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Gloucestershire Business News

The probation system is "broken" says Gloucestershire's Police and Crime Commissioner

The sell-off of the Probation Service has led to a system that is "broken", according to Gloucestershire's Police and Crime Commissioner.

Gloucestershire's PCC Martin Surl was one of a number of commissioners to oppose the privatisation of the probation service in 2015.

Gloucestershire's Police and Crime Commissioner Martin Surl

The move was intended as an upgrade in services, with a subcontractor providing offenders with welfare and help in finding jobs.

However, recent figures have shown a sharp rise in re-offending in Gloucestershire from around 33 per cent, to around 50 per cent, with the fears of Surl and his contemporaries coming true.

Mr Surl said: "The privatisation of part of the probation service in 2015 focused on what the Government refers to as medium to low risk offenders.

"But these are the people who commit the vast majority of crimes. Things like burglaries and assault that concern people the most.

"As a result, re-offending rates are now well above 40% with the blame often falling on the police who have to deal with the consequences.

"Equally shocking is almost half the offenders being released from Bristol Prison, our nearest prison, are homeless with nowhere to go and little funding - and little evidence of any follow-up to deter them from returning to crime.

"The situation is unacceptable and hardly a good start to getting them back on the straight and narrow."

Punchline raised fears about the probation service sell-off with a front page splash in our September-October 2013 issue titled 'Probation service sell off, the profit and politics of punishment.'

We said: "At Punchline, we don't see the probation service fitting an industrial or business template.

"Railways, aerospace firms, steel producers etc, all need to make a profit and in a free market their successful operation is in more or less direct proportion to their profitability.

"But the probation service is excctly what it says it is - a service - whose successful operation lies in less tangible factors like incidences of reoffending by its clients.

"The service is there to help protect the public - not rake in the cash."

Those views may have been written nearly six years ago but they are looking increasingly accurate, our view that the system would fail has been echoed by the PCC who said, today it is "broken".

Mr Surl added: "If offenders are not supported effectively on their release from prison, then reoffending rates will remain high.

"More crime means more victims of crime which is unacceptable. Clearly, the system is broken.

"Like many PCCs who opposed the changes I firmly believe probation is a role for the state.

"We all now have a responsibility to ensure that any future government plans based on this broken approach do better and my office and I are now an integral part of that."

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