Friday 24 July 2009

On being " utterly horrified".

I am utterly horrified by what is happening in Darfur, the threat to the Burmese people and the wonderful Aung San Suu Kyi. Kevin Curley of NAVCA on the other hand has told Andrew Hind, Chief Executive of the Charity Commission, that he is "utterly horrified" that third sector organisations can now bid to run new and existing failing prisons.

He has attacked two marvellous national charities; Catch22 (the very charity that founded the probation service) and Turning point which does incredible work with young people at the very margins of society. Both charities are run by fine CEOs, Joyce Mosley and Victor Adebowale, whose work in our sector is regarded as of the very best. Thousands of staff and volunteers in these charities will regard such an attack with, dare I say " horror".

Let us examine and deconstruct his argument.

"He writes to the Commission to ask "whilst the purpose of a prison may include the rehabilitation of offenders the primary purposes are to punish people and to deter other people from committing crimes. I do not think these primary purposes are charitable objectives."

Curley has written to the Charity Commission again this week, in light of crime prevention charity Catch22 and Turning Point winning a Ministry of Justice bid to build and run two new prisons in the UK in partnership with private service provider Serco.

"It's fine for charities to provide education, training, advice, mentoring and support services within prisons," Curley generously says, "but not, in my view, to run them. "

"Whatever is said about using imprisonment to rehabilitate offenders the primary purpose is to incarcerate as a punishment. Even if that is a legal charitable purpose – and it seems most unlikely to me – it cannot be right for charities to do it."

The 1601 Statute of Elizabeth is clear that the "reformation of prisoners" is a core charitable purpose. It does not say this can only take place outside prison. Note the term "reformation" which in theological terms may well include punishment.

And It is clear that a charity "taking action to deter crime", which a range of charities have been doing for centuries is also a charitable purpose. The effects of crime scar communities and wreck families, harm children and old people create fear and unhappiness and deter social cohesion. Crime must be punished but must also be part of a programme that aims to reform and rehabilitate. Punishment takes many forms and charities over the last 400 years have been part of both punishment and rehab, though our role lies firmly in reformation. .

What these two great charities have done is form a partnership to ensure that they can carry out the work of such reformation in conjunction with a private sector organisation who will provide the basic management of the prison. It is a partnership that enshrines the best of the sector's skill in rehabilitation and commercial management skills. These contracts will ensure that our important work is protected and enhanced. What we know about current prison management by the state is that rehabilitation is never a priority and often suffers when there are staffing shortages or other problems.

This modern enterprising solution will provide institutions that ensure a better deal for offenders and help cut crime. These charities are to be applauded not attacked.

I am unclear what status Kevin thinks he has to tell these charities what they should or should not do. It is a depressing aspect of our sector that believes that even at a time of crisis it is appropriate to turn inwards and attack, not the common enemy of crime but another charity. The trustees and staff and volunteers of these tremendous charities have given this great thought and attention .

And perhaps Kevin might consider this; the probation service is part of the criminal justice system, responsible for "punishment" as well as rehabilitation. It was run for far longer as a charitable institution than as it is now, part of the state. Catch 22 were set up to do precisely that. They are continuing the fine tradition of securing the Elizabethan aim of "reformation " by joining forces to ensure effective modern penal establishments. Punishment and rehabilitation go hand in hand.

If these contracts and new management arrangements ensure that some of society's most vulnerable and dejected receive better treatment and society benefits with lower crime rates who is Kevin Curley to pronounce against them.

And amusingly we have just seen the Government's recently published strategy on " Building better Communities". It argues:

" the third sector should take the lead in developing new models of "cross-sector collaboration" with the private sector."

The report recommends forming partnerships with businesses that have a track record of winning government contracts and thus develop the commercial strategies of the third sect

And the last word goes to Joyce Mosley, one of our sector's great CEOs, who writes to me:

" I would like to point out that Catch22’s primary role in the contracts for Maghull and Belmarsh West prisons is to provide resettlement services to prisoners. This is something we have a wealth of experience in. Our relationship with Serco and Turning Point dates back to 2006, when we formed the alliance with the shared aim of reducing offending.

We have a commitment to making sure people in difficult situations have access to our services, and if that means having resettlement services based inside prisons, that is where we will be. There is nothing different about the resettlement services we will be providing at Maghull and Belmarsh West.

Our role in these contracts is absolutely in line with our charitable aims and is by no means a change of direction or focus for us. You will know that Catch22 was previously Rainer and Crime concern. Rainer founded the forerunner to the Probation Service in 1876, starting a long tradition in working with and in prisons to reduce re-offending and facilitate resettlement and rehabilitation."

I trust the Commission response will be firm and robust. I have dropped a note to Suzi and Andrew urging a tough response.


Tania Mason said...

I would just like to point out that all these quotes - the whole story, in fact, first appeared here
on the Charity Finance website on Wednesday. Credit where credit's due please Stephen!

Kevin Curley said...

I have not criticised any charities. I oppose the principle of charities running prisons. I totally support charities' involvement in educating, advising, mentoring, housing and supporting in other ways offenders both in prisons and in the community. Indeed the charity I lead, NAVCA, is working with Clinks to develop more local work of this kind. If charities run prisons it will bring the concept of charity into disrepute. That is why I have asked the Charity Commission to consider whether running a prison is a charitable purpose.

Anonymous said...

Tania, you dont expect the author of this blog to actually do honest ethical work surely?

Surely its easy to see what type of person is responsible for the blog, just by reading its content (the bits not seemingly plagiarised that is).

Sir Stephen Bubb said...

Oh dear Anon, i worry about your health . My grandmother described people like you as having pepsic ulcers .Im not sure what she meant medically , but it was a description of someone who was continually grumpy and argumentative . The sort of person who can't conduct an argument without bile or invective . And you really do need to understand the concept of irony .If I were you I'd give up reading my Blog as it clearly upsets you . Try Robin Bogg instead.

Sir Stephen Bubb said...

Kevin ,
If writing to the Charity commission to complain about the contracts awarded to Turning Point and Catch 22 is not a criticism then I am unclear what you think it is . if I had written to the CC to complain that , say Bigan and Little Ducklington CVS were engaged in uncharitable activity you would rightly be furious.