Report highlights potential benefits of criminal justice devolution

22 Feb 17

Greater criminal justice devolution could help reduce reoffending rates, a review has found.

According to Doing it Justice: Breaking Barriers to Criminal Justice Transformation, the government’s reforms in the sector have so far failed to deliver significant improvements in safety and security.  

The “high-level” review was led by Lord Patel of Bradford, former communities and local government secretary Hazel Blears, and Jon Bashford, a senior partner at Community Innovations LLP, and took evidence from June and December last year.

It has called for greater integration between criminal justice and other public services to drive long-term change, particularly in the area of education and employment, health, substance abuse and welfare.

The authors noted that a ground-breaking deal between Whitehall and Greater Manchester Combined Authority announced last year to devolve criminal justice powers could provide a template for other areas.

In June, the GMCA became the first region in the country to be granted powers over criminal justice and offender management, including prisons and probation services.

The deal involves greater autonomy for prison governors, particularly around education, while linking community adult education and skills training with education in prisons. It also provides more local autonomy over rehabilitation management.

The report, which was unveiled at the Breaking Barriers: Doing it Justice summit in Manchester today, argued that integrating services through a joined-up criminal justice system was a crucial next step in improving the system.

Greater local and central government integration, through co-commissioning and service design, would drive place-based transformation, it stated.

Moreover, a ‘life opportunities’ approach, based on recognising the life potential of offenders, should be adopted. The use of data could also be broadened out, while digital technology had an important role in supporting rehabilitation services, authors said.

Blears said that cultural, economic, organisational and historic factors were currently blocking integration.

She said: “There is no single factor or silver bullet to deliver change and transformation to a criminal justice system which costs the taxpayer £17bn annually, let alone reducing the staggering £124bn estimated annual economic costs of violent crime in the UK.”

Lord Patel of Bradford, said that local areas needed support from central government to integrate criminal justice services, but that combined authorities were the “natural leaders” for driving systemic transformation.

He added: “When viewed through the prism of collaborative working across the health, education, housing and welfare system, the possibilities for public value creation in driving radical change across criminal justice system represent a once-in- a-lifetime opportunity.”

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