The future of probation services

MA response

Probation worker with offender

The MA has submitted a response to the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) consultation Strengthening probation, building confidence.

We suggest three critical things that would be needed in order to minimise the use of short prison sentences:

  1. Good quality provision of alternatives to custody to meet the needs of offenders available in every area
  2. Awareness by sentencers of the services available and comprehensive, good quality pre-sentence reports
  3. Sentencers to have the power to monitor offenders on community orders by enacting Section 178 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003

The consultation response also notes that rehabilitative early interventions could be possible (particularly with repeat, low level offenders) through the enactment of Section 151 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 and Schedule 6 of the Courts Act 2003.

The MOJ want to consider how post-sentence supervision (PSS) can better fulfil its statutory aim of rehabilitating offenders. We suggest that specific rehabilitative targets must be set for offenders while they are in custody, and note that a return to custody is often counter-productive to the stated aim of rehabilitation. We suggest that it is arguable that if the intention is to ensure that PSS is truly rehabilitative in purpose then options for punishing breach should be reconsidered. Removing any punitive aspect to the supervision through imposing immediate custody would be one option.

One of the key messages in our consultation response is the importance of good communication and information flow between all agencies of the criminal justice system involved in the support and management of offenders, and the importance of co-commissioning of services across government departments. In particular, we point out that the split between the National Probation Service (NPS) and community rehabilitation companies (CRCs) means that sentencers often have insufficient information about the services provided by CRCs. We suggest that improved communication and liaison between the NPS, CRCs and sentencers would assist in the appropriate sentencing and supervision of offenders.

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