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Clarke will pay charities to keep people out of prison

30 June 2010

Radical plans to pay voluntary and private sector organisations by results in keeping former offenders out of the criminal justice system were revealed by justice secretary Ken Clarke today.

Clarke said the new approach, which “some of my colleagues might call part of the Big Society”, would give organisations “clear financial incentives” to keep offenders away from crime.

“And success would be measured perhaps by whether they find and keep a job, find housing and so on – whether they become functioning members of society – but above all by whether they are not reconvicted within the first few years of leaving prison.”

Clarke went on: “The intention of our policy in opposition was to pay for this new approach through the cash savings it was hoped it would generate for the criminal justice system.

“In government we intend to pursue this virtuous circle: reduced reoffending, fewer victims and value for money for the taxpaying public.”

Clarke said a scheme would shortly be launched in Peterborough where “social investors” would be paid by results in keeping former short sentenced prisoners away from crime.

He attacked the current “complicated, confusing and disingenuous” rules on sentencing and said the MoJ would explore a “minimum/maximum” approach.

This would mean judges setting a minimum period in prison, which would actually be served, and a maximum period, during which prisoners could earn their release.

Speaking at the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies at King’s College, London, the veteran politician said he was glad he didn’t retire because political events had been so “extraordinary and unpredictable”.

After the election, he said he found himself and his team “in an office we were not prepared for but we very much enjoy being in”.

Clarke said that although he was “one of the most vehement advocates” of tackling the deficit, he did not want policy to be determined “just by cuts”.

He went on: “We must turn the necessary financial stringency into a sensible and considered policy direction. That is what we are trying to do.”

Clarke described sweeping cuts in the number of magistrates’ and county courts (see Solicitors Journal 29 June 2010) as an “obvious early step” and promised “major changes” to the legal aid scheme.

“We must spend what the taxpayer can afford in legal assistance only on those issues where the public interest requires it.”

Clarke concluded that he enjoyed being at the MoJ because it “took him back to his roots as a lawyer” and because justice was a “serious subject which actually matters to society and the fabric of society”.

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