Remember all those 'tough community sentences' ?
Criminals are being allowed to miss meetings with their probation officers if they claim they overslept, or had no transport to get there. The "unacceptable" excuses have been revealed by an official watchdog, the National Audit Office (NAO). The sessions were part of supposedly tough community order sentences imposed by courts as an alternative to prison.
Justice Minister David Hanson said action was underway to address the issues raised in the report. The community orders - which involve a variety of activities including unpaid work, drug rehabilitation and alcohol treatment - have been promoted by ministers as a tough alternative to sending offenders to jail. In 2006, courts in England and Wales handed out 121,700 community orders but the NAO said that probation services still need to find out exactly how effective the orders are at preventing re-offending.
How odd. I could have sworn these programmes were 'evidence-based' on 'what works'. I'd never have thought they were just cobbled together in a desperate attempt to keep people out of jail. The Rand report on studies of community sentencing is mixed, to say the least.
We find that the quality of research on the effectiveness of community-based interventions for offenders is extremely variable. However, in two areas – cognitive/behavioural programming and drug treatment – rigorous research exists that points to a reduction in the odds of re-offending. In four other areas – programmes for domestic abuse perpetrators, unpaid work, education and basic skills training and intensive probation – existing studies have not suggested that the programmes have a positive effect on recidivism. Finally, in four areas – anger management, probation, and alcohol and mental health treatment – the question of impact on re-offending remains unsettled. This review highlights the need for more rigorous research – especially randomized trials – into the requirements that constitute community orders.
Two out of ten, in other words. I suppose that's a grade 'B' if the Department for Indoctrination and Skills, or whatever they're called this week, are doing the assessments.
Full NAO report is here.