Probation service receives £40m to cut reoffending

David Hanson

11 March 2008

The National Probation Service is to receive £40 million of additional funding to provide more tough and effective community sentences, Justice Minister David Hanson MP announced today.

The piloting of intensive alternatives to custody and the provision of more rigorous non-custodial regimes were recommended in the Carter Review published last year and accepted by the Ministry of Justice. Today's funding will help the Probation Service move forward with providing suitable community sentences.

This additional funding will mean that magistrates can be confident that resources are in place to enable them to use a community order for those offenders for whom a non-custodial sentence would be appropriate.

David Hanson MP said,

'For many offenders, community-based punishments are proven to be more effective at reducing reoffending than short term prison sentences. We must ensure that courts have tough community sentences at their disposal to deal with less serious, non-violent offenders. Tough community sentences that effectively address offenders' behaviour get right to the heart of offending - the sentences provide punishment, and restrict liberty for individuals in order to address patterns of behaviour in often chaotic lifestyles.

'Justice Secretary Jack Straw MP recently gave his commitment to providing rigorous community sentences on a visit to a community payback project in Salford. It makes sense to use the sanction which is ultimately most effective in terms of cutting reoffending.

'It is of course vital we ensure there are prison places for those serious and dangerous offenders who ought to be in prison but there are people in prison who would be better rehabilitated elsewhere. We need to make sure we make the best use of sentencing options that will best reduce reoffending and rehabilitate offenders.'

In 2006-07 the National Probation Service had its best performance year with the highest ever rates of enforcement, record numbers of offenders completed accredited programmes and unpaid work, and more offenders starting and completed drug rehabilitation than in any previous year. Last year there were 55,514 completions of unpaid work across England and Wales, providing over six million of hours of free labour for communities. This is the equivalent of £33 million that has benefited local communities across the country.

Since 1997 staffing numbers in the Probation Service have increased by over 7,000 and the probation resource budget has increased by nearly 70 per cent in real terms. An additional £17 million (additional to the announcement today) was also found for the Probation Service for 2008/2009.

At the end of last month we announced an investment of £13.9 million over the next three years to fund six new intensive alternatives to custody projects.

Notes to editors

1. The community order, introduced in the Criminal Justice Act 2003, gives sentencers the flexibility they need to tailor community sentences to the offence and the offender. Within the community order, there are a number of very demanding requirements such as regular drug testing, treatment and monitoring under the Drug Rehabilitation Requirement to more punitive elements such as curfews and physically demanding working in the community under the unpaid work requirement.

2. Unpaid work can include bringing derelict areas and buildings back into public use such as clearing church yards, repairing park benches and removing graffiti. Offenders are put to hard work to make communities better places to live and they often carry out work that would otherwise not be completed.

3. For more information please contact the Ministry of Justice press office on 0207 210 8668.