This is Newbury Labour’s submission for Justice and Home Affairs to advance the policy framework set out in Labour’s 2017 General Election Manifesto.
For Further information visit https://www.policyforum.labour.org.uk/commissions/home-affairs
Response to Justice and Home Affairs Issues
Prisons, probation and sentencing
Problems in our communities are inextricably linked with employment, education, family breakdown and the economic situation; the next Labour Government will obviously have to deal with these issues in tandem. Taking the justice system alone, however, we have many concerns.
Current reoffending rates across all categories average out at around 30% with 39% of offenders responsible for 80% of offences. Public safety demands that violent individuals are given custodial sentences; these offenders need intensive input from the prison and probation service to deter repeat offending. Non-violent offenders could be better served by more community sentencing, which should have the effect of less family breakup and less ‘learning tips of the trade’.
Drugs offences should be given serious consideration; the legalisation of cannabis at the very least would reduce crime and have knock on benefits for both medicine and the Treasury.
Young offenders are of particular concern; reoffending rates for young adults are around 40%. Unemployment rates of around 12% for 16-24 year olds must be a factor in this along with poor educational achievement.
An integrated approach from the education, prison and probation services is required; mental health issues also need to be taken into account. The current systems are obviously inadequate for the task. A consistent approach to training and delivery cannot be guaranteed. Bringing all services back into the public domain would seem to be both appropriate and necessary.
More effort should be put into rehabilitation and better conditions in prisons. Bringing probation officers into contact with prisoners before their release and so allowing them to develop relationships, could be a way of increasing the efficacy of the service. The Norway model of smaller, rural prison villages produces the lowest reoffending rates in Europe; prisoners cook and clean for themselves, work and get paid, and prison officers have a more supportive role. A trial of this, at the very least, is surely worth pursuing.
An overhaul of crime prevention measures should also be undertaken. Labour-led Salford Council, for instance, deliver an individual package of home security improvements (which can include door viewers, chains, burglar alarms, door and window locks) for anyone who meets the following criteria:
- Repeat victim of burglary within the last 12 months
- Repeat victim of anti-social behaviour (3 incidents within the last 3 months)
- Aggravated burglary victim within the last 6 months
- Victim of Hate Crime within the last 6 months
- Victim of domestic abuse via the sanctuary scheme
- Any resident over the age of 70
We believe Labour should make this a national Home Office funded programme with criteria widened to include all properties on any street or area where a burglary has been reported in the last 12 months. These simple, fairly inexpensive solutions, could help reduce burglaries, provide safety and peace of mind for vulnerable individuals and potentially save lives.
The current Brexit chaos and hostile environment for immigration has had a deleterious effect on community relations. Both the national press and the internet have facilitated the spread of ‘false facts’ to such an extent that confusion and misinformation now reign.
There was a 29% increase in hate crime between 2015/6 to 2016/7 with the biggest increase – 53% – against people with disabilities. As a country, we cannot afford to have communities living in disharmony. A system that is visibly fair to all is essential.
BAME communities, the young in particular, seem to be given short shrift by the justice system. Ongoing education in racial sensitivity for those involved in the justice system is one consideration but inequalities in education, employment and training in the BAME communities should also be addressed.
Some progress towards all communities feeling that they have a stake in the UK must be made. Home based terrorism and the rise of the far right will feed on each other. Control of internet output is likely to be difficult and may invoke complaints re censorship and right to free speech.