Louise Casey defends plans to get tougher on criminals

Louise Casey, the former head of the government’s Respect Unit, has defended her call for harsher community sentences and for offenders to have their punishment locally advertised.

Speaking to MPs on the Commons Justice Committee, Casey denied that she wanted to sound tough on criminals at the expense of effective rehabilitation.

She said that people were keen to know what happened to offenders after their sentence was passed. “Visibility is a huge issue in terms of the criminal justice system,” she told MPs. “The bottom line is that we have to do a better job at saying when people do something wrong, they face a consequence, and that consequence isn’t going to be nice.”

Casey said that money would have to be spent on tougher punishment regimes before it could be spent on rehabilitation. She added: “What I found absolutely amazing about the great British public is that if we do that then they have an appetite for rehabilitation, particularly for giving young people a second chance.”

However, another witness invited before the committee earlier this week warned that not enough was being done to identify effective rehabilitation schemes.

Rusharana Ali, association director for social innovation organisation the Young Foundation, said that new and more radical ideas to help rehabilitate offenders should be tested out locally. “Looking at public confidence will only give you half the story,” she added.

Casey’s plans were published last month in a review of criminal justice, commissioned by the Home Office. She recommended re-labelling community service “unpaid work” as “community payback”, and raised the idea of making offenders wear uniforms and printing their details on posters. The proposals brought condemnation from probation union Napo, which said such “naming and shaming” would do nothing to reduce crime.

The committee heard from a variety of experts in the criminal justice system as part of its investigation into whether more money should be spent on preventing criminal behaviour or on the prison system.

Director of probation at the National Offender Management Service  Roger Hill warned MPs that more resources needed to be diverted to rehabilitation schemes as that the number of prisoners had recently hit an all-time high. He added: “The prison service and the probation service are operating above capacity, day in and day out.”

Have your say on Casey’s plans at Carespace

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