The criminal justice system is under pressure. Prisons are overcrowded, there are record levels of violence in jails, reoffending rates remain stubbornly high, and victims are waiting longer than ever to get justice. And despite continuing falls in traditional volume crimes, such as burglary and car theft, the criminal justice system is locked in a cycle of continuous failure, unable to respond to the pressures it faces.
At Crest we think this is because the system remains overly centralised, with little bottom-up pressure to reform or improve. Ultimately, it is at the local level where the most powerful incentives and levers for making communities safer are to be found. Services such as health, education, employment and housing are already delivered locally. A more localised criminal justice system, shaped around local needs rather than those set in Whitehall, is more likely to create a system which is preventative, joined up, evidence-based and transparent.
We think the onus for driving change lies increasingly with locally elected Police and Crime Commissioners.
After working with four PCCs over the last 18 months, our latest research report points to a number of practical ways in which Police and Crime Commissioners could use their democratic mandate to bring services together to drive improvements, and ultimately, to cut crime. Their verdict is set out below alongside some of our specific recommendations:
Julia Mulligan, Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire
“Crest’s work on justice devolution has helped us to prioritise the areas upon which to focus our efforts for reform and improvement. Their analysis of the volumes and flows within the system has helped identify how our goals of ‘accessible’ justice, protecting victims and reducing reoffending can be achieved and our justice service improved. Crest worked with partners across the criminal justice system and provided findings specific to North Yorkshire’s circumstances. Alongside other workstreams, this has helped us develop a clearer future direction for local criminal justice, which will be better placed to serve our communities in the 21st Century.”
Recommendation: Negotiation of a devolved custody budget for North Yorkshire to enable local commissioning of prison places for the small number of female and prolific young offenders as well as increasing the use of intensive community orders for women and young adults.
Sue Mountstevens, Police and Crime Commissioner for Avon and Somerset
“Crest have produced a really insightful report into Reducing Reoffending in Avon and Somerset. The analysis has helped identify a number of key issues and made some really helpful suggestions to take forward solutions. We feel this report has given us an excellent platform to have a real impact on reducing reoffending working collaboratively with MOJ and other partners.”
Recommendation: The local Reducing Reoffending Board in Avon and Somerset to both design and commission probation services to address the increase in the number of prolific offenders when the overall numbers of people in custody is falling.
Alison Hernandez, Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon and Cornwall
“It’s been an insightful journey into the criminal justice system working alongside Crest Advisory. They have helped us set our priorities with a greater national context and a stronger evidence base. One in particular has been around the issues that women offenders face, which I feel we would have missed without their help.”
Recommendation: A co-designed and co-commissioned approach to ‘through the gate’ resettlement services in Devon and Cornwall to address the large numbers of offenders with multiple/complex needs not currently receiving any form of intervention.
Dame Vera Baird, Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria
“Crest Advisory approached me with a unique opportunity to join their project to explore how it might be possible to deliver justice in Northumbria differently. I asked them to focus on women and young people – as both victims and offenders. These groups were ones where having more local control might enable us to provide better support, to improve outcomes and ultimately to save money. They looked at our crime data and met with organisations already working in these areas to see what change would be most effective. As a result, agencies are already working more collaboratively to maximise the impact of what we do.”
Recommendation: New resettlement services for the relatively small number of female offenders in Northumbria. There has been an increase in the numbers being given short custodial sentences and this would provide more flexible sentencing options.
At Crest Advisory we believe it is time for the government to make good on the original vision behind Police and Crime Commissioners and give them the powers and the tools to deliver the ‘and Crime’ part of their job description on behalf of the communities which elected them.
To find out how Crest can help your organisation navigate devolution and improve criminal justice outcomes contact us.
You can read the full list of recommendations in our Justice Devolution report – please share your views.
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Working in communications and public affairs for 15 years, Jo brings her expertise in the political and voluntary sector to deliver high-quality, politically sensitive campaigns and communications. From managing media and stakeholders in fast-paced General Election campaigns to advising senior politicians, in government and opposition, Jo understands how to improve communications in the public sector.