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Probation Services

Volume 545: debated on Tuesday 15 May 2012

On 27 March the Government published a consultation entitled “Punishment and Reform: Effective Probation Services”, which is looking at a wide range of options for service improvements. Alongside it is a consultation on the overhaul of community sentences, aimed at delivering effective and credible punishments. We will publish our response to both consultations in the autumn.

According to recent press reports, the London Probation Trust is due to run a research project later this year that would require offenders in Bexley and Bromley to report to electronic kiosks, as opposed to trained probation staff. What reassurance can the Minister give me that the trial will not endanger the public, and how can he be sure that the machines will be as capable as human beings are of detecting the early warning signs that offenders may be posing an increased risk to the public?

The hon. Lady raises the proper concerns associated with the scheme: that is why it is a trial and a pilot. We will assess it, and the London Probation Trust will help other probation trusts come to a conclusion on the merits of such supervision.

Northumbria Probation Trust has received the best inspection result of any trust from Her Majesty’s inspectorate of probation. How will the Secretary of State ensure that probation trusts continue to be effective in protecting the public and reducing reoffending following the probation review, which proposes that offender management be fragmented across a wider range of providers?

Improvement of offender management for all our offenders is absolutely at the heart of the probation review. With the proposed reorganisation of probation we will be getting much greater offender management, with a focus by the probation service on reducing reoffending among those receiving community sentences. The outcome of our proposals will therefore be a very much improved offender management picture right across the country.

The Prison Service spends time and taxpayers’ money detoxing those who enter our prisons with alcohol and drug problems. However, I was shocked to find that taxpayers’ money is then spent on retoxing prisoners for their eventual release at the end of their sentences. Does the Minister agree that funding a drug habit—which is often the cause of an offender’s entering prison in the first place—makes the probation service’s job so much more difficult and is not a good use of taxpayers’ money?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that question. She will be as pleased as I am to hear that there has been a change in the clinical policy within prisons in regard to how detoxification is undertaken, resulting in a much stronger emphasis on abstinence than on maintenance. We now need to get right the transition of drug-addicted offenders from custody to the community.