.
Last July the Prisons minister stated that jamming technology was vital for stopping the use of drones to smuggle items in and out of prison. The minister has had 5 months to work on the roll-out of this technology so I thought it was fair to ask how many prisons have this technology.
The answer I got was “not that many prisons”. The minister wants to learn from Guernsey prison to see how we roll this technology across the estate. The minister has had some time now to implement this and each day it is not in place the risk of phones, drugs and weapons being smuggled into our prisons increases.
During Justice Questions I asked the Secretary of State what action he is doing to reduce reoffending through employment.
I pointed out that the UK Government is the largest employer in the UK – be it through direct employment or contracts to the private sector. Often we hear of the UK Government calling on the private sector to employ ex-offenders, but we also need a strategy from the UK Government as well.
It is vital that we have an employment strategy for offenders in place so that we can cut the risk of them re-offending and help them rejoin society. If we fail this we will see a rotating door between prisons and our communities.