Seven jails in the South West could be turned into 'settlement' prisons, and would see the majority of offenders released from prisons in, or close to, the area in which they live, under plans announced by the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling.
While the Ministry of Justice focus on rehabilitation is welcome, today's announcement reflects the fact that these reforms are designed to meet political and ideological goals - not to improve public safety or deliver better value for the taxpayer.
The Government's efforts to ensure the vast majority of prisoners are released into their local area seem rooted in good intentions.
But attempting to shoehorn overcrowded jails into arbitrarily-drawn and oversized contract areas, simply to ease the privatisation process, will create serious problems unless we reduce the number of people our prisons are holding."
– ANDREW NEILSON, DIRECTOR OF CAMPAIGNS, HOWARD LEAGUE FOR PENAL REFORM
Resettlement and rehabilitation do matter but until and unless you reserve prison for serious and violent offenders, you cannot hope to cut sky-high re-offending rates or maintain safe and decent regimes.
Given the pace and scale of change, ministers focused on developing the justice market could easily lose sight of the solutions that lie outside of prison bars in health, housing and employment."
– JULIET LYON, DIRECTOR OF THE PRISON REFORM TRUST
Rehabilitation in the community must begin behind the prison walls and follow offenders out through the gates if we are to stand a chance of freeing them from a life of crime.
Currently a local area could expect to receive offenders from dozens of prisons across the country - this is hopeless.
It is little wonder we have such high reoffending rates when you have a prisoner leaving HMP Liverpool, given a travel permit to get them home to the south coast, and then expected to simply get on with it.
This approach is a significant step forwards in our reforms to tackle reoffending and lays the groundwork for building a genuine nationwide network of 'through the gate' supervision and support for all offenders."