Concern over radical probation proposals which get a mixed reaction in Norfolk
- Credit: Archant © 2009
Radical reforms to the way criminals are rehabilitated which will mean every offender leaving prison must serve a minimum of 12 months under supervision in the community have been met with a mixed reaction in this region.
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling yesterday announced that offenders who enter prison, even for just a few days, will be subject to the new supervision and be given support into housing, employment, training and substance abuse programmes.
And the reforms, to be rolled out across England and Wales by 2015, will see around 65,000 offenders, serving sentences of up to two years, receive extended rehabilitation.
The changes form part of the Government's so-called 'rehabilitation revolution', which will see a greater role for private and voluntary sector organisations, who will be paid by results to reduce re-offending has divided opinion in this part of the world.
A spokesman for the Norfolk and Suffolk Probation Trust, said: 'It is early days and we cannot yet give the full detail of how this will impact on probation locally.
'However, we welcome the provision of supervision and rehabilitation services for prisoners serving less than 12 months. We have long recognised this as a gap in the system and it is widely acknowledged to be a positive step. We remain committed to our core aims of protecting the public and reducing re-offending in Norfolk and Suffolk.'
But John Cummins, secretary of the East Anglian branch of NAPO, a trade union which represents more than 9000 probation and family court staff throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland, said he was concerned about the plans.
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He said: 'The changes which are being announced are not about something which is not done or could not be done best by the existing providers but are ideologically driven. Inserting a new 'layer' of providers will make for greater rather than less bureaucracy and result in less not more face to face contact between offenders and probation officers. This would have a negative impact on public protection locally (via enforcement of licence or other risk management measures).'
But Mr Grayling said tackling 'stubbornly high re-offending rates' was something that had 'dogged' successive government's for decades.
He said: 'These reforms are essential and will ensure that offenders are properly punished but also given targeted support to help them turn away from crime for good.'
The government is to undertake the biggest re-organisation of the prison estate in more than 20 years, creating a nationwide network of around 70 'resettlement prisons' so nearly all offenders are released into the area in which they will live and be supervised.
And it will make it harder for offenders to move homes while they are under supervision to ensure continuity in the support they receive.
The plans will also see England and Wales divided into 21 areas, which align with local authorities and Police and Crime Commissioner areas. The reforms will be rolled out across England and Wales by 2015.