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Tagged In:  Probation

Could we see Greater Manchester “blazing a trail” in its approach to tackling reoffending following Chancellor George Osborne’s announcement on devolution

Figuratively speaking, the term openly used by the interim Mayor for Greater Manchester, Mr Tony Lloyd, promises to address reoffending in a way that nowhere else has done before. It’s certainly a bold statement so early on in the process, so what does it all mean for criminal justice?

Well, it’s the first English region to get new powers over the criminal justice system. Essentially, decisions on offender management, prison education and work with young offenders will all be made locally. 

We understand that there are ‘plans’ for a new resettlement prison and revised youth offending management services, as well as the introduction of sobriety bracelets, and GPS tagging of offenders.  

Although the plans are still very much in their infancy, they will almost certainly have an impact on youth offending staff and with the future development of a new prison estate, there could be a surge in prison staff vacancies in the area. 

Mr Lloyd will oversee these plans in his capacity of Chair of the Justice and Rehabilitation Executive Board, which will bring together police, probation, local authorities, prisons, the NHS, the voluntary sector, and other agencies to tackle the root causes of reoffending. 

On the face of it, the set-up sounds pretty familiar – many of our candidates will recall the days where every county had an overarching criminal justice board, by far the majority of which have since been disbanded. 

So what makes the Greater Manchester set-up different? 

It’s interesting, because it appears as if Greater Manchester will have much more direct control over how justice and rehabilitation will be delivered on a regional basis. It’s already been working with female offenders across the region on a similar basis, with promising results. The focus now, in Mr Lloyd’s words will be “stopping what can be seen as a conveyor belt to prison”. 

The exact plans are yet to be worked out though, although the city is likely to see the development of a new prison to help prepare inmates for life on the outside. Essentially, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, which is made up of the region's 10 local authorities, will work with the government to create a "modern new prison estate" with greater involvement in future plans for local courts.

If it works in the US, could it work here?

Although no way near as far-reaching, the Greater Manchester model signals a step towards similar systems in the US.  In New York, for example, the Mayor holds to account the police, as well as those agencies responsible for prosecuting and sentencing. 

In Ohio too, where the budget for prison places have been devolved and local districts are able to charge for the cost of prison places, there has been a reported increase in investment into community services as alternatives to incarceration. For those in favour of devolution, the results have been cited fairly frequently; the number of young people being incarcerated by the state dropped from more than 2,600 in 1992, to less than 510 in 2013.

Could we see a similar success in Greater Manchester? Possibly, although it’s far too early too speculate. The pathfinder project aimed at addressing female reoffending in the region has been hailed as a huge success though. It involves work across all stages of the criminal justice system; from arrest to release from prison, using a gender specific approach to women who have offended.

It appears as if the Justice and Rehabilitation Executive Board will apply the same collaborative approach to both young offenders and offender education, working with a range of partners, including the constabulary, Police and Crime Commissioner, Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC), National Probation Service (NPS), prisons, Association of Greater Manchester Authorities and Greater Manchester Public Service Reform. 

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