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4 Oct 2016

Public put at risk by probation sell-off

The Howard League for Penal Reform has responded to the joint report by HM Chief Inspectors of Probation and Prisons on Through the Gate resettlement services for short-term prisoners, published today (Tuesday 4 October).

The report studies the impact of the government’s Transforming Rehabilitation reforms, under which all prisoners sentenced to 12 months or less are now subject to 12 months’ supervision by probation services on release.

The reforms also involved the break-up of the public probation service, with a large part of it handed to 21 privately-run Community Rehabilitation Companies who are now responsible for supporting people as they pass ‘Through the Gate’ from prison to the community.

Inspectors found that services were poor. Too many prisoners reached their release date without their immediate needs having been met or even recognised. Inspectors were concerned by the high rate at which people had gone on to reoffend and been recalled to prison.

Of the 86 cases inspected, not one prisoner had been helped into employment. More than one-third of prisoners were released with nowhere to live. Not enough help was given to people in debt.

Victims were not protected, as the risk of harm posed by released prisoners was not always recognised. In 61 per cent of cases inspected, the Community Rehabilitation Company had taken insufficient account of public protection issues. This problem was particularly noticeable in domestic abuse cases.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “Transforming Rehabilitation was supposed to turn lives around, reduce reoffending and make us all safer. It is doing precisely the opposite – failing to help people find homes and employment, failing to prevent people committing further offences, and failing by exposing victims of crime to more danger.

“When a Secretary of State refuses to listen to expert advice and ploughs ahead with ideas that are divorced from reality, disastrous policies will always follow. This reckless experiment with public safety, which the Howard League consistently warned against, is a catastrophic example, and its impact will be felt for many years.

“I call on the new Secretary of State to monitor these contracts with exacting care so that they may be rescinded without any additional cost to the taxpayer. The probation service needs to be reconstructed so that it serves the public and victims of crime.”

The failure of the Transforming Rehabilitation programme is becoming increasingly clear.

In August, HM Inspectorate of Probation reported that the quality of probation work in Durham had declined since the Transforming Rehabilitation programme began. A similar report on services in Derbyshire, which reached the same conclusion, was published the following month.

Less than two weeks ago, the Public Accounts Committee’s report on Transforming Rehabilitation concluded that the government’s promised “rehabilitation revolution” was far from complete.

Only last week, HM Inspectorate of Prisons reported that women’s services had deteriorated and were “under threat” following the implementation of the programme.

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. A copy of the report can be found on Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation’s website from Tuesday 4 October.


Rob Preece
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