David Blackburn

A miracle! And a good idea

A miracle! And a good idea
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I’m not sure if the sun will ever rise in the east again: Michael Howard has supported a Ken Clarke prison policy. The Justice Secretary has launched a pilot scheme at HMP Peterborough that uses private bond investment to fund inmate remedial programmes to cut re-offending. The Social Impacts Bond will provide £5million to produce £8million over the course of six years, assuming the scheme is a success.

The situation required boldness. For once tabloid melodrama is accurate: reoffending is the scourge of our times and its incidence has risen steadily over the last decade. According to Dame Anne Owers, the former chief inspector of prisons, one cause is that remedial funding did not keep pace with the 27 percent increase in prison numbers between 1997-2007. What money there is for inmate education, mental health schemes and resettlement work is to be cut. The rate of re-offending will accelerate unless government finds alternative ways to fund essential public services and jam the revolving door of prison.

Clarke is offering the chance to make an ethical investment. In truth, only RBS shares could yield more diminutive returns but that’s not the point – this is an excellent idea that could inspire a quiet revolution in third sector involvement in public services. Perhaps this is what David Cameron means by the Big Society and the Post-Bureaucratic Age?

PS: I’m trying to discover if these investments are tax deductible; donations would surely increase if they were. I’ll keep Coffee Housers posted.

UPDATE: Tax is not deductible at the moment. But there is hope: the Ministry of Justice says that 'policy is being developed' and a green paper will be published in the autumn.