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Damning report into privatised prison probation service

A devastating joint report on government programme reveals it is having a negligible impact on reducing prisoner reoffending rates.

A key part of the government’s “useless” probation privatisation reforms could be scrapped and not impact on the resettlement of prisoners, chief inspectors of probation and prisons have warned.

A “devastating” joint report on the government’s Through the Gate programme, reveals work done by 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies is having a negligible impact on reducing prisoner reoffending rates.

Dame Glenys Stacey, the chief inspector of probation, and Peter Clarke, the chief inspector of prisons, say too many prisoners are released without accommodation.

Additionally, in too many cases prisoners’ risk to the public had been inadequately assessed before release.

Despite mentors being part of the service, they only found one prisoner out of the 98 being examined for the report had been mentored.

“None of the early hopes for Through the Gate have been realised,” the report says. “The gap between aspiration and reality is so great, that we wonder whether there is any prospect that these services will deliver the desired impact on rates of reoffending.”

The chief inspectors’ report was based on visits to nine prisons where Through the Gate services were delivered by seven different rehabilitation companies in England and Wales.

“The overall picture is bleak,” it concludes. “If Through the Gate services were removed tomorrow, in our view the impact on the resettlement of prisoners would be negligible.”

It says CRC staff focused on producing written resettlement plans to meet contractual targets, while attention on prisoners with needs dwindled.

“Many have enduring problems including mental illness and addiction, and yet links between treatment in custody and in the community were not always easy. Indeed the whole transition is often fraught.

“Affordable accommodation is hard to source, and claims to state benefits take time to process, so some prisoners are released with nowhere to live, and like others, may face weeks without any income.”

The delivery of post-release resettlement services was one of the key aims of the government’s Transforming Rehabilitation reforms.

Privatisation of probation services began in 2014, with responsibility for low and medium-risk cases being given to publicly owned CRCs.

Frances Crook, of the Howard League for Penal Reform, described it as a “devastating report on a growing scandal” adding: “One of the first challenges for the new government is to sort out this mess.

“The break-up of the public probation service, with a large part of it handed to private companies, was supposed to turn lives around, reduce reoffending and make us all safer.

“Instead, successive inspection reports have shown that the risk to the public has increased, and now we learn that Through the Gate services are so useless that they could stop tomorrow and we would not notice the difference. People who are trying to lead crime-free lives are being let down,” she said.

Labour’s shadow justice secretary, Richard Burgon said it was down to “a complete failure of the Tories’ reckless part-privatisation of probation".

He added:“Public safety is being put at risk because ex-offenders aren’t getting the support, supervision and rehabilitation they need.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “We will take all necessary action to make sure the probation system is reducing reoffending and preventing future victims.

“We have undertaken an overarching review of probation, looking at the standards we set for providers and how we hold them to account. Additionally, we have made changes to how community rehabilitation companies are paid so they can focus on activities that will help cut crime. 

“As part of part of the probation review, we have been looking at Through the Gate services and will be publishing our findings in due course.”