Could the privatisation of probation services bring down Chris Grayling?

9:36 am - January 10th 2013

by Septicisle    

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If you thought the government’s Monday’s mid-term review was pointless and self-indulgent, yesterday’s “audit” was effectively a re-hash of the review except with a little more often completely irrelevant detail.

For a start it doesn’t keep a tally of which pledges have broken, as this would apparently have been “too simplistic“; translated that means would have given hacks an easy negative headline. The Telegraph claimed 70 pledges hadn’t been kept, while Andrew Sparrow has calculated it at around 33.

Either way it’s meaningless as there is again no mention of the double-dip recession or the lack of growth, while it brushes over the failure to meet the “supplementary element” of the fiscal mandate, that debt as a proportion of GDP should be falling by 2015-16.

More to the point is that pledges are worthless when they’re pledges to introduce bad policy, something the coalition has done to abundance.

Much the same can be said of the announcement from Chris Grayling on the privatisation of the probation service.

Anyone who isn’t Grayling looking at the problems this is bound to throw up would think a major pilot scheme would be in order, not least because of the failures both of the Pathways to Work scheme under Labour and Grayling’s own Work programme, neither of which bode well for the success of further payment by results schemes.

Not for Grayling though. There are times when you simply have to do something, and this apparently is one of those. It’s certainly true that re-offending rates are far too high, yet there isn’t the slightest indication that private firms will be any better at stopping those out after serving a short sentence from re-offending than the state is currently.

Indeed, that the probation service will continue to look after the most serious and high risk offenders is hardly a vote of confidence in the capabilities of those that will shortly be submitting bids, and you can guarantee it’ll be the same old companies that have cocked it up so marvellously in the past: G4S, Serco and Capita will almost certainly be first in the queue.

As Harry Fletcher argues, it’s difficult not to see this both as purely ideological and to cut costs to the bone. If it wasn’t the former, then Grayling would have expanded the pilot scheme; if it isn’t the latter, then there’s no reason whatsoever why the probation service can’t also take control of the new requirement to monitor those out after serving less than 12 months.

Regardless of the motive, the responsibility will still lie with the secretary of state, and anything with the potential to bring Grayling down can’t be all bad.

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About the author
'Septicisle' is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He mostly blogs, poorly, over at on politics and general media mendacity.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Fight the cuts ,Law

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Reader comments

Leaving aside the obvious fact that the policy is based entirely on ideology, it doesn’t even address the areas which matter.

Research indicates that there are three main factors in reducing reoffending rates: that the released prisoner has been able to maintain good contact with his family (I use the male pronoun simply for brevity – sorry, sistas!); that he will have somewhere of a decent standard to live; and that he will have decent employment prospects.

Unfortunately (and all this is particularly the case with young offenders, but is just as true of adult cons), the first tends to be stymied by the Prison Service holding them at a considerable distance from their families (who, being mostly poor, can seldom afford to visit anyway), and by the tendency of prison staff to treat family members (when they can visit) like something which has just dropped out of the north end of a southbound dog; the second (assuming moving back in with their families is not an option) by a severe shortage of public sector rented accomodation and by advanced NIMBYism; and the third by the prejudice of the overwhelming majority of employers (60% by all accounts) against employing anyone who has ever been in prison, irrespective of the nature of the offence.

On this third point, matters are not helped by the fact that laws governing the rehabilitation of offenders have not been substantially revised since 1974. The cut-off points beyond which most convictions need no longer to be declared have remained unchanged despite a marked increase in the average length of custodial sentences in the intervening decades. It really is not that difficult nowadays for, say, an eighteen-year-old first offender to get lumbered with a sentence of 30 months, which will mean that he will still have to declare that conviction on job applications when he’s 58. With the inevitable results.

Kenneth Clarke was going to take a look at those provisions, but of course (much to the glee of Sunny Hundal, Sadiq Khan and others who really ought to know better) was manoeuvred sideways into a non-job because he was too much of a liberal to stroke the G-spot of the blue-rinse brigade and the readers of the Heil.

His successor, clearly, is as nasty as he looks.

2. Jimmy Savile Fan

Does it really matter if Grayling is brought down or not? He’d just be replace by another Tory.

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