Why be sane when you can be mad?

Number 1: Chris Grayling

Chris Grayling at the Home Office is keen on his new plan to rehabilitate prisoners. The Minister has yet to see the results of his payment by results pilot scheme, but rather than wait for the results, he has decided to go ahead with payment by results, by deciding not to read the pilot results at all. Nobody knows what the result of all this will be.

Keen to reassure Radio 4 listeners this morning, he said – and I quote word for word:

“The pilot I’ve been to see personally, it’s in Peterborough, it’s a system whereby offenders start to get mentoring before they leave prison”.

It’s encouraging that Chris has seen the pilot, but he hasn’t read the results as such. I’m not that interested in it being in Peterborough to be honest, although it’s nice to colour a few things in, even if they aren’t the, um, results. And I gather that mentoring before they leave is fairly normal, and preferable to mentoring after they’ve bashed the crap out of somebody in a sub-post office somewhere – Peterborough, perhaps. The Minister added:

“First indications are very encouraging. We get the detailed statistics later this month, but from what I’ve seen so far, I’m very encouraged that it does indeed work.”

So Chris has seen the pilot, he’s got some first indications, he’s encouraged, he hasn’t seen the stats, but it does work. Don’t try deconstructing that sentence at home. Grayling explained his eccentric approach to cart and horse arrangements in more detail:

“Look, we have to do this differently. I’m very much in favour of putting more of the right people in prison, but we’ve got to stop them coming back again.”

Right, I think I’m just about keeping up with him now: this is urgent, we need to get ahead of ourselves, so we’ll chuck all the wrong people out of prison, stop the right ones from coming back again by mentoring them before they leave, monitor the results before we get them, hope to God that we were right about the wrong people, and stop the right people from turning into wrong’uns. Well….he said different, and it certainly is different.

Cross-eyed Chris concluded crisply:

“The benefit of a payment by results system is it forces the organisations working with you to look for what really does work, because they don’t get paid unless they do.”

I think there is one conclusion I’d add to all that: Chris Grayling isn’t being paid by results on this one.

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35 thoughts on “Why be sane when you can be mad?

  1. And of course when all goes pear-shaped, it won’t be the system that is at fault, it will be because they are being sent the wrong kind of prisoners

  2. “Minister, the results are very encouraging – we have had some marvellous successes so far and we recommend that you enlarge the progamme and spend more money on us …. err it ….. and we will be able to roll it out across the country and quickly recover the £50 million we lost by not being able to bill the Olympic Delivery Authority for our services…..”

    Did anyone ever tell a visiting Minister that the work they were doing was a crock of sh!t, a complete waste of taxpayers’ money, and that the scheme should be wound up immediately with the loss of all jobs that went with it?

  3. Unless the successfully rehabilitated previous persistent offender has DIED and therefore it can be proven that in the time between leaving prison, being successfully rehabilitated and death – that no further criminal acts were committed, how do the government or these rehabilitation companies plan to measure success and therefore claim their Payment by Results?

    It’s just that if I had successfully rehabilitated a 19year old in 2013, my company wouldn’t be able to wait until 2069 before receiving payment for a job well done.

    But, if I’m paid today and the 19 year old re-offends 9 months (or 5 years) from now, does the taxpayer get their money back? or are we expected to pay “twice” both for rehabilitation and the subsequent period of re-incarceration?

    This sounds very similar to the “apprenticeship” companies that were paid millions to remove the unemployed from the unemployed register, only to put them in a converted warehouse where they mostly didn’t get an “apprenticeship” or much else, the “apprenticeship” companies faked paperwork and everyone but the “apprentice” and the taxpayer did very well out of it.

    Sounds like just another opportunity for those with the “right” connections to make lots of money from the taxpayer.

    I fully expect to hear the Blairs and the Hunts own premium shares in the “Charities” who will collect the most.

    • I share many of your doubts. However ….

