Reforming our prisons – consultation

Last week’s damning report from the Chief Inspector of Probation makes it clear. We need a radically new approach to rehabilitation.

The primary purpose of our penal system should be to prevent crime by rehabilitating offenders. Right now, it’s failing.

Prisons are overcrowded and understaffed. Violence, riots, drug use, self-harm and suicide are all far too common.

Resettlement services and supervision for those leaving prison are woefully inadequate. Community Rehabilitation Company contracts are so underfunded and mismanaged that the Government has had to end them early.

And a lack of services – in prison and in the community – means that many former offenders are not able to find work. Worse, the financial support they receive is often not enough to cover even basic necessities. Far too many of them are homeless when they get out of prison.

As a result, re-offending rates are far too high. Half of those who leave prison re-offend within a year. Estimates pin the cost of this to our country at around £10 billion a year.

The Liberal Democrats demand better. That’s why we’ve drawn up proposals to transform the criminal justice system and make it far more effective at tackling re-offending.

At our Spring Conference in York, we launched a new consultation paper on plans to:

  • Significantly reduce the prison population, which is currently the largest in Western Europe. This will include greater use of tough, effective community sentences.
  • Radically transform prisons themselves. We’ll build rehabilitation and recovery into their design, improve conditions and allow more time for purposeful activities.
  • Establish a new, holistic approach to rehabilitation. We’ll give local co-ordinating bodies responsibility for supporting offenders to build a life free from crime.
  • Properly invest in rehabilitation, setting the costs of prisons, supervision and services against the huge societal and financial benefits of reducing reoffending. Less crime means fewer victims of crime, fewer people in prison, and more people in work.

This is just the beginning of the process of developing new policy on rehabilitation. Over the coming months, we’ll be consulting with experts and organisations in every part of the penal system.

But we also want to hear from you. Would you like to play a part in shaping our new policy? Read the paper below and email your responses to Mike German ( by Friday 3 May 2019.

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