Innovate to cut re-offending, says criminal justice report

By staff writers
10 Aug 2010

The criminal justice system needs to be overhauled through community-based innovation to overcome massive reoffending, a new report says.

The criminal justice system in the UK has been dominated by short-term thinking and the fear of adverse public reaction to new ideas, the Young Foundation think-tank says in 'Turning the corner: beyond incarceration and re-offending'.

The report calls for the introduction of a centre for piloting new initiatives, a scheme to fund local-authority investment in alternatives to custody and a bid to enhance the employment prospects of prisoners on their release.

The new coalition government has made a rhetorical break from previous harsh Conservative rhetoric on criminal justice, and now admits that prison does not work.

But how far it is prepared to match its 'big society' pretensions with actual investment in alternatives and a shift towards restorative justice is yet to be seen.

Anton Shelupanov, from the Young Foundation, who co-wrote the new report with Rushanara Ali, commented: "With prison numbers and costs soaring, there's a real danger that the criminal justice system won't be able to perform its core function of keeping crime low and the public safe."

He continued: "Justice policy has been stuck on a treadmill for years - with rising prison numbers and consistently appalling levels of reoffending. In the best public services, and in well-known successful companies, innovation is a major part of what keeps them ahead. We now need more than ever to develop the alternatives that can help people jump off that treadmill."

A YouGov poll for the report has found that 60 per cent of the public think it is a good idea to reward communities which succeed in tackling crime through community-led interventions. Such rewards could include lower council tax bills, the report suggested.

When to select from a list which groups had great or some responsibility for tackling crime locally, 96 per cent of those surveyed said the police, 95 per cent said parents,, 76 per cent citizens working together, 71 per cent teachers and 58 per cent said religious leaders.

The Young Foundation also wants to see practical support and cooperation with employers to ensure that those coming out of the criminal justice system are not isolated.

Writing on Ekklesia (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/12815), Anton Shelupanov says: "Having a stable job can reduce the risk of reoffending by up to a half, and yet currently three quarters of those leaving prison have no job to go to."

The new report says the UK has much to learn from the New York Center for Court Innovation in the USA, which runs demonstration projects to address offending and helps scale them appropriately when they work well.

Writes Shelupanov: "Since it came into being, both crime and the use of custody in New York have fallen, resulting in improved public safety as well as savings to the US taxpayer. One of its best known achievements is the acclaimed Red Hook Community Justice Centre whose community-centred personalised approach has been successfully replicated in the UK in north Liverpool."

The Young Foundation’s report 'Turning the corner: beyond incarceration and re-offending' can be accessed at: http://www.youngfoundation.org/publications/reports/turning-corner-beyon...

Also on Ekklesia: 'Beyond incarceration and re-offending', by Anton Shelupanov. http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/12815

[Ekk/3]

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