      The following are my suppositions as I have no expertise in this area:
      1) The longer someone does not reoffend, the more unlikely that s/he will reoffend in the following year.
      2) If previous criminal activity had been due to drug or drink problems, someone who stays off his/her poison, as verified by reliable medical tests, would be less likely to reoffend.
      3) Someone who had never previously had stable employment is less likely to reoffend if they have stable employment especially if that is due to a skills upgrade.

      If I am correct and there are stats to back all this up, it should be able to work out the probability of any person reoffending. If the outcome for the ex-offenders managed by a company is lower than that projected, then the company should be paid as they are saving the taxpayer the huge costs of imprisonment. (Isn’t it more expensive to keep someone in prison than send him to Eton?) A man is less likely to reoffend as he gets older and that factor needs to be included in the probabilities.

      Paying a company annually for every client that stays off crime for that year gives a company a long-term incentive to do the job well. The company will have to do little work to keep someone on the straight and narrow, if s/he has stayed off crime for 5 years and has genuinely turned his/her life around. That person then becomes a valuable asset to the company, which will continue to accrue income for little more work.

      I am not being idealistic. I know many of the people in prison are complete scumbags. However, there are ex-offenders who have turned their lives around. As there are some, then there can be more. They jusy need the correct rehabilitation.

      I used to know a probation officer working for a charity that was almost exclusively dependent on government funding. He was a white middle-class Christian (nothing wrong with any of these). However, he saw probation work as an opportunity to feel good about himself, while failing to hide his loathing for his working-class, largely black clientele. While congratulating himself, he used to object vehemently to any appraisal of his work. I couldn’t help but think that other people could have done his job better.

  4. The benefit of a payment by results system is it forces the organisations working with you to look for what really does make money, because they are driven by profits over any other consideration.

    Why are there people so stupid?

    DavidC

      • But I don’t think these people are stupid at all. They trot out this gobbledegook knowing that a majority of the public will accept it and then they can get on with the business of getting their mates in on the gravy train. To get away with it routinely implies they are really quite bright, unless of course the public are the stupid ones.

  5. Reviving transportation to the colonies (or British Overseas Territories as they are called today), would be very much cheaper than this scheme and with far less chance of the beggers ever able to figure out how to get back here to become a re-offending statistic……IMHO it should sort all Mr Greylings aspertions for the cheap price of a (very economy class) longhaul flight ;)

  6. Perhaps what is needed is a ‘Devil’s Island’. What about St.Kilda, out in the Atlantic, only trouble is there’s no water there so that would have to be supplied along with food. A good place to put all those religious fanatics that cram our prisons, & all other violent bullies, of course.

  7. What’s the betting the ‘payment by results’ will be based on ‘re-convictions’, rather than ‘re-offending’ – because there’s a world of difference.
    The rate of reconviction depends on lots of other factors, like the effectiveness of the Police and CPS for starters, so first diminish their capability, then the rate goes down, so the experiment is a measurable success, so the contractors get paid.
    But ‘re-offending’ is what the public suffers every time a crime is committed – a totally different measurement unit.

    And wouldn’t Guinard be better than St Kilda ?

    • @Mplugger. Where is Guinard? Has it got water? Is it warm there? Wouldn’t want that, not when the UK gets such a lot of weather,(mainly bad this year). I shall have to look it up on Google, & send these suggestions to Mr.Grayling, & perhaps some others I can think of……

      • I was rather hoping it hadn’t been cleaned up. Leave that for the new residents to do – it would certainly stop any re-offending.

