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Reoffending Rates

Volume 622: debated on Tuesday 7 March 2017

1. What recent assessment she has made of the potential (a) financial and (b) social benefits of reducing reoffending rates. (909086)

Almost half the people leaving our prisons will reoffend within a year, with a cost to the economy of £15 billion, and countless costs to victims and society. We are giving prison governors the power to be able to turn people’s lives around, to reduce that level of reoffending.

Prison should be a place of transformation and renewed hope. What steps has the Secretary of State taken to ensure that prisons are places of reform and rehabilitation?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We need to ensure that prison governors have all the tools at their disposal to get people the education they may not have had—almost half of prisoners do not have basic English and maths—to get them into jobs and training, so that they can go into work and lead a lawful life when they leave prison.

Following the transforming rehabilitation reforms, there has been a 57% increase in the number of offenders being recalled as a result of failure to keep in touch during supervision after short sentences. What action are the Government taking to address this rise in the number of people being recalled to prison, and why is such failure being seen as a result of the reforms?

It is, of course, important that we recall people who pose a danger to society, but we need to ensure that we are recalling the right people. We are looking at that issue and at wider probation reforms to ensure that we turn people’s lives around not just while they are in prison, but while they are under community supervision.

One particularly stubborn area of concern has been the above-average reoffending rate of those serving sentences of 12 months or less. Does not that give rise to the need to look again at the effectiveness and use of short sentences as opposed to community penalties, and to look carefully at the way in which the Through the Gate programme operates? There is a real concern that there is not adequate follow-up for people who are released under these circumstances.

The Chair of the Select Committee on Justice is right that we need to get better at intervening before people commit crimes that lead to custody. As well as announcing a review of probation and the way in which it operates, we are looking at community sentences. We are ensuring that good community sentences are in place and that there is a higher use of mental health treatment orders and drugs desistance orders, which reduce the likelihood of reoffending.

What steps is the Secretary of State taking to reduce reoffending by domestic violence perpetrators in prisons and in communities?

The hon. Lady is absolutely right that, as we have got better at dealing with issues of domestic violence, there is more we can do. That is why I am leading a joint taskforce with the Home Secretary to look at the law around domestic violence. We are also ensuring that domestic violence victims are protected in the family court. Under the Prisons and Courts Bill, abusers will no longer be able to cross-examine domestic violence victims, and that is an important step forward.

I am sure the Secretary of State will welcome the fact that companies such as Boots, Barclays, Carillion, Land Securities, Ricoh and many others have “banned the box” to improve the chances of ex-offenders getting jobs. However, does she share my concern that some quite big household names have not yet stepped up to the plate? Will she do her bit to get them over the line alongside those other good employers?

I congratulate my hon. Friend on the work he did to get more employers involved in this when he was a Minister. We are following on from his good work by setting up an organisation called the New Futures Network, which will comprise businesses and charities. The network will encourage more employers to take on ex-offenders, who are often very loyal and hard-working employees, and who can help to address some of the skills shortages we face.

Reoffending now costs us £15 billion annually, as the Secretary of State just said. A recent report by Her Majesty’s inspectorate of probation noted that not enough is being done to help prisoners to prepare for life outside prison, due to a

“combination of unmanageable caseloads, inexperienced officers, extremely poor oversight”.

The service was rated as four-star before privatisation. What will the Secretary of State do to address this?

As I have said, it is important that people are supported to get into jobs once they leave prison. Just as we are establishing metrics for governors, showing how many people are employed once they leave prison, we want to use similar metrics to hold probation operators to account to make sure that they are focused on getting people into homes and into work, which we know leads to a reduction in reoffending.