Governments are swift to claim credit for falling levels of crime, but in reality changes have been driven by longer term factors.
The changing demographics of the population and developments in policing play a part. Pressure on motor manufacturers to make cars harder to steal was a turning point.
Despite all this, re-offending remains stubbornly high. I support some of the measures in the Offender Rehabilitation Bill currently before the Commons.
Sixty per cent of offenders sentenced to less than 12 months in custody reoffend within a year. It makes sense to extend probation to the 50,000 in that group.
But I part company with the government when they seek to bring in private service providers.
The ‘professional’ probation providers – and we have an excellent example in the Northumbria Probation Trust – will be left to deal with the more serious individuals perhaps without the necessary resources. Given that offenders often cross the line between serious and less serious offending, there is a risk here.
The Ministry of Justice is notoriously bad at procuring services and hasn’t even used proper parliamentary procedure to bring in the private providers, evading proper scrutiny.
In their rush to import the market they seem prepared to increase the risk.
On a slightly different note I was delighted to visit PROPS based in the Linskill Centre. The charity works with the families of drug and alcohol abusers and with a non judgemental approach is helping to turn lives around.
With drug and alcohol being drivers of criminality lessons learned from organisations like PROPS may have a greater impact on reducing harm than companies seeking to make a profit from wrongdoing.