The Simple Reason Why Chris Grayling’s Probation Service Folly Failed
The concept of privatising probation was wrong, as well as the mechanism used to do so.
Over a third of offenders have mental health problems, although some estimates put it as high as 90%. Suicide and self-harm rates are extremely high. Fifty per cent are functionally illiterate, meaning they have a reading age of 11 or lower. Many are completely illiterate. They are disproportionately likely to have experienced unemployment, drug use and trauma.
It’s hard to turn that kind of situation around – to get offenders into work, to help them maintain relationships. And there is, in truth, no profit to be made in it. It costs lots of money and most of the time it doesn’t work. Repeat offenders are hard to change.
The end result is clear. The National Audit Office found that probation companies had much lower business volumes than the Ministry of Justice had modelled, underinvested in their clients and didn’t meet performance targets. They failed to work with charities, or develop appropriate supply chains, or provide innovative changes to the service, or meet contractual commitments, or help offenders with accomodation, employment, finance, mental health or drug problems. In repeated checks, they were found to be inadequate, particularly in the area of public protection. After the reform, there was a 22% overall increase in the number of proven re-offences per re-offender.