Today’s big story on sentencing reform, and the return of the Tories favourite old pre-election mantra of ‘lock em up and throw away the key,’ is symptomatic of the failure by successive Governments to properly understand the need for a balanced approach to prisons and rehabilitation.
I have just returned to HQ from the interview with Sky News earlier today where I tried to introduce a different perspective, and highlight a number of Napo’s campaigning priorities. Depressingly today’s debate has been dominated by the headline of 10,000 new prison places (and at least one new prison) to be financed by another huge windfall from that Magic Money Tree.
Same old, same old
There are a few reasons why the policy shift should be subject to major scrutiny. Firstly, because it represents a brutal ‘pitchforking’ of the reformist shoots previously planted by Messrs Gauke and Stewart on the need to abolish short term prison sentences which would have made a decent start in freeing up space across the HMP estate. Although by now we should know better than to expect a few facts to get in the way of the populist soundbites resurrected by Boris and his chums as they move inexorably towards a November general election.
Secondly, and in fairness to Secretary of State Robert Buckland, who at least acknowledged the need to take a holistic view of penal and rehabilitative policy on the early bulletins, it's yet again been all about Prison being the place where society’s ‘problems’ can be sent and sorted. Anyone with even half an idea about the justice system can tell you that this is a patently absurd mind-set, both from a financial and political standpoint. It's been tried tested and failed more times than many of us can remember and has seen the Prison population rise to bursting point across several decades.
Today, and perhaps very well-timed, your National Chair Katie Lomas and I have served notice on Sonia Crozier that Napo are now in dispute over the Offender Management in Custody strategy for a number of reasons (as articulated our letter - CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD). Our serious doubts about the practicalities of OMiC were raised a long time ago and have been again in light of the Governments U-turn on Probation, but it’s been an awfully long slog trying to get someone to take our concerns seriously. Today’s announcements should at least ring some more bells in this regard.
Fortunately it's not just us who are somewhat miffed at developments, and last week we met with our colleagues from the POA who also have serious issues in common cause around grading, qualification and workloads. We agreed to exchange notes going forward, maintain contact and seek joint meetings with senior HMPPS leaders and Ministers.
We will also be raising this subject as a matter of urgency at this weeks’ meeting of the NPS JNC and we will report further to members as soon as we can.