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Principles for the criminal justice voluntary sector


Principles for the criminal justice voluntary sector

Clinks Thinks

Clinks, the national infrastructure organisation supporting voluntary sector organisations in the criminal justice system, has just published a revised version of its Clinks Thinks document which  sets out  core principles and recommendations that reflect the key policy issues raised by Clinks members, and the main issues on which Clinks advocates for change.

Here are its main points


Clinks thinks the voluntary sector’s role as a forward-thinking designer and provider of services needs to be recognised. Voluntary organisations should be pro-actively engaged as a valued partner by policy makers and service providers throughout the criminal justice system at a local, regional and national level.


Clinks thinks the voluntary sector’s role as a campaigner should be protected, allowing it to speak freely on behalf of allowing it to speak freely on behalf of service users and communities.


Clinks thinks the Government and local services should do more to put people in the criminal justice system at the heart of policy making and service delivery. Policy and practice should be person-centred, acknowledge that people need long-term support, and that relapse can sometimes be part of the journey to rehabilitation.


Clinks thinks the Ministry of Justice should develop a clear strategy for reducing the number of people in prison by increasing investment in preventative services, diverting people away from the criminal justice system and expanding the use of alternatives to custody.


Clinks thinks a cross-departmental strategy for women and girls, led by the Ministry of Justice, should ensure that women are diverted away from the criminal justice system at the earliest opportunity. To do this we need to increase the use of gender-specific community sentences and make sure we invest in specialist voluntary organisations including women’s centres.


Clinks thinks all sectors working in criminal justice must work to tackle racism and discrimination by ensuring that they are using evidence and examples of good practice to meet the needs of BAME people. Government should have a comprehensive strategy which gives race equality a central place in all policy making and should have ambitious aims for reducing the inequality across the system.


Clinks thinks the youth justice system needs to remain focussed on reducing the use of custody, increasing the use of early intervention and diversion, and provide a locally-owned and multi-agency approach to all services. A national strategy needs to be produced and published to both address the causes of over-representation of black, Asian and minority ethnic young people in the youth justice system, and address the reasons why reducing a youth custody approach has failed this group.

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Unlocking Potential: A Matter of Judgement

Unlocking Potential: A Matter of Judgement

Earlier this week, Labour peer Lord Adonis shifted his fire from university bosses to judges. Both are often considered (and consider themselves) to be world class; but Adonis tried to use the large increase in the prison population since the 1990’s to claim that the judiciary were far from that. In a series of provocative tweets, he accused them of sins of commission – pushing up the going rate for offences – and omission- failing to stand up to illiberal government criminal justice proposals and the punitive tabloids.

Various legal tweeters rushed to the judges’ defence pointing out that it was New Labour’s criminal justice legislation which had driven up prison numbers while judges simply and faithfully applied the law as they must. As often on twitter, an interesting debate quickly descended into ridicule and abuse, albeit modest by the standards that prevail. I even got caught up in it myself. Having suggested to Adonis that the Sentencing Council – whose president and chair are senior judges-could have done more to limit prison growth since 2010, I retweeted his take that the Council “has followed the Daily Mail out of fear”. I was told by an Oxford academic that my retweet was fostering misunderstanding and I had an obligation to make clear that Adonis’s juvenile view was manifestly wrong.

Adonis may have been unfair on the Council, although it is arguable that of the matters to which they must have regard when producing guidelines, more attention has been paid to the need to promote public confidence than to the costs and effectiveness of sentences. Indeed I have argued this in a report for Transform Justice. But leaving to one side Adonis’s combative and somewhat disdainful approach, what of his wider point. How culpable have the judiciary been in the matter of the spiralling prison population in England and Wales?

Mike Hough and colleagues’ detailed study of the 71% rise in the adult prison population from 36,000 in 1991 to 62,000 in 2003 found that tougher sentencing – longer prison sentences for serious crimes and more short prison sentences instead of community penalties -came about through the interplay of an increasingly punitive climate of political and media debate about punishment; legislative changes and new guideline judgements; and sentencers’ perceptions of changes in patterns of offending. So everyone’s to blame.

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Lidington: Putting security and rehabilitation at the heart of prison reform

Lidington: Putting security and rehabilitation at the heart of prison reform

David Lidington, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, speaking today at Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, said:

“Yesterday morning, as Lord Chancellor, I joined our country’s senior judges and lawyers in Westminster Abbey to mark the opening of the new legal year. Then we processed together across Parliament Square to Westminster Hall – the heart of our democracy.

It was a great occasion, a celebration of the long history and ancient traditions of our legal system.

But at heart, what was being honoured was not wigs and robes, nor ritual and protocol, but the living constitutional principles which that ceremony affirmed.

The rule of law and the independence of the judiciary underpin our democracy and lie at the heart of our way of life. They are the very cornerstone of our freedoms.

