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Private firms to handle criminals on probation
MORE than 5,000 violent criminals on probation across Hampshire will be handed over to private firms, under fiercely criticised plans.
The offenders have committed crimes including domestic violence, burglary, robbery, violence against the person and sexual offences, Labour said.
Companies such as G4S and Serco – currently at the centre of fraud inquiries – will bid to take over monitoring work.
And the shake-up will see local probation trusts abolished, after David Cameron accused them of failing to do enough to “stop reoffending”.
But some trusts, and trade unions have raised the alarm, warning the public may be put at risk if the radical changes to monitoring former prisoners go ahead.
They have urged Justice Secretary Chris Grayling to delay them for six months at the very least.
And Labour has revealed the true scale of the shake-up – with 217,569 serious and violent offenders to be handled by private companies.
Of those, 5,712 are on probation in this county and currently monitored by Hampshire Probation Trust.
They are now categorised as “low and medium-risk offenders” – despite having being jailed for serious and violent offences in the past.
Condemning the plans as a “reckless gamble”, Sadiq Khan, Labour’s justice spokesman, said: “We cannot afford to take any risks when public safety is concerned. The companies queuing up to profit from the probation sell-off have no track record in delivering these services and some are even under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office.
“It is risky in the extreme to put them in charge of almost 220,000 serious and violent criminals.”
But the Ministry of Justice vowed to plough ahead, insisting trials in Peterborough and Doncaster had shown “encouraging falls in reoffending rates”. A spokesman said: “Almost half those released from prison have returned to crime within 12 months.
The public deserves better.”
Prime Minister David Cameron told the Commons: “What we want is a probation service that is much more focused on getting results on stopping reoffending and making sure that we give people rehabilitation services from the moment they leave prison – which does not happen today.”
Under the plans, only the 31,000 highest-risk offenders will be monitored by a publicly-run probation service, at a national level.
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