LOCKING up fewer minor offenders and more early interventions to stop people getting into crime were two themes highlighted at a major conference.
Hampshire Police and Crime Commissioner Simon Hayes held a one-day event in Winchester that focused on ways to reduce reoffending.
It comes amid the government’s Transforming Rehabilitation strategy, which is set to overhaul the probation service by replacing the 35 public sector probation trusts with 21 privately run ‘community rehabilitation companies’ to supervise low and medium-risk offenders each year.
The panel of 17 included the High Sheriff of Hampshire Rupert Younger, Barrie Cook from Hampshire Probation Trust, and director of the Center of Court Innovation in New York Greg Berman.
After the morning session, Mr Hayes told The News: ‘A theme we are getting is an understanding of a shift in policy development away from locking people up in order to transform their behaviour.
‘Just by putting someone in prison for a short period and then letting them out is not going to work.
‘So there’s an understanding that there are opportunities to transform people’s behaviour at various stages – when they are in prison, when they are about to come out of prison and when they are out of prison.
‘There’s a need to continue to support people for a period of time to ensure they don’t reoffend.’
More alternative sanctions could be in store, such as restorative justice, or offenders going on courses that aim to enable them to become law-abiding citizens.
Mr Hayes added: ‘There’s a feeling that early interventions working with people who are showing signs of reoffending in a minor way is money well-spent.
‘It saves money in the long-run if we can divert away from crime at an early stage.’
A report from the conference will be submitted to the Subcommittee on Criminal Justice and discussed with the Ministry of Justice.
Sweeping changes to the Probation Service are creating an element of uncertainty, the conference was told.
Probation trusts will cease operation on May 31 and the government will award a contract to the best bidder.
Simon Hayes said there was an initial concern that the unified working that exists in Hampshire may not continue when the probation service is privatised.
But he said: ‘It’s critically important they do work with the police. They don’t have to, but I would expect them too. We’re looking for the highest standards of professionalism, considerable experience of working with young offenders, a willingness to work with agencies, local authorities and education departments.
‘We will be looking to ensure that they are not doing this for the money – that they are committed to the social change agenda.’
The new system will be in place by April 2015, but the most dangerous offenders will remain with the National Probation Service.