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Russell Webster

Russell Webster

Criminal Justice & substance misuse expert and author of this blog.

A 21st century justice model

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Crest Advisory says a modern justice system must balance punishment and rehabilitation, not prioritise one over the other.

A non-political approach

The criminal justice system is in crisis. Despite a plethora of reforms, the system is not built to deal with the changing face of crime and the markedly different challenges it now faces compared to a decade ago.

That’s the conclusion of Crest Advisory’s Rewiring Punishment and Rehabilitation report which examines and sets out how the criminal justice system could be redesigned to deliver better outcomes – keeping people safe and rehabilitating offenders, whilst securing public confidence.

The report maps the current sentencing / diversionary landscape, and explores the principles needed to drive reform. In addition, the report identifies good practice and innovation, while exploring how other systems have transformed themselves to meet contemporary challenges. One of the report’s strengths is the inclusion of the perspectives of offenders themselves.

Successive governments have failed in their reforms at every stage of the ‘offender journey’ through the system, meaning:

  • Interventions to prevent offending / reoffending reach people too late
  • Punishment within the community is virtually non-existent, so prison is over-utilised
  • Prisons are overcrowded and thus incapable of proper rehabilitation
  • The social causes of crime and reoffending are neglected

The report argues that the current system delivers neither punishment or rehabilitation as an objective, and that the solution to the failure of criminal justice reform lies in balancing both objectives, not prioritising one over the other.


The report sets out 14 recommendations, which lay the groundwork for an alternative vision of the criminal justice system, including:

  • Introduce a new national presumption against the use of custodial sentences less than six months, for non-serious offences
  • Pilot a new ‘swift and certain’ programme for punishing prolific offenders in the community
  • Incentivise PCCs to work with probation providers to co-design new innovative community sentences and greater flexibility in commissioning electronic monitoring
  • Give Police and Crime Commissioners and directly elected mayors the opportunity to bid for managing the cost of offenders sentenced to short custodial sentences
  • Pilot a network of ‘rehabilitation hubs’ for male prolific offenders within police force areas, based on the ‘women’s centre’ model
  • Reform post-sentence supervision arrangements so that probation providers are given greater discretion in prioritising resources
  • Overhaul community sentences to ensure new national minimum standards on swiftness, intensity, enforcement and transparency
  • Create a new £100 million criminal justice transformation fund, against which PCCs and Directly Elected Mayors could seek capital and revenue funding to support innovation and join up local services locally
  • Expand revenue raising powers to enable PCCs and directly elected mayors to raise a new ‘Crime and Justice’ Precept raising up to an additional £180,000,000 per year
  • Amend the Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities to explicitly designate as ‘vulnerable’ any individual who is homeless upon completion of a custodial sentence

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