25 June 2004
Local government is set to take a stronger lead on criminal justice to try to reduce reoffending rates.
The government's shift in emphasis from custodial to community sentencing for low-level offences has prompted the Local Government Association to reassess its relationship with correctional services.
Daniel Mason, the LGA policy officer leading the project, told Public Finance that adult offender management was an aspect of the community safety agenda that councils had neglected. 'We are looking at the older end of the spectrum – the over-18s. We need to refocus minds on that older category,' he said.
The Home Office's forthcoming plan to reduce reoffending is likely to have significant implications for local authorities, Mason said. It wants to see councils work closely with the new National Offender Management Service to help offenders access services such as housing, education and training.
'We want to put together practical recommendations for local authorities to follow, along with good practice guidance,' Mason told PF.
Councils are already working with correctional services. In Middlesbrough, prisoners successfully refurbished a public park and in Doncaster, a project brings together the prison, council and local landlords and employers to ensure that inmates' need for accommodation, education and benefits are met once they are released.
Roger Howard, chief executive of the crime-reduction body Crime Concern, told PF that local authorities had a potentially huge part to play: 'There should be nothing that prevents offenders from having a fair crack of the whip.'