No individual, no organization, no government is above the law.

That is why the refusal by the leadership of today’s Labour Party to rule out supporting illegal strikes is a shameful abdication of responsibility from a party seeking to govern.

I believe, this party believes, in the rule of law, and in our system of justice that protects the innocent, punishes the guilty, and gives voice to victims.

And after seven years of Conservatives in office, crime is down by a third. More victims of serious crimes – particularly sexual offences – are coming forward, no longer silenced by fear of stigma or mistrust.

Of course there is always more to be done. That’s why, together with Amber Rudd, I am developing a comprehensive strategy to tackle domestic violence and abuse, a pernicious crime that has been in the shadows for too long in our country.

I pay tribute to our Prime Minister, Theresa May, who has been unwavering in the fight against injustice throughout her time at the Home Office and in Downing Street.

I also want to thank my outstanding ministerial team – Dominic Raab, Sam Gyimah, Phillip Lee and Richard Keen, our whips Mike Freer and Charlotte Vere and our PPSs Lucy Frazer and Alan Mak. They all work incredibly hard for our party and for our country.

They deserve our thanks.

The greatest challenge facing our criminal justice system is in our prisons.

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Russell Webster – Unlocked Graduates

Russell Webster – Unlocked Graduates

We are looking for enthusiastic, motivated and well-organised individuals to work with us on a temporary basis as assessors at our assessment centres from November 2017 to February 2018. Your role as an assessor will be key in selecting the best candidates to join Unlocked Graduates and make an impact as prison officers over the course of the two-year programme.

Unlocked runs a number of assessment centres to recruit participants for the programme. As part of the assessment process, candidates are interviewed by a prison officer and an ex-prisoner. We are looking, in particular, for ex-prisoners to join our assessment team who are available to work at a minimum of three assessment centres. You will be paid £200 per day.

We are looking for people who are passionate about what we are working to achieve, have good time management and organisational skills and can effectively judge candidates. This is a great opportunity to gain experience and develop skills in recruitment.

For further details and information on how to apply, please download the job description.

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The Rehabilitation Revolution – Take 2

Movie production clapper board over wooden background

The Rehabilitation Revolution – Take 2

A clue to government policy?

Yesterday (14 September 2017) the Centre for Social Justice (the Think Tank created by Iain Duncan Smith in 2004) launched a new, and possibly very significant, report:

What happened to the rehabilitation revolution? with two straplines:

  • How sentencers can revive it
  • How it can be helped by a hung Parliament

The report may be significant because the CSJ is, obviously, very close to the conservative party and may reflect discussions going on in the Ministry of Justice.

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Prison Healthcare Concerns

Prison healthcare so bad it would be shut down on outside, say doctors

Doctors tell of understaffed services, with patients missing hospital appointments due to clerical errors or lack of escort

England and Wales has the highest imprisonment rate in western Europe.

NHS doctors working in prisons have warned that the conditions in which they operate are so unsafe that the services would be closed down had they been outside the prison system, the Guardian has learned.

The warnings have been issued in emails from an internal prison doctors’ email group seen by the Guardian. The fears about failures in prison healthcare come at a time when prisons are under huge pressure as a result of violence, overcrowding, drug use and high suicide rates.

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Prison Population to Increase

Prison Population To Increase

This bulletin presents prison population projections for England and Wales from August 2017 to March 2022. It is produced to aid policy development, capacity planning and resource allocation within the criminal justice system (CJS) and Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS).

Main Points

An increase in the prison population is forecast over the horizon to March 2022.


The prison population is projected to remain stable in the period to June 2019, but then to increase to 1,600 places above the current level in March 2022.

Projected population growth concentrated in offenders sentenced to longer sentences.


Growth in the determinate sentenced population is expected due to recent trends in offender case mix, with more serious cases coming before the courts resulting in longer custodial sentences. This increase is outweighing decline in indeterminate sentenced population, following abolition of IPP sentences in 2012.

2017 projection higher than 2016 projection


The higher projection reflects increases in custody rates and sentence lengths for indictable offences offsetting declines in numbers of offenders sentenced. There has also been growth in the remand population above expected levels.

Over 50, over 60 and over 70 year old populations are projected to rise


The rise is driven by the recent increase in the number of longer sentences for these. These increases are predominantly driven by prior shifts in the offence mix of prisoners flowing into prison – specifically increases in sexual offending.

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What is the criminal justice system for?

What is the criminal justice system for?

This is a guest post by Harvey Redgrave (@Harveyred1) of Crest Advisory.

Rethinking performance measurement in the justice system

Most of us know instinctively what a good school looks like (happy kids, good educational attainment) or a successful hospital when we see one (improvements in patient health). But when it comes to the criminal justice system – the collection of agencies encompassing the police, prosecution service, courts, probation, prisons, and victims and witness services – things become more murky.

