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Import successful American ‘jail for a day’ scheme to the UK – new CSJ report

Serial offenders who breach community punishments could be instantly sent to jail for a day in a move that mirrors a highly successful US approach to reoffending, according to a new Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) report.

Swift justice for prolific offenders would restore much-needed credibility to community punishments and cut reoffending, the publication argues.

The CSJ found that many offenders who breach sentences being served in the community consider these punishments to be a ‘laughing stock’.

The number of people given a sentence in the community who had at least 15 previous convictions or cautions has increased by 76 per cent from 15,709 in 2003/4 to 27,632 in 2013, the study highlights.

Around a third of people given a sentence in the community are caught reoffending within a year and in 2012/13 some 17,066 offenders had their sentence scrapped because they did not comply with it.

The CSJ offers a host of recommendations in Sentences in the Community, including a move that would see serial offenders who breach their conditions sent to jail for a short period of time before continuing with the original order.

This would be similar to the ‘Swift and Certain’ (SAC) programmes that are being used in around 20 states across America and which are dramatically reducing breach rates and reoffending.

The report received widespread media coverage. Listen to the CSJ on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, BBC Breakfast and BBC 5 Live Breakfast. The story was also covered by The Times, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph and The Sun.

The CSJ criticised the fact that Magistrates’ courts often lack basic information – such as whether or not those they sentenced complied with the sentence or reoffended. The report recommends that new probation providers should inform Magistrates of the outcomes of sentences in the community so that they can develop a greater awareness of which interventions are effective.

Researchers added that families can play a crucial role in helping an offender leave crime behind and called for courts to do more to include families in rehabilitation efforts.

For drug users the CSJ has also urged that treatment providers introduce ‘randomised’ tests instead of ‘scheduled’ tests, ensuring that offenders cannot ‘game’ the system and have the best chance of getting effective support.

Read some of the CSJ's previous reports on criminal justice: Rules of Engagement, Locked Up Potential, A Force to be Reckoned With and Meaningful Mentoring.

It's time to bring mental health problems out of the shadows, says Diane Abbott MP

The issue of mental health problems in London’s black and minority ethnic (BME) communities has 'long been consigned to the shadows' and needs to become a political priority, senior Labour MP Diane Abbott said at a recent CSJ event.

The politician said many of the problems facing people in BME communities with mental ill-health have not improved since she was first elected to Parliament in 1987.

Speaking at the last in the CSJ’s series of Labour ‘Good Society’ lectures, the Hackney North and Stoke Newington MP called on churches to play a greater role in helping people to identify mental health problems and get treatment. She said people in BME communities tend to seek support much later than others and this can worsen conditions.

She added that there had been numerous reports on the subject, but none had properly been acted upon and that it is time for urgent action.

Ms Abbott’s speech on May 7 was the third in the series of ‘Good Society’ lectures, where Labour figures outline policy solutions for the future. Earlier in the series Labour policy guru Lord Glasman discussed politics of the common good and former Home Secretary David Blunkett MP, Chairman of the CSJ Advisory Council, warned of the rise of political apathy in the UK.

This is the second time the CSJ has held a series of 'Good Society' lectures. The first was in 2012 where speeches were given by manifesto supremo Jon Cruddas MP, former Government Minister David Lammy MP and Graham Allen MP, who has spearheaded much of the current Government’s work on early intervention.

CSJ to celebrate UK’s best poverty-fighting organisations

The CSJ’s annual awards – which honour some of the UK’s most effective voluntary sector groups tackling social breakdown and disadvantage – are now open for applications.

This prestigious event will be held in October and will award prizes of £10,000 to charities, small voluntary groups and local projects who are turning lives around and transforming communities.

High-profile figures from the worlds of politics, media, entertainment and sport will attend the ceremony along with charities and local groups.

Previous attendees have included Sir Bob Geldof, Alastair Campbell, Davina McCall, Dame Kelly Holmes and Jemima Khan.

Details of previous winners and attendees are available here and footage can be found on our YouTube page here.

The deadline for applications is Friday, June 6, and more information about applying can be found here.