  8. Having first hand experience of a family member (adopted) being in and out of prison, I don’t hold my breath on this one!
    When a repeat offender is on first name terms with the police, court attendants and judges, and no-one addresses WHY the situation is like groundhog day, then any tinkering will do little round the edges.
    Most repeat offenders view prison as a holiday, and I am fairly sure they get better treatment than our poor elderly folk left all day in under-funded rest homes.
    It is a failing of the social, medical and legal systems, who fail to look at each individual as just that -individual – in collaboration..
    If the rest of the family are all law-abiding and tickety-boo, might an individual have a (well-hidden) screw loose? Like all good MP’s, psycopathic tendencies come in all hues……..
    And for the repeat con’s who follow a family pattern, it’ll take more than a mentor; perhaps having to work as a team to survive on some bleak island too isolated to swim from might teach better ‘family’ values and respect.
    Finding that it costs £40k/year to ‘house’ an inmate is downright insulting, if a family of honest folk have to survive on a quarter of that. Or is it just me?…..

  9. G4S and A4E are very good at sucking up payments by results, and no doubt the bloody idiots, in charge of the cheque book for this latest daft idea, will be only to willing to hand those enormous cheques over on our behalf, thank goodness there are more intelligent people than I to run this scheme as I’m sure that I would be hoodwinked by these companies and would only be capable of nothing more than watching then run off with the money!

    As far as relocation overseas and rehabilitation of these criminals is concerned, the only way of being sure that the don’t swim back and reoffend is to hang the bastards, and an added advantage of this system would be that their mates would also think twice before relying on a life of crime!

  10. This country, among many others, is now so bereft of any effective moral compass that the criminal justice system is often little more than a dog and pony show. As ever, hopelessness, poor environment and unemployment are major drivers for criminal behaviour and mental health issues account for much of the remainder. The constant spectacle of ‘those who should know better’ behaving in ways which, if not overtly criminal, are at least blatantly dishonest makes any differentiation academic at best.

    • We have a moral compass its just that we no longer have a magnetic north hence the compass spins aimlessly. The problem is that we now have a criminal justice system thats stuffed to the gills with misguided trendy right on left wing politically correct marxists who will absolutely thwart and work against the will of any sensible minded Government.
      Which brings me on to the fact that we also dont have a pragmatic sensible Government either as our political class is stuffed full of the same rotten people.

  11. It is undoubtedly the case that repeat offending populates much of the criminal justice system. And that’s because each event is generally treated in isolation, not as indicative of cumulative behaviour.

    A better approach would be if, on appearing for a second offence, the offender was sentenced not only for that event, but also a repeat of any previous sentence (which obviously didn’t work by itself). For example, if after a previous 6-month sentence, a new 12-month sentence is later given, then the period now served would be 18 months – the new 12 months plus a repeat of the earlier one. If, after that, the same person was convicted again, this time with a 2-year sentence, he would serve that 2 years, plus the 18 months from the previous ‘failed’ sentences again, a total of three and a half years. And so on.

    That way, repeat offending behaviour would attract repeat cumulative sentences, until he finally gets the message (i.e. he’s been rehabilitated) or spends the rest of his life locked up, either way liberating the general public from his criminal propensities.

    • Or at least make sure they served the balance of the tariff, assuming early release for the first sentence was predicated on an apparent reformation

  12. Even the reasons to bung there friends lots of tax payers money for nothing is so tiring for them they no longer even a) wait for the facts b)give sensible economic argument for it c)give plausible flannel, even they are getting tired of the pretence,tax is now like poker throw it all in the middle and with a fixed deck they will share it out amongst themselves ,getting back what little tax they pay plus more

  13. These people that get “paid for results” -would they be the same or similar in a manner of speaking, to the “people” who were going to provide security operatives for the olympic games earlier this year.

  14. My first thoughts, this proves the lunatics are in charge and then i read mudpluggers comment and thought what a simple effective idea.

    @Mudplugger,
    Spot on except for two points, would it effect their human rights and where would we find the money for all the extra prisons.
    My own thoughts are, if it was made known that this would be the punishment, then this would mean no breach of the Human Rights Act.

