Prime Minister, Boris Johnson’s, call today for an urgent review of prison sentencing policy – which would see 10,000 extra prison places - has been all over the news today. Napo General Secretary, Ian Lawrence, spoke to Sky News’ lunchtime programme about the proposals.
Ian told Sky News that there were already too many people in prison; people who should not be there like those with mental health issues. What was really needed in terms of sentencing policy, he said, was a return to ‘what works’, and proper rehabilitative work from more, skilled, probation officers in the community.
Grayling’s TR reforms were an acknowledged disaster, he told the programme. The part-privatisation of the probation service had failed on all counts and resulted in the government U-turn and the return of ‘offender supervision’ into the National Probation Service. Napo welcomed this and was committed to working with the MoJ to deliver but, he told Sky, the proposed changes were not enough: we need all probation work brought back into under public accountability. He also said that we needed more resources and more skilled probation staff. There were currently over 1,000 vacancies across the country – HMPPS needed to motivate and recruit staff as a matter of urgency and the current, two-tier pay system that was the result of the TR system was not the way.
Was Boris Johnson listening? Ian said he hoped so. Napo had a good working relationship with Justice Secretary, Robert Buckland, and we believe he understands the situation. But, Ian stressed, the way forward is properly resourced supervision in the community, to deliver rehabilitation and to keep communities safe: and this was only possible if probation was in the hands of skilled professional practitioners not private companies interested only in profit.