Revolution or evolution?

Date01 March 2011
AuthorLol Burke
Published date01 March 2011
Subject MatterArticles
Revolution or evolution?
The Government’s Green Paper Breaking the Cycle: Effective Rehabilitation and
Sentencing of Offenders (Ministry of Justice, 2010) has been heralded as a bold
and ambitious attempt to reform what is perceived as an overly centralized, highly
bureaucratic criminal justice system that has been dominated by increases in the
prison population rather than tackling the causes of re-offending. In many respects
it can be seen as victory for the political pugilism of the Justice Secretary reflecting a
progressive and pragmatic response to policy making.
Reducing the cost of prisons and probation whilst increasing their effectiveness is
central to the proposals but as Helen Mills (2010) has noted, this has been a
common conundrum for successive Justice and Home Secretaries in recent years.
The New Labour years saw an expansion, with associated increased expenditure,
in both organizations resulting in a ‘bloated’ penal justice system. Indeed, the Gov-
ernment expects the numbers imprisoned to continue to increase until the proposals
contained in its rehabilitation revolution begin to have an effect and stabilize
growth. Whilst the curtailment in the overuse of Indeterminate Sentencers for Public
Protection (IPP) and the lowering of the risk criterion required by the Parole Board
appear progressive, the impact of other measures, such as the speeding up of the
deportation of foreign national prisoners is by no means certain given that it will
be dependent on agreements with the countries of origin. At the ‘front door’ of sen-
tencing the Government aims to restore public trust through greater transparency
and the introduction of minimum and maximum sentences where offenders would
serve a minimum period in prison set without being eligible for release. However,
againaccording to theGovernment’sown calculations,sentence lengthscould actually
increase by around 10 per cent as a result of these changes (The Conservative Party,
Alongside reducing the prison population the government also intends to make
prisons places of purpose – particularly in relation to work and industry – as well
as the delivery of justice and punishment, something which the Green Paper
acknowledges has been lacking in prison regimes for too long (Ministry of Justice,
2010: 9). In this new ‘working’ prison, inmates will work a full working week of up
to 40 hours, in regimes focused on enabling work and the provision of skills to
enhance their ability to secure employment on release. According to figures
The Journal of Community and Criminal Justice
Copyright ª2011 NAPO Vol 58(1): 3-8
DOI: 10.1177/0264550511401284

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