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1 Mar 2019

Howard League responds to National Audit Office review of failed probation reforms

The Howard League for Penal Reform has responded to the National Audit Office’s review of reforms to probation, published today (Friday 1 March).

The report analyses the impact of the Ministry of Justice’s Transforming Rehabilitation programme, which involved the part-privatisation of probation services.

It finds that the reforms, which were proposed and implemented during Chris Grayling’s tenure as Secretary of State for Justice, have failed to meet targets to reduce reoffending, led to a surge in the number of people recalled to prison, and proven costly to the taxpayer.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “When Chris Grayling announced his plans to privatise probation, the Howard League warned that they would create a system that set people up to fail.

“Unfortunately, we have been proved right and, today, the National Audit Office has found that the Ministry of Justice set itself up to fail in the way it approached these disastrous reforms.

“Rather than helping to turn lives around, Transforming Rehabilitation has made communities less safe and cost the taxpayer a fortune. Everyone can see that it has failed, not least Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Probation. Now we must seize this moment of opportunity to put things right.

“Moving the deckchairs will not suffice. The Howard League has developed a model for the future – Community Justice – that would involve minimum disruption but have maximum impact. It would build on the lessons from the past, unite the probation service and fix the problem.

“We look forward to working positively with ministers to put the proposals into practice.”

The Howard League submitted its proposals for Community Justice – which would involve a national strategic focus combined with local service delivery – to the Ministry of Justice in September last year, as part of the ministry’s consultation on strengthening probation.

Notes to editors

  1. The Howard League for Penal Reform is the oldest penal reform charity in the world. It is a national charity working for less crime, safer communities and fewer people in prison.
  1. The Howard League’s response to the Ministry of Justice’s consultation on strengthening probation can be read in full on the charity’s website.
  1. In a blogpost published earlier this week, Frances Crook suggested some principles that should be agreed when considering how to improve probation. The blogpost can be read on the Howard League website.
  1. In 2014, the Howard League published a media statement on the Transforming Rehabilitation programme, which stated: “A public service is being destroyed without any evidence that the fragmented landscape created will perform any better or help make communities any safer. Indeed, reforms aimed at imposing compulsory support to those leaving prison after short sentences are certain to set people up to fail.” The statement was widely reported, and can be read online in an article about the Dorset, Devon and Cornwall Community Rehabilitation Company, published by the Dorset Echo.
  1. The National Audit Office’s report on Transforming Rehabilitation will be available on its website from Friday 1 February.
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