Catch22 welcomes the publication last week of a comprehensive plan for policing and crime reduction in London. The Police and Crime Plan outlines important strategies to make London a safer and more cohesive city – from victim-led policing, co-commissioning of services and reducing reoffending, to an improved and effective devolved criminal justice system:
‘Putting victims at the heart of policing’ will create a supportive and transformational system that encourages resilience and community cohesion. We are proud to be at the heart of this, leading Restore:London, the MOPAC commissioned non-profit consortium working towards enhancing existing restorative justice services and filling gaps in provision right across London and also highlighting our support, and in partnership for children who are victims of sexual exploitation including in our Merton Risk and Resilience service.
By placing victims as an important but diverse group, the plan acknowledges the different services and challenges which fall under this umbrella, including child sexual exploitation (CSE). As part of this, MOPAC highlights the need for investment in the early identification of young people at risk of CSE, and how the use of social media intelligence can help to safeguard these young people. Our recent report into the impact of social media as a catalyst for youth violence, mirrors this thinking by highlighting the dangers of the online world, especially in relation to CSE and how professionals can work to tackle this.
Commitment to reducing reoffending
Successful offender rehabilitation hinges on personalised services. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach to reducing reoffending. By looking at community alternatives to custody, focusing on young people, persistent offenders and women, MOPAC has set out a plan that is built on our understanding of ‘what works’. This should bring about the right conditions for a safer, more prosperous London.
Community alternatives to custody
Catch22 believes that custody should be reserved only for those who have committed the most serious and dangerous offences. Effective community options can reduce the costly and harmful use of custodial sentences: done well they can enable young people to develop stronger ties to their community, their family, and enable positive outcomes in education, training and leading to employment.
The plan quotes the phrase:
“We will not give up on you. Your life is not a foregone conclusion.”
For Catch22, this epitomises the way young people must be treated, as part of London’s future not liabilities. It’s imperative that young people are viewed through the lens of their potential, rather than their sentence. MOPAC’s recommendation of the creation of a secure school in London could be a positive step towards this by emphasising learning over detention, built on the base of a secure, supportive environment.
Community focus for female offenders
Compared to the rest of the country, London sends a disproportionately high number of women to prison, most serving very short sentences. We welcome the creation of more specialist women’s centres, diverting women from custody processes to the right kinds of community provision. Women’s needs are frequently left unmet, and there is a disproportionate cost from their imprisonment to public services and society arising from the harm to children and families.
Many women in the criminal justice system are left without access to adequately tailored services that could support them to prevent reoffending and gain independence. Existing women’s centres in London are showing promising results and need further support as well as expansion.
Commitment to a more effective, joined up and devolved criminal justice system for London
London is the UK’s biggest and most diverse city, with a unique set of challenges and opportunities. By devolving responsibility and funding to local areas, we can tackle specific challenges more effectively. In light of the government’s probation service review and prison reform agenda, we are supportive of MOPAC’s stance on a whole-system approach for London.
The London Crime Prevention Fund will allocate 30% to Pan London co-commissioning of services to aid the prevention of reoffending. Co-commissioning with local services such as healthcare, education and accommodation will ensure that there is a clear, seamless rehabilitative pathway for an individual on release from prison.
The plan outlines the need for a development of a ‘Through the Gate Pathfinder’ delivered through strong partnership work. We know from our work that the first week after release is a key time for any prison leaver in their journey away from offending. The right employment opportunities, accommodation and health provision must be in place to give the best possible chance of integrating meaningfully and safely back into society.
Knife crime strategy
Through our partnership work with MOPAC via the LGE programme and other London projects such as Project 10/10 in Camden and Islington, we have seen first-hand the impact that moving a violence-affected young person into stable housing and encouraging them back into employment, education or training can have on the reduction of reoffending. It’s vital that we always understand the wider-context to youth crime and how violence and knife crime can be the symptom of wider problems. Catch22 works to address the multiple and complex issues that can lead to involvement in violence. We don’t focus on surface behaviours, but underlying causes and therefore welcome MOPAC’s investment in specialist services focusing on advocacy, mentoring and health, housing and employment support.
More trust needs to be placed in young people, and more enforcement misses the point.
Support for the Lammy Review
We were pleased to read of MOPAC’s support for David Lammy MP’s independent review of the over-representation of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) offenders in the Criminal Justice System. Catch22 was invited to contribute to this review and will shortly be publishing findings looking at prisoners’ experiences and perceptions of fairness across the system and how trust can be rebuilt. It is essential that we have the robust evidence base needed to drive urgent change, steering us towards a fairer justice system that we can all be proud of. The Lammy Review will shed new light on why this is happening, the extent of the problem, and crucially what can be done about it.
MOPAC have shown a clear direction and strong leadership with this plan. Now, we – local authorities, social care providers, the NHS, housing providers, the Metropolitan Police Force, educators and the charities – must work together in partnership with MOPAC to focus on delivering this plan for Londoners.
How will we ensure that services are co-commissioned and joined-up in the right way? How can we ensure that we create one single, seamless rehabilitation pathway for offenders? How can we put in place these systems to ensure that we tackle the root causes and not just the symptoms of crime in the capital?
The next steps in delivering this will be crucial, but we are proud of our ongoing partnership with MOPAC as we work together towards making London a safer city for all.