Justice Committee

Press notice
No. 12 of Session 2007-08
31 January 2008 / For Immediate Release


The Justice Committee is today launching an inquiry into whether the enormous sums spent on criminal justice and to cope with consistently high levels of re-offending are being used most effectively.

The National Audit Office published a report today stating that lack of resources in the Probation Service is preventing offenders from accessing the services required to address effectively their offending behaviour, especially in regard to social problems such as alcohol abuse and mental health. Probation cost £807million in 2006/07.

Figures also released today on people in custody in December 2007 show that the custodial population is continuing to rise and that at the end of last year prisons were operating at 110% of their certified capacity.

Chairman of the Committee, Rt Hon Alan Beith MP said: "Vast amounts of money are being spent on the Prison Service, the Probation Service and Social Services on dealing with the consequences of crime and re-offending. The Justice Committee wants to look at whether those resources have been used effectively or whether other approaches might be more suitable. Our aim is to ensure that these resources are directed in the best possible way to improve public safety and reduce crime."

"Justice Reinvestment" is a term coined in the US to describe efforts to use funds which are at present spent on imprisoning offenders more productively on locally based initiatives designed to tackle the underlying problems which give rise to criminal behaviour. The Justice Committee's inquiry will focus on the question of the return for society on a policy of continued investment in prison building and other traditional methods of dealing with criminals.

Terms of reference of the inquiry:

The Committee will concentrate on the following questions:

1. An examination of current policy including:
€ How cost-effective are prisons?
€ What are the real cost implications and consequences of the Carter Report's recommendations in the medium and long term, in particular in relation to the proposed new Sentencing Commission and prison building programme?
€ What are the implications for probation provision, the delivery of effective practice and the wider cross-departmental reducing re-offending agenda?
€ How reliable is the evidence on which these policies are based?

2. An examination of potential alternative policies:
€ How could resources which are currently invested in the criminal justice system be invested more effectively both within and outside the system e.g. in courts, probation, prisons and communities? € To what extent should additional resources be redirected from the penal system into social, health and educational provision?
€ What impact could Justice Reinvestment make on our penal policy?
€ What can we learn from other European countries?

3. To what extent could existing structures and partnerships be used to implement alternative policies? What are the barriers to adopting alternative policies? What additional research is required?

4. What is the potential for a political consensus on an alternative future penal policy? What evidence exists concerning public opinion on the allocation of scarce resources for criminal justice? What role can the media play in shifting the culture of penal policy?
The Committee is seeking written evidence addressing the terms of reference by Friday 29 February 2008. Further guidance on the format and length of submissions is given below. Please bear in mind that Committees are not able to investigate individual cases.

Call for evidence:
Written evidence should if possible be in Word or rich text format€”not PDF format€”and sent by e-mail to justicecommemo@parliament.uk. The body of the e-mail must include a contact name, telephone number and postal address. The e-mail should also make clear who the submission is from. The deadline is Friday 29 February 2008.

Submissions must address the terms of reference. They should be in the format of a self-contained memorandum and should be no more than 3,000 words. Paragraphs should be numbered for ease of reference, and the document must include an executive summary. Further guidance on the submission of evidence can be found at www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/witness.cfm.

Submissions should be original work, not previously published or circulated elsewhere, though previously published work can be referred to in a submission and submitted as supplementary material. Once submitted, your submission becomes the property of the Committee and no public use should be made of it unless you have first obtained permission from the Clerk of the Committee. PLEASE BEAR IN MIND THAT COMMITTEES ARE NOT ABLE TO INVESTIGATE INDIVIDUAL CASES.

The Committee normally, though not always, chooses to publish the written evidence it receives, either by printing the evidence, publishing it on the internet or making it publicly available through the Parliamentary Archives. If there is any information you believe to be sensitive you should highlight it and explain what harm you believe would result from its disclosure; the Committee will take this into account in deciding whether to publish or further disclose the evidence.

For data protection purposes, it would be helpful if individuals wishing to submit written evidence send their contact details in a covering letter or e-mail.

1. Committee Membership is as follows: Rt Hon Alan Beith MP (Chairman), Rosie Cooper MP, Mr David Howarth MP, Daniel Kawczynski MP, Siân James MP, Jessica Morden MP, Julie Morgan MP, Mr Humfrey Malins MP, Rt Hon Alun Michael MP, Robert Neill MP, Dr Nick Palmer MP, Virendra Sharma MP, Mr Andrew Tyrie MP and Dr Alan Whitehead MP

2. The National Audit Office's report can be found on their website at: http://www.nao.org.uk/pn/07-08/0708203.htm

3. The statistics on people in custody can be found on the Ministry of Justice's website at: http://www.justice.gov.uk/news/announcement310108a.htm

4. Lord Carter of Coles report, Securing the future: proposals for the efficient and sustainable use of custody in England and Wales, can be found on the Ministry of Justice's website at: http://www.justice.gov.uk/publications/securing-the-future.htm.

Further Information:
Media Enquiries: Jessica Bridges Palmer (020 7219 0724) email: bridgespalmerj@parliament.uk; Clare Mills (07795 662742);