Realistic rehabilitation for offenders is a must

A certain PM once argued we should be tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime. We are currently losing that battle while being encouraged to believe that it’s all too hard and involves difficult choices.

I was surprised, while taking part in a recent research interview, to be asked what was more important: justice for victims or rehabilitation of offenders?

Such false choices bedevil our criminal justice system. Recognising the needs of victims doesn’t mean ignoring other matters and seeking sensible approaches to rehabilitation cannot be at the expense of victims.

I’ve spent more than a year chasing the Ministry of Justice over a domestic abuse offender who was able to evade his punishment. No one seems interested in how his ‘getting away with it’ has left her feeling.

I’d like to see regular victim panels, composed of ordinary people who’ve been on the receiving end, consulted about the workings of the system and changes required. We should learn from their experiences, not simply encourage folk to put it behind them.

Let’s be clear, justice means offenders must be caught and punished and that requires enough resources for police and courts to do their job, both of which are in short supply after the last 10 years.

Such a clear position doesn’t mean rehabilitation isn’t part of the answer. If someone can’t read at 17, that needs addressing; where drink and drugs are the issue, it must be tackled and in prisons that means segregation.

Where lack of parenting has impaired the ability to form proper relationships, we should try to intervene. Ignoring these issues means reoffending is inevitable.

Too many victims say their experience of the system leaves them feeling that somehow what happened was their fault. That’s plain wrong! And ministers need to grow up. When the prisons are full, they talk about remission and community punishments and when the Government’s struggling, they shout, ‘lock em up.’ .

It’s time for credible sentences, consideration of the victim’s experience and realistic rehabilitation measures, designed to cut crime.

Surely that’s the sort of thing we elect governments for.

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