Dear Editor, Our criminal justice system is failing.
England and Wales has one of the highest per capita rates of imprisonment in Western Europe and the majority of prisoners are re-convicted within two years of release from custody. Whitehall has demonstrated it is incapable of developing innovative and tailored solutions to address these fundamental failings. To stop the rot we need a radical shift of decision-making control and funding down to a local level.
From prisons and probation services to neighbourhood policing and drug treatment centres – in a raft of policy areas local people and politicians are best-placed to take the lead. This does not require additional money but it does require the additional expertise that only local people can bring in developing and delivering tailored and innovative policy solutions.
An astonishing 35 per cent of prison capacity is made up of prisoners on remand, prisoners sentenced to 12 months or less and prisoners less than 18 years of age. Today’s report into the criminal justice system published by the All Party Parliamentary Local Government Group argues some of the money being spent on these ineffective prison places would be better put into a local ‘safety and justice’ budget to fund, among other things, local prisons and neighbourhood policing.
Professionals currently spend their time complying with national policy when they should be free to experiment to see what works for their citizens. As our prison system lurches from crisis to crisis we need to forge a new consensus around the transfer of funding and powers to local politicians to decide the approach in their area.
Clive Betts MP, Chair, Local Government APPG
Andy Sawford, Chief Executive Local Government Information Unit
David Davis MP
David Howarth MP, Liberal Democrat Shadow Secretary of State for Justice
Margaret Eaton, Chairman, LGA
Lord Ramsbotham, Former Chief Inspector of Prisons
Coun Jason Stacey, London Councils’ Executive member for Crime and Public Protection
Sir Jeremy Beecham, Vice-Chairman, LGA
Coun Richard Kemp, Leader, Liberal Democrat Group, LGA
Jonathan Aitken, Chair CSJ Committee on Rehabilitation of Prisoners