The latest contribution to the current blog series setting out the top three priorities for the new Justice Secretary comes from NoOffence, the UK’s leading criminal justice network. It is jointly written by Sue Clifford (@NoOffenceCIC), Chief Executive and Joe Kuipers (@joekuipers), the Chair with input from other board members.
Four fundamental questions and answers that will guide me
- Do we have a Criminal Justice System (CJS), or a collection of poorly integrated, disconnected and fragmented services overseen by several Departments of State?
- Is the design of our ‘CJS’ evidence-led?
- How much money should we spend on reducing crime and reoffending?
- Is the issue of crime one that concerns the voting public (unless they are victims) or an issue that generates intelligent public debate?
- No – the CJS is not really a ‘system’ and, with an expanding provider base, more fragmentation looks likely.
- No – the design of the CJS is not evidence-led, despite some attempts to reference evidence when it fits the prevailing ‘politics’. The prevailing ‘politics’ and public attitude is one of punishment first and foremost . Any discussion is predominantly an emotional response to the harm done by those who commit crimes, bounded by vested interests and political dogma.
- Generally people do not to want to pay for services that they do not personally need. Government will focus on cost reductions for the foreseeable future, coupled with increased outsourcing in the belief that this will give better value to the taxpayer. This also devolves risk to providers and reduces the ‘control’ government has over services.
- Generally no. The public appears variably interested in crime and justice; more so when personally involved, or in a number of cases when responding to unbalanced reporting. Crime and justice do not feature significantly in the forthcoming general election.
These four answers form the basis of my priorities. NoOffence!CIC is well placed to help me to achieve these priorities working alongside CJS partners. Now for some detail.
- I will work constructively with the Home Secretary and other key ministers to drive forward changes that improve the system and make the whole greater than the sum of its parts, which currently it is not. I will be introducing a range of initiatives to tackle system weaknesses.
- I will seek to achieve a coalescence of political opinion to enable a more evidence-led approach. Justice has become increasingly politicised to the detriment of victims and the taxpayer.
- I will seek to obtain the same funding protection afforded to health and education and review outsourced services if they do not improve rehabilitation results and secure cost reductions. I will introduce stringent accountability systems to monitor the finances and performance of CJS players to ensure that they are telling the truth to avoid malversation through highly skilled account management.
- I will highlight evidence-based achievements that reduce criminal behaviour. I will drive the debate toward rehabilitative approaches over punitive ones, explaining that the reduction in crime is only achievable if those committing criminal behavior are dissuaded from doing so, something which increasing and expensive incarceration has failed to achieve.
The purpose of this blog series is to stimulate a debate about where our criminal justice system should be heading.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on what the justice priorities should be.