Criticism of reforms to probation

Northumberland Gazette latest
Northumberland Gazette latest

A key plank of controversial probation reforms shows no sign of improving re-offending rates and could be ditched at once with little impact being felt, a report concludes.

So-called Through the Gate services were introduced as part of a partial privatisation in 2015 to bridge the gap between prison and the community as criminals prepare for release.

But a scathing joint report by two official watchdogs found none of the early hopes for the measures have been realised.

The inquiry by the Chief Inspectors of Probation and Prisons, published last week, involved visits to nine prisons, including HMP Northumberland, where Through the Gate services are delivered by Northumbria Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC).

Both the prison and the CRC are run by Sodexo.

A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said: “Public protection is our top priority and we will take all necessary action to make sure the probation system is reducing re-offending 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 the probation review, we have been looking at Through the Gate services and will be publishing our findings in due course.”

However, Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Dame Vera Baird QC, said that ‘our prisons need saving from this current chaos’ and called for the return of a publicly-run National Probation Service.