Sixty Second Interview with Joyce Moseley
By Amy Taylor
Chief executive of rainer Joyce Mosely talks about last week’s announcement about the five-year prisons plan.
The government has proposed introducing a new sentencing framework for juveniles which will set out the purpose of juvenile sentencing. What do you think about these plans? Does the purpose of juvenile sentencing need to be clarified?
It is important that the purpose of juvenile sentencing is clarified. Principally this is likely to be the prevention of offending. It is important however that this is balanced with a range of other factors including welfare, public protection, reparation and parenting intervention. The court’s duty to regard the welfare of the child should remain paramount.
The framework would also replace the nine existing community sentences with a single youth rehabilitation order with a menu of interventions. Is it a good idea to simplify the system in this way?
This is a step in the right direction. What this gives courts the ability to do, following the thorough assessment process, is pick from a sentencing menu. This should ensure all young people are given the most appropriate sentence to fit their crime and importantly then receive a level of support more suited to their individual needs. The old method tried to fit too many people into too few boxes so young people often ended up not getting the support they needed and were unable to access services that could have had a genuine impact on their offending behaviour.
The government has also said that it will work with the Youth Justice Board to look at whether it can develop more community-based facilities for young offenders. Are these required and the right way to go?
With prisons near capacity and reoffending rates high we need to be looking at alternatives. Custody is expensive and ineffective and should always be used only as a last resort. We would like to see more investment in community-based sentences that tackle the underlying causes of offending and make sure young people get the complete range of support – be it with drugs, mental health, education, housing – they need to change their behaviour. Too many prisoners, particularly young offenders are currently moved from pillar to post while in custody – often ending up miles from their families. Community prisons, allowing them to maintain links with family and preparing for release make a lot of sense. This is not a soft option – it is looking realistically at what cuts crime in the long-term.
Other plans included putting unpaid work at the heart of community sentences and making it a lot ‘more visible’. Is this a good way forward?
Reparation work can have a huge impact on young people but it must be linked to developing skills which will enable them to gain independence once the work has been completed, whether this is through finding employment or pursuing training or education courses. However, if talk of this work becoming ‘more visible’ means kitting young people out in special uniforms then the worry is they will be marked out in the communities they are hoping to become a part of again. It would be far better to put up a sign or a plaque to acknowledge the work once it has been completed. Community sentences are not soft, if someone doesn’t do the work they go back to court. Of course greater emphasis on community-based schemes needs to be matched by greater resources.
The government also wants to introduce a programme of contestability for prison and probation services to ensure services are provided by the best possible providers and standards are driven up. Do you think introducing a mixed market of service provision will cause this to happen?
It is early days and we wait to see how this will be organised in terms of who delivers what services. Partnerships between agencies from different sectors need to be based on clear outcomes for reducing re-offending and we need to work creatively to affect and improve offenders’ lives.
Is the government right to be bringing together the prison and probation service in the National Offender Management Service and do you see the voluntary sector as having a role in this?
It is absolutely right to bring the services together and will help stop people falling between gaps in provision. Of course we want to see the voluntary sector given a greater role in the delivery of these services. At Rainer we really believe we have a lot to offer offenders inside prison and out in the community. We have led major multi-agency resettlement projects for young offenders and we will use the lessons from these for NOMS. We can have a real impact in reducing re-offending by working on the many needs that offenders have such as housing, education and employment.