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Pay prison governors bonuses for reducing reoffending

Prison bosses should be paid bonuses for meeting reoffending targets if the Government's planned 'rehabilitation revolution' is to be a success.

A new report by Policy Exchange argues that Justice Secretary Chris Grayling's plans to privatise the probation service, underpinned by a ‘payment-by-results’ mechanism, will only work if the prisons system is wrapped into the reforms and prison governors are directly incentivised to cooperate with the new private and voluntary providers who are due to take over probation services.

It says that Grayling was correct to abandon the Ministry of Justice’s previous payment-by-results pilot programme as the scheme would not have delivered any results until 2017 at the earliest, was reliant on new sources of funding and measured success based on a badly drawn out model which focused almost entirely on working with offenders serving short term prison sentences of under 12 months. Allowing the existing pilot scheme to continue would have jeopardized the entire payment-by-results model.
 
As the Government consults on plans to roll-out payment-by-results across the whole of the criminal  justice system, the report makes key recommendations about reforming both the measure used to determine success in reducing reoffending, and the payment mechanism used to reward providers.
 
It recommends:

  • The creation of prison league tables so that the public can judge the relative performance of different jails in cutting reoffending.
  • Abandoning the Government’s preferred measure of reoffending: The ‘binary measure’ of reoffending, measuring the proportion of offenders in a cohort who reoffend, must be abandoned. It commands almost no sector support and is not the best measure of reoffending in a PbR system for either reducing crime or reducing costs.
  • Introducing a higher tariff for the most hardened criminals: Though there are a range of potential replacement options for the binary measure, the report recommends a simple system of differential pricing whereby providers would be paid a higher tariff for rehabilitating those offenders who are hardest to help. This will both cut crime and costs, and command sector support. It will also alleviate fears about ‘parking’ of hard cases and the ‘creaming’ of those who are easier to help.

Max Chambers, Head of Crime and Justice at Policy Exchange, “The expansion of payment-by-results will be a real step forward, reducing reoffending and saving taxpayer money. But while these reforms could transform the criminal justice system, there’s a risk that the prisons system will refuse to play ball or cooperate with new probation service providers.
 
“We want to see prison governors directly incentivized to reduce reoffending. This move will also help to bring about a rehabilitation revolution much more immediately. To build more support for the plans, the Government must change the way it measures reoffending and adopt a measure which incentivises providers to really get to grips with the most difficult cases."

 


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