Liberal Democrats

F12: Rehabilitation of Offenders

10 members

Mover: Lord German (Spokesperson for Rehabilitation and Probation).

Summation: Lord Marks QC (Lords Spokesperson for Justice).

Conference believes that:

  1. The primary purpose of the penal system is to build communities that are free from crime, by rehabilitating ex-offenders and cutting reoffending.
  2. The current disjointed and failing system must be replaced by a co-ordinated approach in which all agencies work together to achieve that objective.

Conference notes that:

  1. The UK imprisons more people than any other country in Western Europe, in insanitary and degrading conditions in overcrowded and understaffed prisons where deaths, assaults, self-harm and drug use are far too common.
  2. Community supervision and 'Through the Gate' resettlement services have been failing because of government mismanagement, and the morale of the probation service is very low.
  3. Suitable housing, stable employment and strong family relationships all help to reduce the risk of reoffending, while drug and alcohol misuse, mental health issues, financial problems and homelessness all increase it; the provision of services to help individuals address these issues - in prison and the community - is inadequate.
  4. Spending to reduce re-offending would mean fewer victims of crime and yield major benefits for society and the public finances.

Conference therefore supports the following policies on rehabilitation, taken from the spokesperson's paper Turning Lives Around:

  1. A holistic approach to rehabilitation, in which:
    1. New, local co-ordinating bodies commission services to support individuals from sentencing to the end of supervision.
    2. These bodies are responsible for arranging for prison, supervision, healthcare and addiction treatment, education and training, housing and employment services, all as appropriate for the individuals concerned.
  2. The number of people unnecessarily in prison to be reduced, by:
    1. Legislating for a presumption against prison sentences shorter than 12 months.
    2. Ending prison sentences for the possession of drugs for personal use.
    3. Giving victims the right to request restorative justice.
    4. Raising the age of criminal responsibility to 14 and diverting more children away from the criminal justice system (CJS).
    5. Reducing the overrepresentation of people from BAME backgrounds in the CJS.
    6. Ending mandatory sentences for possession of knives and corrosive substances.
    7. Releasing prisoners on indeterminate sentences who have served their minimum term unless there is evidence that they remain a danger to the public.
    8. Conducting a sentencing review with a view to reducing long sentences.
    9. Reducing the number of people in prison on remand or recall.
  3. Prisons to be transformed into places of rehabilitation and recovery, by:
    1. Ending overcrowding.
    2. Recruiting more prison officers.
    3. Legislating for statutory minimum standards for prisons.
    4. Improving the provision of healthcare, education, training, work opportunities and access to sport, art and music.
    5. Ensuring that prisoners have access to IT, subject to content controls.
    6. Limiting the use of solitary confinement, including by reducing the maximum period of segregation without external review to 72 hours.
    7. Imposing additional days of imprisonment only as a punishment of last resort.
    8. Housing prisoners in prisons as near to their homes as possible.
    9. Building rehabilitation and recovery into prison design.
  4. Effective supervision and rehabilitation in the community, by:
    1. Unifying probation by bringing all supervision under the National Probation Service.
    2. Improving the quality of supervision, with more and better contact between ex-offenders and their probation officers.
    3. Increasing involvement of specialist voluntary sector organisations in providing supervision and mentoring services.
    4. Tailoring the length of supervision to the needs of individual prison-leavers in place of the mandatory 12-month supervision period.
  5. Education to be put at the core of the youth justice system, by:
    1. Replacing Young Offender Institutions with Secure Schools and Secure Children's Homes, small enough to assure individual care.
    2. Requiring each co-ordinating body to have at least one youth specialist responsible for commissioning services for children.
  6. The specific needs of women who have committed offences to be addressed by:
    1. Establishing a Women's Justice Board.
    2. Ending the use of prison for women, except for the most serious and violent crimes.
    3. Requiring the interests of dependent children to be considered at sentencing.
    4. Remanding women in custody only if a prison sentence is likely.
    5. Replacing existing women's prisons with small custodial centres dispersed around the country.
    6. Establishing a national network of women's centres: one-stop-shops providing services and support for women in or at risk of entering the CJS.
    7. Providing supported accommodation for women who need it on release from prison.
    8. Requiring each local co-ordinating body to appoint a 'Women's Champion', to raise awareness of women's specific needs and ensure they are met.
    9. Providing specialist training for all staff in contact with women in the CJS.
  7. Ex-offenders to be helped to build a life free from crime, by:
    1. Ensuring that all prison-leavers have suitable accommodation, a bank account and employment or training, and are registered with a local GP.
    2. Ending the release of prisoners on Fridays.
    3. Enabling prisoners to apply for Universal Credit in prison, so they receive their full entitlement immediately on release.
    4. Expanding the use of release on temporary licence.
    5. Offering reduced National Insurance Contributions to employers of prison-leavers.
    6. Reforming criminal record disclosure rules so that people do not have to declare irrelevant old or minor convictions.
    7. Removing questions about criminal convictions from application forms for all public-sector jobs and requiring employers to do the same to receive government contracts.
    8. Ensuring continuity of mental and physical health care and addiction treatment in prison and the community.
    9. Increasing wages for prisoners to a level that enables them to make savings into a bank account for release and contributions to Victims Support.
    10. Increasing the discharge grant to ensure that no one leaves prison destitute.
  8. Prisons, probation and rehabilitative services to be properly funded, and:
    1. Developing a comprehensive cross-departmental measure of the fiscal, economic and social costs of reoffending.
    2. Spending to save: treating expenditure across the CJS as investment in cutting crime.

Applicability: England and Wales; except 7. e) (lines 120-121) which is Federal.

Mover: 7 minutes; summation of motion and movers and summation of any amendments: 4 minutes; all other speakers: 3 minutes. For eligibility and procedure for speaking in this debate, see page 4.

The deadline for amendments to this motion - see page 6 - and for requests for separate votes - see page 3 - is 13.00 Monday 2 September. Those selected for debate will be printed in Conference Extra and Saturday's Conference Daily.

Conference Update: Amendment One (found in conference extra) was defeated. A separate vote on lines 47-48, the lines were retained.

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