Sunday, 6 November 2016

This liberal Ministry of Justice amazes me

Time was, the Home Office was the most dysfunctional and reactionary of departments. It seems that the split into Home Office and Justice ministry has improved matters, the most conservative civil servants remaining with the Home Office (bad news for refugees and our relationship with continental jurisdictions) but the new ministry attracting more enlightened administrators. So the hints at restorative justice under Ken Clarke and trust in prison governors under Michael Gove is clearly part of a pattern continued by Liz Truss*. She is recruiting extra prison officers in order to reduce violence and crack down on drug-taking in prisons.

Ms Truss is quoted as saying that “This will be the first time ever that the secretary of state is not just responsible for housing prisoners but is responsible for their reform. We are going to put that in primary legislation.”

This is not going to happen overnight. It takes time to train prison officers and more again for them to come up to speed in the gaols. Nor, as the Guardian points out, does it restore the staffing levels to what they were pre-2010 - though there are commentators who believe that these were unnecessarily inflated by Labour before they left office. However, the emphasis on reform is very cheering. Moreover, there will be a long-term pay-off in terms of reducing reoffending rates and thus the cost of incarceration as well as to the economy generally. It would help also if the government defied the Daily Mail and the Daily Express to take off the statute book all those imprisonable offences which Labour created unnecessarily.

* It is probably a coincidence that Liz Truss was once a member of the Liberal Democrats

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