Counter-Productive Cuts to our Justice System could Lose Lives and Damage Society

13 Jun 2021
Probation Service

Cuts to services that are designed to reduce or mitigate problems inevitably end up costing society more, whether or not management are hitting their targets. Seven years of Conservative meddling in the Probation Service could cost us more than just money.

The Ministry of Justice has been in the news recently because of the murders at a conference about re-offending which took place about a year ago. The right-wing were as usual quick to discredit the whole concept of re-habilitation of offenders. They saw the conference as evidence of failure.

A failure it certainly was, and a tragedy for two individuals and their families and friends. Mistakes were obviously made in the assessment of the murderer, a convicted terrorist who had been approved for an early release.

But the fact that that two freed former convicts present at the conference tackled the assailant is also a sign of success for the process of rehabilitation.

Prison without attempts at effective rehabilitation is simply a waste of society's money. Certainly it does remove criminals for the duration of that part of the sentence that they must serve in custody. And of course prison is a punishment for the crime committed and the hurt and pain that was inflicted by the criminal on others.

However it is often just a way to hide society's neglect of the disturbed, of the mentally ill, of individuals twisted by cruelty and abuse into visiting the same on others, and of those whose lack of self esteem makes them vulnerable to being misled or manipulated into being the tools of stronger or more hardened criminals.

Set a against the high financial and social cost of failure, the cuts to the criminal justice system in general, and to the the probation and rehabilitation sector in particular, are not only poor business management but counter-productive folly.

The part-privatisation of the probation service brought in by Chris Grayling in 2014 when he was Justice Secretary was a mistake yet to be corrected. The Probation Trusts were replaced with a public-sector service dealing with high risk offenders but with lesser risk offenders being dealt with by 21 private companies.

Reductions in reoffending were disappointing, service delivery was complicated, the promised involvement of charities and volunteer organisations never happened and staff morale plummeted.

In 2018, MPs on the Justice Committee described this as "a mess that may never be made to work". The Committee declared itself to be "unconvinced that the changes had produced a service for managing offenders that was either effective or viable."

It remains as true today as it has ever been that the Ministry of Justice in general and the criminal justice system in particular need far more resources, otherwise crime will rise, reoffending will increase and the quality of justice and the security of society will both steadily deteriorate.

Lives, and the quality of lives, depend on it.