HC Deb 16 July 1997 vol 298 cc172-3W
Dr. Naysmith

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to improve joint working between the prison and probation services. [7159]

Mr. Straw

It is very important that the prison and probation services work together closely and effectively. They are both responsible for protecting the public from harm; and where prisoners are released from sentences which are served partly in custody and partly in the community they are subject to probation service supervision. There need to be the best possible arrangements for sharing information about prisoners and co-ordinating effort on risk assessment, resettlement planning and programmes directed to reducing offending and dealing with problems such as drug or alcohol misuse, which get in the way of successful rehabilitation.

We therefore intend to look at ways in which the better integration of the two services could improve their performance and effectiveness. I have asked my hon. Friend the member for Gateshead, East and Washington, West (Ms Quin) who has ministerial responsibility for both services within the Home Office, to lead this work. This will include looking at the structure and organisation of the probation service, to complement the review of the prison service which is now under way.

A system of punishment which is effective, credible and commands public confidence requires both community and custodial sentences to work, and to work together. Having considered the options for improving on present arrangements, I shall consult all concerned before deciding on the best way forward.

The detailed terms of reference of this review are as follows: To identify and assess options for closer and more integrated work between the Prison Service and the probation service of England and Wales, including any implications for the structure, organisation, management, working practices, human resources, funding and legislation governing the functions of those services; To examine international models reflecting good practice and to identify any lessons concerning the effectiveness and efficiency, organisation and management structures exhibited by those models; To provide a preliminary analysis of the options identified, including the estimated costs and benefits, as a basis for consultation.

This review will in due course form part of the Comprehensive Spending Review.

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