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New Government brings a sense of hope and change

If you work in our sector, it’s been a busy week. But there is a sense of hope in the air. 
The appointment of James Timpson as Prisons Minister was perhaps the biggest surprise as Sir Kier Starmer assembled his new team. It is an outstanding development for the sector. 
He has built a genuinely socially minded business, well known for employing people who have been in prison, and has gathered a formidable level of expertise and credibility. His appointment indicates that the new Government is serious about taking a fresh, evidence-led approach to reform of the criminal justice system.
Ministers are also acting swiftly and decisively to deal with the immediate capacity crisis in prisons, taking the difficult decisions that were ducked by the previous administration. 
Introducing early release for prisoners who have served 40% of their sentence is not a decision to be taken lightly but the consequences of failing to act decisively now could be nothing short of catastrophic. There will inevitably be crimes committed by some of the people released early but we are now out of alternatives.

Once we are through the immediate crisis, there is a huge amount of work to do to create a sustainable justice system that works for everyone. We have made a few suggestions that range from prioritising open prisons and reform of the mental health system to a Royal Commission that would take the politics out of the issue.
Above all we would urge the new Government to ‘think family’. A prison leaver’s most effective resettlement agency is often their family, who help them to get back on their feet and find a home and a job. People who stay in touch with family during their sentence are 39% less likely to reoffend. And yet just one in three prison leavers who need help getting back in touch with family or friends are receiving it.
But, for the moment, I am delighted that we have a Government that is willing to take the tough decisions and a Prisons Minister with the experience and credibility to deliver change.