The privatisation of probation - or a change in probation

A report out that recent changes to the probation service didn’t work. Or were costly, Or that privatisation was to blame. That last not being quite what was found although it will undoubtedly be what is said about it.

The thing being how the probation service worked was changed at the same time as who did the probation was. It therefore being more than a little difficult to blame anything on just the who.

Problems with the partial privatisation of the probation system in England and Wales have cost taxpayers almost £500m, the government spending watchdog says.

That’s what will be the political football, obviously enough. Privatisation, costs. Reality being just that tad bit more complex:

Prior to the reforms, which were designed to drive down re-offending rates, convicts who had served less than one year did not have to be supervised by probation services.

But from 2015 every criminal given a custodial sentence became subject to statutory supervision and rehabilitation upon release into the community.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said this meant an extra 40,000 offenders were being supported each year.

The NAO report said that between January 2015 and September 2018, the number of offenders recalled to prison for breaching their licence condition increased by almost half, from 4,240 to 6,240.

Over the same period, the percentage of offenders recalled to custody who had received sentences of less than 12 months increased from 3% to 36%.

Checking more people led to more people being found in violation of their terms. Given that we’d rather like people not to be in violation of those terms this might be regarded as an increase in the efficiency or effectiveness of the service. And yes, obviously enough, a rise in the cost of the system. Banging up the criminals does indeed have a cost.

What we want to know about the privatisation or not is whether a not-privatised service would have cost more or less under the same terms and conditions. The one thing we don’t know - and the one thing that just about no one is going to discuss here either. But, you know, politics, just blame the privatisation.