A few months ago I was in the Clink.
Not the famous prison in Southwark.
But the prison restaurant which bears its name in High Down prison just a few miles to the south.
It’s one of the most innovative projects I have ever come across. A restaurant, open to the public, but where the cooks and the waiting staff are all prisoners, learning a new trade, getting ready for a return to the outside
world, and with the real hope of getting a job.
It’s an inspirational project and a real example of what our criminal justice system should be doing to try to turn lives around.
That is only one part of what our criminal justice system should do. I was at High Down not too long after last year’s riots. Being close to London, it had a fair share of the people involved in those disgraceful events.
I asked one of the prison officers about the rioters who had been sent there. His reply was illuminating to say the least.
Many of them were really shocked, he told me. They didn’t really believe that anything would happen to them. Still less that they would end up in prison.
Too often those who offend think that nothing will happen to them.
Our job is to make sure it does.
I’ve made no bones about my intention to be a tough Justice Secretary.
That means I want our justice system to be firm, fair and transparent.
One in which the public have confidence.
A system that punishes offenders properly.
A system that supports the hard work done by our police.
A system which looks after the victims of crime.
But that’s not enough on its own.
It also has to be a system which recognises that our prisons are full of people who face huge challenges. A system which is designed to ensure that they do not return to a life of crime when they are released.
Before I set out my plans in detail, I want to introduce you to the team of people who will be making all of this happen with me. My Ministerial team, here on the front row.
We’ve already heard from Damian Green.
There’s Jeremy Wright and Helen Grant. Our Whip David Evennett, and our two P.P.S.s Lee Scott, and David Rutley.
Ladies and gentlemen, that public confidence issue is so important.
We cannot deliver the reforms that are so desperately needed unless the public believe in us.
And so to law-abiding citizens, I want to say ‘we are on your side’.
That is why today I am announcing a change to the law about protecting yourself and your family from intruders to your home.
None of us really know how we would react if someone broke into our house.
None of us really know how frightening it would be if we were confronted by a burglar in the middle of the night.
Or how terrified we’d feel, if we thought our family was in danger.
You might well hit out in the heat of the moment, without thinking of anything but protecting your loved ones. And right now you’re still not sure the law is on your side.
I think householders acting instinctively and honestly in self defence are victims not criminals. They should be treated that way. That’s why we are going to deal with this issue once and for all. I will shortly bring forward a
change to the law. It will mean that even if a householder faced with that terrifying situation uses force that in the cold light of day might seem over the top, unless their response is grossly disproportionate, the law will
be on their side.
We’ve all backed this change in the past. It’s time it happened.
We are about to start another important change too.
It’s called ‘two strikes and you’re out’.
So, if you commit two serious violent or sexual offences, you will get an automatic life sentence.
Everyone deserves a second chance. But those who commit the most serious offences, crimes that would attract a sentence of 10 or more years, cannot be allowed to just go on and on causing harm, distress and injury.
Those people are a real threat to our society, and we must treat them as such.
Thirdly, I am announcing today that we are making big changes to community sentences, so that they deliver proper punishment in the community. Right now large numbers of those sentences deliver no punishment at
all. We will change that. We will legislate to make sure there is a punitive element as part of every community order.
We are also legislating to use more state of the art technology to enforce curfews and exclusion zones. So, for example, we’d be far better placed to know whether a paedophile has broken his order by hanging around
We need to do everything we can to safeguard our communities.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I will not compromise on punishing offenders or protecting the public.
But the biggest challenge in our criminal justice system is a very different one.
I want to see more people who deserve it go to prison. But I also want to see far fewer coming back.
The failure of our system to prevent reoffending is stark.
Half of offenders are reconvicted within a year of leaving prison. Some re-offend within a matter of weeks, or even simply days, of leaving jail. Around one-third of offenders sentenced for indictable offences last year had
15 or more previous convictions or cautions.
You know what we do?
When someone leaves prison, we send them back onto the streets with 46 quid in their pockets.
Back to the same streets.
Back to the same groups of people.
Back to the same chaotic life styles.
Back to the same habits as before.
So why are we surprised when so many commit crime all over again?
It costs the economy at least £9.5 billion a year.
It blights communities, and ruins lives.
It is a national scandal.
But the impetus to break this cycle is not just an economic one, or an issue of public safety.
We know – and have known for some years – the factors which affect people’s life chances.
But the statistics – even if we think we know them – really are grim.
Around a quarter of prisoners were in care as a child;
Just think about that.
A quarter of people in our jails today were in care as children.
