Radical reforms to correctional services, designed to cut re-offending rates and increase rehabilitation and pay-back to the community, were unveiled today by Home Secretary David Blunkett.
At the centre of this fundamental overhaul is the creation of a new body to provide end-to-end management of all offenders, whether they are serving sentences in prison, the community or both. This radical rethink in offender management builds on the recommendations made in the independent review of Correctional Services conducted by Patrick Carter.
The National Offender Management Service (NOMS) will bring together the Prison and Probation Services to ensure that progress made in prison is followed through in the community and that cutting re-offending is a top priority for all.
Mr Blunkett said that the creation of the new service is possible because of major Government investment in, and reform of, both the Prison and Probation Services, which have seen an increase in the numbers of prison places by 15,000 and increased probation funding by 50 per cent.
Mr Blunkett said:
"This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the way we manage offenders, to make sure they pay back the community they have harmed, to reduce re-offending and to cut crime. As I said two years ago in my speech to the Prison Service Conference, I am not interested in reform for reform’s sake but in breaking patterns of crime and creating a virtuous circle of prevention, detection, punishment and rehabilitation through a reformed police service and through a modernised criminal justice system and prison and probation services.
"This radical approach would not be possible without the very significant progress we have already made in investing in and improving the performance of the Prison and Probation Services in recent years. And these improvements have been under-pinned and supported by substantial changes the Government has made to the structures of these organisations and to wider police reform and reform of the criminal justice system.
"Public protection remains my top priority. Those who commit the most serious crimes need to be locked up – in some cases for very much longer than they used to be in the past. But we are also committed to implementing radical changes that can help rehabilitate offenders and reintegrate them into the community.".
Mr Blunkett also announced the start later this month of the first intermittent custody pilots, where offenders undertake compulsory community programmes to address their behaviour while spending weekends or other periods in prison.
The Government’s plans to reform correctional services are set out in ‘Reducing Crime, Changing Lives’ published today by the Home Office.
The new NOMS will be set up from June 2004. As well as its overall remit to reduce re-offending and cut crime it will be responsible for:
- improving the enforcement and credibility of community punishments so that prison is not the first resort for less serious offenders;
- ensuring that both custodial and community punishments make offenders address their behaviour and offer a path away from crime; and
- raising educational standards among offenders in order to break the link between low educational attainment and criminality.
Martin Narey, currently Commissioner for Correctional Services, has been appointed as Chief Executive of NOMS, and will be held explicitly accountable for reducing re-offending. He will begin work immediately to set up the new organisation.
A National Offender Manager will report to the Chief Executive and manage ten Regional Offender Managers, with directly responsibility for reducing re-offending. The regional offender managers will be responsible for reducing crime in the nine English regions and Wales and will source prison places, community punishment, supervision and other interventions through contracts with public, private and voluntary sector providers.
Mr Blunkett added:
"These changes are an assertion of my confidence in those prison and probation officers who work with offenders in prison and in the community with such dedication. I believe that the new arrangements will help make their work even more effective.
"I want to see robust, intensive community programmes replace ineffective short custodial sentences that also allow us to take decisive action where breaches take place."
NOMS’ Chief Executive will sit as an observer on the Sentencing Guidelines Council, which is chaired by the Lord Chief Justice and tasked with improving consistency in sentencing across England and Wales.
Today’s announcement follows the review of correctional services undertaken by Patrick Carter and draws extensively on his recommendations. His report is also published today alongside ‘Reducing Crime, Changing Lives’.
Patrick Carter’s report also recommends the introduction of a day fine system where the fine is set as a number of days which can then be multiplied to take account of an offender’s ability to pay. This would require primary legislation. The Government believes there is a strong case for introducing such a system and although at this stage there is no commitment to taking it forward the Home Office and the Department for Constitutional Affairs will explore its viability.
Notes to Editor
- Minister for Correctional Services, Paul Goggins, will chair the Correctional Services board to which NOMS will report their progress and therefore provide ministerial accountability.
- The Prison Service Agency will end but public sector prisons will continue to be managed on a national basis reporting to the Chief Executive of NOMS. The services currently provided by the National Probation Service will be integrated in to NOMS.
- Director General of the Probation Service, Eithne Wallis, will immediately take up responsibility for the Change Programme with NMOS, leading the organisational changes. There will be a competition for an interim replacement as Director General of the Probation Service. Phil Wheatley will remain Director General of the Prison Service.
- The Home Secretary addressed the Prison Service Conference on 3 Feb 2002.
- Copies of ‘Reducing Crime, Changing Lives’ are available via the Home Office website