    As for the cost of building and location.
    How about South Georgia, plenty of water, potential hydro and wind power, plus a large population of Reindeer and problems with the eradication of the rat population. So reindeer meat and each inmate must kill at least one rat per day.
    Regarding building costs, supply basic materials for shelter, labour provided free by inmates, if not built before the winter storms it gets very cold.
    Transportation down there no problems, there must be one or two old car ferries available and if it was used for repeat offenders only, first and maybe second offenders may not wish to be sent there for their third offence?
    Also it we own it, and it would be a long way to swim to escape.

    • And ten years later they revolt and the republic of south Georgia is discovered to be swimming on a lake of oil and riddled with gold deposits.

      Five years after that, they win the ashes

  15. “George?”
    “Yes, Dave.”
    “How much money have we got?”
    “Not a lot, Dave.”
    “I want to give some more away.”
    “What is it this time?”
    “Don’t get stroppy with me, George. Or you’ll regret it.”
    “Eh?”
    “Yes, you will. I’m going to make myself President. See. Hire and fire. Then I can give away what I like.”
    “Oh. Right, Dave.”
    “That’ll be Mr. President from now on, George. Now, let’s have a look at getting tough on crime.”
    “Er…why?”
    “Because it will give the media something to talk about and I’ll look great.”

  16. Payment by results eh? So if someone is convicted of armed robbery of tens of thousands, then on release just to two mere shoplifting offences is that an inmprovement and the company gets paid? Or is that double the amount of crimes he committed before so they don’t get paid?

    These firms – not schoolmates of the Cabinet by any chance? The same Cabinet that when it is turfed out on it’s arse in a couple of years will be on the fish for a nice Board seat somewhere?

  17. There are a number of basic premises people might like to think about:

    1. An individual can make more trouble for society than that society can make for said individual.

    2. The justice system is about stopping society from reverting to uneconomic tribal justice models ie feuds, vendettas, etc the results of which were epitomized by Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet. If actual individual justice occurs that’s nice, but we work on averages. It’s all very well to be tough on crime, but it’s a waste of time.

    3. Revenge is not part of the plan. Punishment is by being sent TO prison, not AT prison. If a holiday camp atmosphere reduces recidivism then we are fools not to provide it. The obverse; tough prisons which leave an ex prisoner, sorer, but no wiser and with no ability to cope or earn a living, just sets them up to prove my proposition one.

    4. The cheapest economic model is to invest in fixing broken individuals. The alternative is to invest in prisons, police, security systems and barbed wire. It’s your choice. Of course investing in a good education system in the first place is even better.

    Entertain the prospect that the minister might just be right, even if he is trying to line his mates pockets.

    P.S I spread my bets. My brother is a magistrate and my son is a policeman.

    • Ah Walrus, where to start?

      Re 1. You must be separating society from the State. The State can be very tough on an individual and society could be too if the State allowed.
      Re 2. You have set the bar very low. I’d prefer the justice system earn it’s name. Who says being tough is a waste of time?
      Re 3. Why do we have to have the either or? Discipline and education have been proven methods to raise standards of behaviour for many years prior to the modern liberal thinking.
      Re 4. The problem is that ‘fixing broken individuals’ doesn’t work often enough for it to be a viable plan. Some individuals wont be fixed and no matter what we wish for that isn’t going to change. They could however be controlled. Perhaps we could try that for a change?

      Unlike you I have no wish to spread my bets. I just want to see some improvement on all this liberal nonsense that continues to bleat ‘prison doesn’t work’ whilst working damn hard to make sure that is so. But of course it is a nonsense statement anyway. Prison works as long as the offender is in prison it is release that isn’t working.

  18. I’d be a bit worried if we want to start paying SERCO and the like for releasing prisoners…….sounds like a nice little earner sor someone……
    Als raises a lot of questions…..like when will they qualify for payment? How can you prove that someone has not reoffended ………i presume it would have actually be ‘not been reconvicted’?……….before what time period?
    It also creates the potential for the plod to be incentivised to ‘not to convict’……

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