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Reoffending Rates

Volume 705: debated on Tuesday 14 December 2021

This Government are tackling the drivers of reoffending to keep our communities safer. That includes the investment of £70 million this year to keep prison leavers off the streets and £80 million for substance misuse treatment services.

I thank the Lord Chancellor for that answer. Will he confirm that some of that £70 million will go to schemes that rehabilitate, offering long-term opportunities in both employment and housing, because that is a successful way to keep reoffending rates down?

We are investing £183 million in the expansion of electronic monitoring, which includes £90 million to fund and promote innovation, including in respect of drugs and tags. We are also working carefully on prisoner passports, which are all about resettlement, to make sure that we reduce prisoner and offender homelessness, and there is a big push to encourage them to work with local businesses to get them into work.

Does the Deputy Prime Minister agree that education and employment are key drivers in getting reoffending down and allowing communities that are blighted by crime to heal? Will he therefore outline to the House the progress that has been made in the prisons strategy White Paper in this area specifically?

I thank my hon. Friend for that, as he is absolutely right: those are two core drivers of reoffending. So in the White Paper we set out plans to deliver a prisoner education service that will focus not only on the big challenges we see with inmates on numeracy and literacy, but on encouraging vocational qualifications—a step up during their course in prison. We will be driving better outcomes on work by implementing dedicated employment advisers in prisons and a digital tool to match prisoners to jobs on release.

One way of preventing reoffending would be to make sure that appropriate sentences are imposed in the first place, so what is the Minister doing to ensure that pre-sentence reports are available before prisoners are jailed or given alternative community sentences?

I do not see these things as binary opposites; we need to see robust punishment and robust deterrence. I am disappointed that Opposition Members voted against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which would end automatic release at the halfway point. [Interruption.] If the hon. Member for Stockton North (Alex Cunningham) wants to vote against stronger sentences for dangerous criminals, he can stand on that record. But in answer to the hon. Lady’s question, let me say that we are looking at all the other drivers: drugs rehabilitation and, in particular, drugs recovery wings in prisons; vocational educational training; and, crucially, providing hope and the chance to get inmates into work, be it during their time in prison or while they are on licence.

Like others, I have concerns about what help the Prisons Minister or the Lord Chancellor can give those who have served in the armed forces and fallen to post-traumatic stress disorder or other difficulties. What will be done to help veterans in particular?

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right on this. A proportion of people are, in effect, mentally unwell and then trip up into prison, and we know that veterans are among them. That is why I have been liaising with the Health Secretary to look at mental health care and provision, in the community and for those who go into prison, to make sure that we can tailor what happens to them during their sentence to try to give them a better chance to get the support to go straight.

The Lord Chancellor is absolutely right to say that the protection of the public and rehabilitation are not mutually exclusive. Does he agree that one key factor here, as outlined in the White Paper, is early assessment of prisoners when they come into prison to make sure that we pick up issues of mental health, lack of literacy and drug addiction and that we have a proper plan throughout their time in incarceration for release into the community in a much better place than they were before? Is that not the key issue that we need to be looking at?

My hon. Friend the Chair of the Justice Committee is absolutely right; it is important that on early admission into prison we evaluate all the different factors—the level of numeracy and literacy, the level of addiction, whether the offender has a qualification and the mental health issues—to make sure that the offender’s time in prison takes them forward in each of those regards and that we then, with the prisoner passports, link up the support they will get on release. That is the way we will drive down reoffending, give offenders a second chance, if they want to take it, to turn their lives around, and ultimately protect the public.

The Sentencing Council says that most domestic abuse perpetrators will receive a sentence unlikely to reduce reoffending. Coercive and domestic abuse is a hidden pandemic, getting worse every day, and it is the hardest thing in the world to come forward and report it. I pay particular tribute to the hon. Member for Burton (Kate Griffiths) for her courage in pursuing and exposing the horrific case of coercive and domestic abuse by her husband, former MP Andrew Griffiths. It can happen to any one of us. But the justice system is indifferent to the victims it was set up to protect. I spoke to a young woman last week who told me that her experience of the system was worse than the abuse itself. Labour has a plan ready to go to protect and support victims. When will this Government act?

First, I associate myself with the hon. Lady’s comments about my hon. Friend the Member for Burton (Kate Griffiths) and her experience. She showed incredible courage.

The hon. Lady asked when we started to act. We did that when we came into government—[Interruption.] Can the hon. Lady listen? We have tripled the amount of support for victims during our tenure. We will invest £150 million this year. On top of that critical support for the independent sexual violence advisers and the independent domestic violence advisers, we have also published a victims law consultation, which, for the first time, will make victims’ experience central to the functioning of the criminal justice system. [Interruption.] I remind the hon. Lady again: triple the amount of funding for victims during our tenure.