Mike Maiden was Chief Executive of Staffordshire and West Midlands Probation Trust and was seconded to NOMS to lead the implementation of Transforming Rehablitation, the radical overhaul of the probation service. He is currently an independent consultant concentrating on organisational change and improvement. He is also Volunteer Chief Officer with North Yorkshire Police with responsibility for citizen and volunteer involvement. So he is particularly well placed to contribute to this guest blog series setting out the top three priorities for the new Justice Secretary.
So, now I’m Justice Secretary
I’m inheriting a whole range of duties and responsibilities so I need to sort some priorities. I want everyone to be dealt with fairly and for decisions made to be open and transparent. I want less crime and for victims to feel they are heard and their views have some influence on sentencing and other decisions. And I want those who offend against society to be brought to justice. I can’t see much political argument about those as a set of priorities.
Now the tricky bit. I want those offenders to have a real chance to rehabilitate but I don’t want reoffending. I especially don’t want any reoffending that is dangerous and high profile because that is going to be seriously career limiting for me. I want prisons and community sentences to be effective but also to be tough enough to stand the public opinion test. This requires some serious thought!
I’ve been left with a reformed system. It’s enshrined in legislation and it’s hardly had time to bed down. I like a lot of it. How stupid was it not to have any rehabilitative interventions for under 12 month prisoners? I’ll keep that in place. The idea of “through the gate” is compelling so I’ll also keep the idea that one provider takes responsibility on both sides of the prison wall. Some of my predecessors were besotted with top-down targets, but not me. I want to trust professionals to do the job they have been trained for and measuring the outcomes they achieve rather than the processes they use is a no brainer in my world. I also think that an issue as complex as reducing offending needs a lot of innovative thinkers on the job. Well-trained people seem to me to be essential. I’m all for giving them incentives and I think the private sector can offer some really helpful freedom and innovation so I’ll keep a mixed range of providers.
A lack of co-ordination and accountability
But I’m worried. I look at this system and I ask myself who is really in charge. One thing I have always looked for is the place in which the coordination takes place, where loose ends are tied and potential disasters spotted and averted. I don’t see it. I see risk looming and I don’t think that contract and account management is sufficiently “hands on” to produce proper control. The offender moves from public to private provider, from area to area and, consequently, from provider to provider. I’m really not convinced that this system protects me from criticism. I can blame my predecessor for a while but I need to take responsibility for it myself.
I’ve decided. I want a public sector provider that sits at the heart of the process. I can’t turn the clock back but I can make sure that one part of the system takes overall responsibility. It’s got to be the public sector because I can’t see that justice and transparency are served by any other sector playing the role. I don’t want a huge monolithic public organization but I want one that has the authority to draw all the threads together. I’ll need to consult on what this looks like but I can’t leave things as they are.
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. Please use the comments section below or follow the conversation on Twitter, using the hashtag #nextGrayling