IT IS refreshing to hear Labour talk sense about probation. The Morning Star has not often seen eye to eye with Charlie Falconer, whose record under New Labour included support for some of Tony Blair’s worst policies.
But he is correct to describe the probation service sell-off as “absolutely scandalous.”
The decision by the previous Con-Dem coalition to carve up probation was transparently an ideological one.
Why shut down the 35 probation trusts in England and Wales, all rated as good or excellent? Why risk the vital work performed by probation officers by handing it to privateers?
The answer is profit: as a public service, there was none to be made. No room for Sodexo and Interserve — clearly specialists in the job, given their work providing catering, cleaning and airport maintenance among other things.
They get to gorge themselves on the juiciest parts of the service while the most serious offenders are dealt with by the state.
Lacking in all of this — as under New Labour’s reorganisations, for which Falconer partially apologised — is the contribution of probation officers, the experts in their field.
It is ludicrous for the Tories to claim that they want to reduce crime and reoffending when they wreck the machinery needed to do it.
Worse conditions at private firms will hinder probation officers’ work, jeopardising the essential task of reintegrating offenders into our society.
So too in the prison service. There is little hope of rehabilitation when prison officers are clinging on by their fingernails — increasingly in private jails — and unable to provide the kind of environment needed for inmates to make a positive contribution to society upon their release.
And also in the police, where deep cuts are killing off consensual, community policing and chiefs are resorting to blunter methods — all while such honourable corporate citizens as G4S and Serco milk constabularies for contracts.
The Tories once more reveal their commitment to a Victorian vision — bang up the crims in the (private) slammer and throw away the key.
It doesn’t have to be this way. We can have a compassionate, constructive justice system that rehabilitates offenders. The first step is bringing back the probation service into public ownership.
THE landing of hundreds of Sudanese troops in the Yemeni port city of Aden is another grim turn in the country’s bloody conflict.
Over 5,400 people have been killed since the start of the current phase in March, when a Saudi-led coalition began an indiscriminate bombing campaign — fuelled by billions of pounds of British arms.
Britain is complicit in the killings through its material and diplomatic support. Both must cease immediately.
But more broadly, a comprehensive political settlement is needed to sort out the turmoil set off by popular protests in 2011 — brutally put down with the loss of 2,000 lives by the Yemeni government, then headed by Ali Abdullah Saleh.
That Saleh is in bed with Yemen’s Houthi rebels and Saudi Arabia and its pals are fighting to reinstall his one-time deputy Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi should make plain the difficulty of the situation.
What is clear is that the killing must stop. Eighty per cent of Yemen’s people need humanitarian help — and so peace talks such as those raised by the UN at the weekend need serious attention from all sides.