Nine months ago, we set out to find better ways to measure criminal justice performance. Along the way we had lots of interesting discussions with people across all these parts of the criminal justice system about how to do this. But what was quite startling was that almost nobody agreed on what ‘good’ for the system as a whole actually looked like. In other words, ‘what to measure’ was as a big a question as ‘how to measure’. In our latest report, we propose a new framework for enabling police and crime commissioners (PCCs) and the public who hold them to account to understand what good looks like.


Following various reforms to policing (including the publication of crime maps and a new, more public-facing inspection framework), it is now more possible than it used to be for the public to understand how to assess whether their police service is doing a good job. But how many people would know how to assess the performance of local courts? Or the quality of services delivered to victims and witnesses? Or whether the prison and probation service are successfully punishing and rehabilitating offenders? The answer is very few.

There is a strand of thinking that greater public transparency over these services is neither realistic, nor desirable. When it comes to services like prisons and probation, it is argued that the public just want broad reassurance that things work, and are happy for representatives within the system to analyse performance information on their behalf. This argument doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

Public opinion

Firstly, it’s simply not true that the public aspire to a position of blissful ignorance. In a public poll we commissioned for this report, the vast majority of respondents said they felt it was important to be informed about criminal justice services (though only a small minority felt well informed in practice). For example, 85% of people felt it was important to be informed about the courts, whilst only 29% feel well informed about them. Our poll also shows that the public are much less punitive than often imagined: the vast majority think the best way to cut crime is through better prevention (either working with parents or in schools) rather than traditional ‘enforcement’ i.e. longer prison sentences and/or arrests.

Secondly, even if we were to accept the argument that criminal justice services are different to other public services in not requiring public transparency, it is not even clear that the people elected to cut crime and keep us safe – PCCs – have a clear sight of how their local justice services are performing. How have we ended up here?

What does success look like?

A key problem is the lack of a common view as to what success should look like, which means individual criminal justice agencies often act in ways that run contrary to the best interests of the system as a whole. For example, courts staff are measured by HMCTS against the extent to which courts are in use. As a result, more trials are scheduled than can be heard so that there are backups when one trial cannot proceed. This leads to costs being incurred elsewhere – for example, witnesses who spend a day waiting to give evidence for a trial that is not then heard, and who may then be more likely to disengage from the process.

Hidden probation

Another problem is that despite promises to expand the powers of PCCs, many are still unable to access basic performance data and thus are denied the ability to scrutinise how the system is performing as a whole. Data from probation companies – for example, relating to the proportion of ex-offenders being successfully placed in a home or job – can be hard to access. Even where individual agencies do share performance data locally, it is collected in different formats, according to metrics agreed in Whitehall, rather than locally, making meaningful analysis impossible. As a result, PCCs are left in the dark about how local justice services are doing and are unable to hold different parts of the system to account.

Finally, the measures by which individual agencies are held to account are themselves often clunky and poorly designed, driving perverse behaviours. For example, focusing on conviction and/or charge rates in isolation may lead to ‘easy’ cases being pursued by the Crown Prosecution Service and police. Similarly, holding probation companies to account for completion of community sentences may lead to breaches being under-reported.

An appetite for reform

The good news is that there is a huge appetite for reform. When we spoke to PCCs they told us that they would like to see the Ministry of Justice set out a clearer vision as to what the CJS is there to achieve. They were also in favour of being asked to achieve a limited number of shared outcomes, which would incentivise the different agencies of the CJS to work together, not just within criminal justice, but with other public services too, such as health, housing and schools. (PCCs recognise more than most that the key levers for reducing crime often lie outside of the formal CJS).

In our report, we make four key recommendations.

  1. The Ministry of Justice should clarify what it believes the CJS is there to achieve. In our view, this should be relatively simple: the criminal justice system’s mission should be to reduce the harm caused by crime and strengthen communities.
  2. That vision should be underpinned by a small number of nationally agreed outcomes by which all local justice services would be (jointly) held to account, with local areas given discretion over how these were achieved. These would include better prevention, swifter justice, rehabilitation, greater legitimacy and reducing harm to victims.
  3. In areas with strong civic leadership and devolved budgets – notably those places with metropolitan mayors, such as London, the West Midlands and Greater Manchester – services should be empowered to join together rather than operating in silos. Specifically, Police and Crime Plans should be replaced by Scotland-style ‘Local Improvement Plans’, in recognition of the fact that the key levers for preventing and reducing crime often lie in better health, housing, jobs and training.
  4. Finally, every local criminal justice board in the country should have to publish a standard scorecard of criminal justice performance, enabling comparative benchmarking between areas, and ensure it is publicised and accessible to local communities online and free of charge. Only then will people be given the tools to shine a light on underperformance and to demand change.

Millions of people in this country depend upon a healthy, functioning criminal justice system. It is time we provided clarity as to precisely what it is we want that system to achieve.

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