Escape from the Titanic

Published: March 2008 Publication Type: Publication

Author: Anton Shelupanov

The British criminal justice system is failing by many measures. Costs are rising as is the prison population. The sheer pressure on the system is making it hard to introduce long overdue reforms. As a result recidivism rates remain high and public confidence remains low. Ahead of a likely squeeze on public spending over the next few years the current strategy looks unsustainable, combining as it does very high costs and little scope for cutting the underlying causes of offending.

This paper makes the case for managed evolution towards a system that is much more effective at tailoring punishments and interventions to fit offenders’ characteristics, and that helps communities take more responsibility for their part of the system. It argues for changes that can go with the grain of public opinion but also help to educate the public about what works – so as to help escape from knee‐jerk reactions against reform.

It advocates wide‐ranging systematic innovation to develop better models, and then scale them up, in particular in relation to skills, psychology, connections and opportunities for offenders, to be undertaken at all levels but particularly at the local authority level. The paper cites a number of examples of interventions which focus on early risk factors such as the work of the innovative In Tune project in Gloucestershire; interventions in the custodial setting such as the Barbed Design social enterprise in HMP Coldingley and work to manage risk post‐release such as the pioneering Canadian model of Circles of Support and Accountability. It discusses mechanisms such as Community Justice initiatives which can bolster public confidence in innovative interventions.

This paper suggests how a menu of such interventions can be made available to a locality, and presents an overview of those structures which could ensure that the system has capacity for this, as well as how to bolster public confidence in innovative approaches, and in a radically reformed system.

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