Paying for Justice: Prison and Probation in an Age of Austerity

Published 12/06/2013
Type Article
Author(s) Rob Allen
Corresponding Authors Rob Allen, Co-Director Justice and Prisons

Looking at some of the current developments in penal policy, there is a sense of history
repeating itself. Almost exactly twenty years ago, a hard line Secretary of State took up
post , promising decent but austere prisons , while today’s minister offers the prospect of
Spartan but humane ones. (Mail on Sunday 2013) The 1990’s saw the very existence of a
probation service threatened by a minister whose big idea was replacing social work
trained professionals with former military personnel. Today there is once again the
existential threat to probation with the big idea appearing to be the unleashing of an army
of ex-offender mentors on those leaving prison – although as with the earlier proposal
there are major questions about the viability of the plan (Daily Telegraph 2013). In the
1990’s , Michael Howard went on to propose the scrapping of parole and early release
measures which prompted the then Chief Justice to opine that “never in the history of our
criminal law have such far reaching proposals been put forward on the strength of such
flimsy and dubious evidence” (House of Lords, 1996). Today we read that Justice Secretary
Chris Grayling is to change Britain’s ‘dishonest’ sentencing rules that allow inmates to walk
free halfway through their jail terms (Daily Mail 2013).