A five year strategy on reducing reoffending was published on the 9th February 2006 which outlined the policy direction for public protection, community sentencing, offender management and organisational changes, such as the creation of Probation Trusts and the system of commissioning. To answer the question I will focus on Offender Management and also the introduction of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, which came into affect last year. I feel that these two issues will affect our work with offenders.
One of the key aims of offender management was to emphasise on end to end offender management, this will mean that there will a named offender manager for every offender. They will manage the offender, often from before they are sentenced, throughout their prison sentence, and then during time on a community sentence or on licence in the community. Offender managers will be responsible for making sure that they are both punished and rehabilitated properly; and who will get involved as early as possible in managing the offender.
Many of the most regular offenders face complex, multiple and inter-related problems, and sorting out these issues one at a time will not work, they need to be managed in the round, with interventions planned and put in the right order. Due to offenders experiencing many different relationships during their sentence the offender may feel that they are being passed from pillar to post. This type of experience is likely to be ineffective, it could even be counter-productive.
So an offender manager can actually be seen as a broker, acting as a co-ordinator and monitor of the various services to be provided. Strong partnerships across government and beyond are being built to address the many linked problems that contribute to offending which are health, education and employment, housing, finance and social and family links. With regards to health, prisoner's health has been moved into the mainstream, with Primary care trusts taking responsibility for prison health meaning that prisons will now be comparable with those outside.
In 2004-2005 about 60,000 drug users engaged with clinical and CARAT services in prison and 5,000 drug rehabilitations programmes were completed. ( Home Office Statistics) What will also be improved on will be alcohol interventions and treatment for people with mental disorders. With regards to education and employment work is being done on cutting the numbers down on offenders who have poor basic skills. In 2004-2005 over 40,000 offenders were released from prison with an education, employment or training place to go to.
(Home office Statistics). Housing is an issue too and working in conjunction with NOMS, HMPS, housing providers and supporting people arrangements the NPS will increase access for offenders to appropriate and sustainable accommodation. Work will also be done on working with partners at local and regional levels to help prisoners keep their accommodation while they are in prison. Focus will also be on developing services through voluntary partnerships to provide advice on finance, benefits and debt.
Supporting offenders' social and family links is often the key to successful resettlement, and can help sort out other problems like employment and housing, this means that areas will be expected to work closely with other agencies at a local level to ensure that work with individual offenders is set in the wider context of the whole family. Focusing on each offender as an individual will help us assess risk better, cut down on reoffending and will also help with managing a diverse population of offenders well and tackling their individual issues.
Another key priority will be to ensure that the NPS is fully compliant with equality legislation and that equality and diversity is mainstreamed into all core business practice. From April 2006 performance against key service delivery targets will be broken down by race/ethnicity and gender, quarterly. The Criminal Justice Act 2003 that came into effect 4th April 2005 is an act to make provisions about criminal justice and about dealing with offenders. This introduced the new way offenders were now to be dealt with as opposed to how they were dealt with under the Criminal Justice Act 1991.
The main aim of the act is to reduce crime and reoffending by updating the criminal justice system. Changes to the sentencing framework will make it more effective, targeting prison sentences on more serious offenders. This will mean that the prison population can be more effectively managed. An anticipated outcome of the Act is the increased use of Community Orders to enhance flexibility and commitment to rehabilitation. The intention is to focus or reserve custody for dangerous, persistent and more serious offenders and move low level offenders away from inappropriate custodial sentences.
Focus is also placed on the increased use of fines by allowing them to be used instead of or alongside other community and custodial sentences. In particular the intention is for the fine to be used for low risk offenders as an alternative to Community Orders. The act makes a distinction between dangerous offenders and other offenders, meaning that most prisoners with sentences of 12 months plus will automatically be released at the half way point and be on licence for the remainder of their sentence, clearly putting more pressure on offender managers.
Discretionary licence will be reserved for more dangerous offenders. The Act has drawn on research that suggests a custodial sentence with a supervised licence has a less likely chance of the offender reoffending. So to conclude we can see that the way we deal with those who break the law is fundamental to the health of our society. The five year strategy plan should transform the way the way offenders are managed and punished, it should reduce reoffending and cut crime, and will support the law abiding citizens and make society stronger and safer.