Home Secretary outlines plans for criminal justice system

Offenders on short-term sentences could be placed in prisons
close to their homes, according to plans announced Charles Clarke
last night, writes Maria Ahmed.

Clarke: Community sentences
    a “soft option”

Giving the annual Prison Reform Trust lecture in London, the
Home Secretary said that he hoped the move would draw on the
“vital” support family, friends and the local community
in helping to prevent re-offending.

He also outlined plans to give offenders
“individualised” packages of support, setting
“clear goals” for their time in the criminal justice

Clarke promised a “thorough and systematic”
assessment of individual needs and suggested diversion schemes for
mentally ill offenders into treatment.

He said he rejected the “popular suggestion” that
community sentences were a “soft option,” and also
called for more use of fines.

Clarke also proposed holding remand prisoners separately from
sentenced prisoners and pledged to reduce “unnecessary”
remands in custody and “minimise” remand time.

He said there should be specialist provision for young people,
women and those with mental health and drug problems, but did not
give further details of this proposal.

The Home Secretary also reiterated the government’s
controversial plans to make prison and probation services
“contestable” by making existing services compete with
voluntary and private sector providers to run services.

He insisted the move would not be a “cost-cutting”
measure, but a way to “drive up performance” in areas
that were not performing well.



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