Adjusting the balance of the scales of justice

I am pleased that this Government is putting in place the mechanisms to achieve a reinvigorated justice system that targets re-offending rates by those who have already been through the criminal justice system and restores the courts’ focus away from criminals’ rights and back onto the victims’ rights. 

By the end of the previous Government, 80,000 criminals had been released early to ease overcrowding, while prisons continued to hold thousands more prisoners than their intended capacity and overcrowding hampered rehabilitation with almost half of prisoners re-offending within a year of release.

The Justice Secretary having already introduced measures aimed at easing prison overcrowding and having forcibly deported 4,600 foreign criminals just last year, recently outlined the case against ‘soft’ and ineffective justice, agreeing that we cannot simply go on having a situation whereby so many offenders, particularly those released after a sentence of less than 12 months, return to crime.  He has therefore hailed a “revolution in rehabilitation” aimed at tackling the soaring reoffending levels witnessed under Labour and the associated cost to the economy worth £9.5 billion a year.

Let’s face it, previously when an offender was released from prison they were given 46 quid and little or no other support, then sent back onto our streets, back to the same neighbourhoods, back to the same temptations, addictions and acquaintances that were the reason why they ended up in prison in the first place. Why on earth are we then surprised when they commit the same crimes all over again?

This Government is transforming the way we support offenders by bringing in innovative new organisations to help facilitate mentoring programmes, such as voluntary groups, who are paid by results — and that means people not falling back into crime.

Re-offending is not just a problem among adults. Locking up teenage offenders costs us taxpayers a fortune — about £100,000 each, or even up to £200,000 in some cases – and yet over the past decade the youth re-offending rate has soared to a staggering 70 per cent. That is just storing up more problems for the future, with young lives going un-salvaged, and more victims suffering as a result.

We have got to have a real push on educating young offenders, as well as detaining them. Many of them struggle to read or write, and many have been detached from any sort of proper education for months or even years.

These are enormously complex issues. But I really do believe that if this Government starts now and makes some fundamental changes, then it can make a meaningful difference. The Government’s priorities are simple: more of the right people going to prison, fewer of them coming back — and fewer victims of crime as a result.

Henry Smith - MP for Crawley