Quakers in Criminal Justice

December 2007 Newsletter

Editorial

As we go to press, we hear the incredible news that the government is scrapping NOMS, only three years after it was set up, and after an expenditure quoted as £1.5 billion in headquarters costs alone.

I am grateful to one of our members for supplying details. Hardly any of us welcomed the National Offender Management Service; it sounded from the start too unwieldy and bureaucratic, and many of us are suspicious of a philosophy of “managing people” anyway. We look for that of God in those we meet, and try to build on that. NOMS did not get off to a promising start. It was set up hastily, without proper consultation, in an effort to provide a seamless processing of those convicted of breaking the law, and also (though this was not stated) of saving the government's credibility with regard to its response to crime, which falling crime figures have so far failed to do. The figures are simply not believed and the re-offending rates remain high, destroying any belief that the present attempts at crime control are in any sense effective.

NOMS has hardly had time to prove itself, but it is clearly a failure. NAPO claims £900 million a year as the running costs. Yet a costly computer system designed to keep track of offenders has been abandoned, simply because it did not work. The Ministry of Justice was set up only in May, under the leadership of Jack Straw. Now we are likely to see the Ministry split into two, one department responsible for developing policy, the other for implementing it. If the first actually starts taking note of what JPs, probation officers, POA members on the wings and QPMs are saying, that would be a welcome step in the right direction. We call for sound practice based on evidence, and not on some politically-acceptable ideology, or the bigotry of the tabloid press.

Adrian Smith
Newsletter editor

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