On 16 July 2016, new Justice Secretary Michael Gove made a speech on the topic of prisons, indicating a move away from his predecessor’s “less carrot more stick” approach.
Gove mooted the idea of “earned release” from custodial sentences, whereby prisoners would earn either early release (before the half-way point of the sentences, the point at which most prisoners are released) by making a commitment to what was described as “serious educational activity”.
This would result in prisoners serving less than half of their custodial terms, with a longer period spent on licence.
‘In prisons there is a – literally – captive population whose inability to read properly or master basic mathematics makes them prime candidates for re-offending…Ensuring those offenders become literate and numerate makes them employable and thus contributors to society.’
The Ministry of Justice will now explore the practicalities of the policy.
This perhaps indicates a shift away from the Tory right; Gove’s predecessor, Chris Grayling, had marshalled a definite shift to the right by bringing in such measures as minimum sentences for knife crime, an automatic life sentence, toughening the release provisions for extended sentences.
However Gove has criticised the system’s “horrific, persistent failure” to tackle reoffending and seemingly believes there is a balance to be found between punishment and public protection on the one hand, and rehabilitation, support and supervision on the other.
“Our streets will not be safer, our children will not be properly protected and our future will not be more secure unless we change the way we treat offenders and offenders then change their lives for the better.”
In a prison system that has comparatively few indeterminate prisoners, and only approximate 50 out of some 88,000 who will never be released, the idea that we need to rehabilitate and prepare prisoners for release and life “on the outside” is plainly common sense.
Prison policy often attracts a variety of views ranging from the liberal (“don’t imprison non-dangerous offenders”) to the…less sympathetic (“lock them up for longer!”).
Is this policy a goer, or another waste of MoJ time and public money?