Academic journal article British Journal of Community Justice

Mind the Gap: Quality without Equality in Transforming Rehabilitation

Academic journal article British Journal of Community Justice

Mind the Gap: Quality without Equality in Transforming Rehabilitation

Article excerpt

Abstract

This paper forms part of a research project that started in 2012 and aimed at reviewing and identifying existing practices within probation that should be highlighted and maintained. The review focuses on the black and minority ethnic (BME) population of probation users. The nexus of our investigation was the London Probation Trust (LPT) and our primary research question was whether race equality can drive quality in the probation service. If the current reforms are all about competition and quality outcomes, then where does race equality sit?

Keywords

Transforming Rehabilitation; black and minority ethnic offenders; equality

Introduction

In the UK, the world economic crisis in combination with the 2010 change in government brought a number of institutional restructures and a shift in the philosophy on public spending. Under the slogan of "Punishment and Reform", a number of public consultations were initiated including some that were focused on probation services (Ministry of Justice, 2012).

There should be no doubt that substantial changes will occur to criminal justice service provision nationally. The key concern principally stems from the high reoffending rates (i.e. one in two offenders return to custody, rising to 75% of young offenders). According to the Offender Management Caseload Statistics, in 2009, the UK had 151 prisoners per 100,000 population, the second highest rate in Western Europe, below Spain (Ministry of Justice, 2010). In England and Wales, the prison population is forecast to rise to 94,000 before the next general election (Berman, 2010). These failings are at an annual cost of £10 billion with an average bill of around £40k for each adult offender and £200k for juveniles (National Audit Office, 2010).

In December 2010, the UK coalition government published the Green Paper "Breaking the Cycle", announcing its intentions for key reforms to the adult and youth justice sentencing philosophy and practice. One of the results of this new approach was the introduction of what is now called "Payment by Results" policy. One key element of this new approach to competition for criminal justice public funds is to test a range of models where providers from the private, public and voluntary sectors work in partnership and are paid by the results they deliver.

Following various consultations that aimed at bringing tailored changes to the probation services, 598 formal responses were received17. In their subsequent 2013 paper Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) (Ministry of Justice, 2013), the government is said to have reflected on these responses putting "forward proposals for reforming the delivery of offender services in the community to reduce reoffending rates whilst delivering improved value for money for the tax payer" (Ministry of Justice, 2013). One of the key objectives of these reforms is "opening the majority of probation services to competition, with contracts to be awarded to providers who can deliver efficient, high quality services and improve value for money" (Ministry of Justice, 2013).

It is expected that 70% of probation's core work will be put out to competitive tender. We now know that TR will create a National Probation Service (NPS) taking away the current functions of the 35 Probation Trusts. NPS will retain the risk assessment of all offenders, the direct management of "high risk offenders", the provision of advice to courts/Parole Board, the provision of victim liaison services and the management of their existing Approved Premises. What we also know is that 21 contract package areas will be created where market providers from all sectors will have the opportunity to compete for contracts that will pay them for providing supervision and rehabilitation services to service users who are:

* sentenced to community order or suspended sentence order

* sentenced to custodial sentence, including those discharged from short custodial sentences. …

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