Reoffending figures 'frightening'
More than 148,000 criminals convicted or cautioned over the last year had at least 15 previous offences to their name, the Government has revealed as it comes under increased pressure to delay its probation reforms.
As reports revealed that three leading probation figures have warned Justice Secretary Chris Grayling to put back his plans to privatise the service for at least six months, the Ministry of Justice released figures to illustrate what the department calls the "frightening scale" of reoffending.
A package of £450 million-worth of contracts has been offered to private and voluntary sector organisations, covering the supervision of 225,000 low and medium-risk offenders each year on a payment-by-results basis.
Members of the National Association of Probation Officers (Napo) union are set to strike next Tuesday over the proposals, while The Guardian reported the chairs of the Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Warwickshire probation trusts have told the Justice Secretary the plans will risk public safety.
The fresh figures also show more than half a million offenders had at least one previous conviction or caution, including 95% of those given short sentences of less than 12 months.
The data also more than 350,000 of those convicted or cautioned in the same period had served a community sentence.
Mr Grayling said: " People should stop and think about what these bleak figures represent - too many devastated victims, too many wasted lives and broken families and millions in taxpayers' money squandered.
"Simply put, the situation is grim and it will only get worse by sitting on our hands and doing nothing. The public are fed up with crooks doing their time and going straight back to crime, and so is this Government.
"Our reforms will help us put a stop to this, for the first time making it possible for every offender coming out of prison to receive at least 12 months support and supervision. And we will only pay for services in full where they are proven to cut reoffending, making sure public money goes further."
As well as selling off the probation service, the Government is to i ntroducing a minimum 12 months supervision and rehabilitation for all offenders on release from prison.
It is introducing a network of 70 resettlement prisons so nearly all offenders are released into the area in which they will live and be supervised.
Contracts are to be split across 20 English regions and one Welsh region, while the National Probation Service (NPS), a new public sector organisation, will be formed to deal with the rehabilitation of 31,000 high-risk offenders each year.
More than 700 organisations from across the world have expressed interest in the contracts, the MoJ said, including hundreds of British firms.
A Government-wide review is being conducted of all contracts held by Serco and G4S, two of the country's biggest private providers of public services.
The audit, triggered by disclosures that both firms had overcharged the Government for criminal-tagging contracts, prompted calls for the Ministry of Justice to abandon its plans to privatise the probation and prison service.
But it emerged that Mr Grayling intended to allow Serco and G4S to bid for the probation service - though the firms will not be awarded anything until the Government's audit is completed.
In a letter to the Justice Secretary seen by The Guardian, Jane Wilson, chairwoman of the Leicestershire and Rutland probation trust, said the current timetable, which includes imposing a deadline of April 2014 to transfer staff out of the public sector, has "serious implications for service delivery and therefore increases the risk to public safety".