William Eichler 22 February 2017

Combined authorities the ‘natural leaders’ for driving reform of criminal justice system

Metro mayors should use newly-devolved criminal justice powers to cut reoffending rates, report urges.

A new study into how to reform the criminal justice system has called for combined authorities and mayors to use devolved powers to ‘drive innovation’ and cut down on reoffending.

Entitled Doing it Justice: breaking barriers to criminal justice transformation, the report highlighted the need to reduce tensions between central Government and local control of services.

It also called for greater integration between the criminal justice system and other areas of the public sector, such as education and employment, health and mental health, substance use and welfare.

‘There is no single factor or silver bullet to deliver change and transformation to a criminal justice system which costs the taxpayer £17bn annually, let alone reducing the staggering £124bn estimated annual economic costs of violent crime in the UK,’ said the report’s author and former secretary of state for communities and local government, Hazel Blears.

‘Rather, we see that a complex interplay of cultural, economic, organisational and historic factors block innovation and prevent much-needed integration.’

‘We have identified five interdependent building blocks for transformation that could deliver the type of whole system change that cuts costs, ensures safety and positively changes the lives of offenders and improves safety for communities,’ she added.

The five building blocks are:

• co-commissioning and design of services to drive place-based transformation;
• co-production to encourage public engagement and new ways of working;
• creating a life opportunities approach to preventing reoffending based on recognising the life potential of offenders;
• better use of digital technology and data analysis to support rehabilitation;
• devolution of leadership and workforce development.

‘Local areas need support from central government to integrate criminal justice services, and combined authorities in this context must be seen as the natural leaders for driving systemic transformation,’ said co-author Professor Lord Patel.

‘When viewed through the prism of collaborative working across the health, education, housing and welfare system, the possibilities for public value creation in driving radical change across criminal justice system represent a once in a lifetime opportunity.’

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