I find that truly shocking.
Nearly a third of them experienced abuse as a child;
Half our prisoners have no qualifications;
Half haven’t been in paid employment in the year before custody;
About two thirds have used drugs in the month before entering prison;
Nearly a quarter have a severe and enduring mental illness.
Nearly three quarters of the prison population were identified as having either a severe and enduring mental illness, a substance addiction … or both.
These are issues we simply cannot ignore.
We have to address them if we are to stop re-offending.
I want to say to offenders ‘We will send you to prison. But we want to change things so that you don’t keep coming back’.
Over the past two and a half years I have been working with Iain Duncan Smith to transform our welfare state. It’s now time to do the same in justice.
As Employment Minister I pioneered the use of large scale payment by results contracts to help the long term unemployed through our Work Programme. It’s a simple proposition really. You decide what works best, and
we pay you when you are successful.
It’s an approach that’s already beginning to make a difference getting the long term unemployed back to work. I plan to bring that same approach to preventing reoffending. We will allow nimble private and voluntary
sector providers to innovate, to find the right mix of training and mentoring, to do what works in ensuring that those leaving prison and community sentences do not reoffend.
And there will be more.
Inside prison, there will be more purposeful regimes. Maidstone prison for example has a textiles facility which produces work wear, and a laundry that employs offenders working a 33 hour week. There is plenty
offenders can, and should, be productively doing.
Inside prison we must give prisoners proper skills and training. Take the Timpson’s academy in Liverpool prison. Prisoners receive training in shoe repairs, engraving, and dry cleaning. The workshop is fitted out to look
like a Timpson’s shop, and offenders have the opportunity to apply for a job with the company on release.
We will make more effective use of drug rehabilitation and alcohol treatments to help tackle the root cause of crime and re-offending. In Kirkham prison for example, they have recruited 2 ex users and offenders as
‘Recovery Champions’ to support the Substance Misuse Services. We will also build on the already ongoing work to make prisons drug free, not somewhere that offenders get sucked into ever more damaging cycles of
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are already proud as a Government of our reforms to Welfare and Education.
When we meet here again in a year’s time, I want there to be a real sense that our justice reforms are starting to make an equally big difference to our society.
When you think about the reality for the people who are in our prisons, you realise that we have absolutely no choice. It just has to happen.
There’s one other aspect of our prison system that also has to change.
We have to do something about foreign national prisoners. Their number has increased by forty per cent in the last ten years. They account for more than ten thousand of the places in prison.
It is a tough task. But it’s one we are already tackling, so that more foreign prisoners are sent back to serve sentences in their own countries.
It’s something that Jeremy Wright and I will be putting a lot of effort into sorting once and for all.
There’s another priority for us as well.
Just before the General Election David Cameron and I went to a small community centre in Liverpool to meet a group of mothers, all of whom had seen violent crime rip their families apart. They all told the same story, of a
criminal justice system that seemed to be more on the side of the offender than of the victim and their family.
They said they didn’t receive enough information about what was going on. Sometimes the offender was back on the streets and they didn’t even know it. They felt that they were being forgotten.
Well I haven’t forgotten that conversation, and I think it’s time to make sure we put the victim and their family first. That’s why one of my first actions on becoming Justice Secretary was to appoint a Minister for Victims,
Helen Grant. I am sure she will do an excellent job.
Her first task will be to appoint a new Victims Commissioner to work with her to make sure we put victims first. I want that person to be someone who knows at first hand what the impact of crime can be. Then I want them
both to work with victims and their families to make sure their interests come first.
There’s one other promise I want to make to you today.
At the last election we promised to do something about our out of control human rights culture.
It’s just crazy that people who are determined to attack our society are able to go back to the courts again and again and claim that it would infringe their human rights to send them back to the countries they come from.
We know we cannot deal with this in the way we want while we are in coalition.
But we cannot go on the way we are.
So my commitment to you is that Damian Green and I will give this Party a clear plan for change on human rights.
A plan we can take to every doorstep. A plan we can use to fight the battle that we all want to win at the next election – to secure a majority Conservative Government.
Ladies and Gentlemen.
My goals for our criminal justice system are simple.
I want to send a message to law-abiding citizens that says ‘we are on your side’.
I want to send a message to victims that says ‘we will support you’.
I want to send a message to criminals that says ‘we will send you to prison, but we will also help you go straight’.
This is what I believe a tough, fair justice system should look like.
This is what a revolution in rehabilitation should look like.
And that is what we will deliver.