Headlines: November 7th, 2006



Local councils and their partners have an essential role to play in keeping down rates of re-offending, according to the Coalition on Social and Criminal Justice. In a report it says local organisations with local knowledge are best placed to work with the prison and probation services to help ex-offenders to stay out of trouble.

The report, “Neighbourhood by neighbourhood: local action to reduce re-offending” highlights the importance in this field of local authorities’ experience and expertise in areas such as housing, education, employment, drug and alcohol treatment and family support. The coalition believes that being in work can reduce the risk of re-offending by between a third and a half and that stable accommodation can reduce re-offending by more than 20 per cent. Drug treatment programmes, both in custody and after release can have excellent success rates.

The organisation says a more transparent, locally accountable system would mean that local people can see justice being done and they could become involved in its delivery. It believes that high-quality and visible local delivery of sentences, such as offenders having to undertake unpaid work, is a good way to restore public confidence and make communities safer.

The prison population has reached a record level in spite of falling crime rates and the coalition says there is an important opportunity to improve the way offenders are managed in custody and in the community. It suggests that local authorities could coordinate an effective multi agency response to offenders.

Hazel Harding, the Local Government Association’s spokesperson on Safer Communities, said those who lived in local communities had a stake in breaking the cycle of crime but public confidence in the system was low.”Councils are committed to helping people get safely through their day, and reducing re-offending is vital to the creation of safer and stronger communities. The criminal justice system needs to encourage and fund local solutions making justice visible, involving communities and restoring public confidence,” she said.

Many offenders, she added, currently dropped off the radar after release from custody. “A local approach encompassing prisons, the probation services, local councils, the voluntary sector and other community groups, would make sure offenders are closely monitored and given the right support and guidance,” she said.