This week marks a year since the publication of Rebalancing Act, a resource jointly produced by Revolving Doors Agency, Public Health England and the Home Office. Rebalancing Act was designed to support a broad range stakeholders in understanding and addressing the health inequalities experienced by people in contact with the criminal justice system (CJS) and reducing offending. In this blog, David Jamieson, West Midland Police and Crime Commissioner, discusses how strong local leadership can foster partnerships and make a real difference to people’s lives.
There is no question that people in the criminal justice system face big inequalities. We know this, and we understand some of the causes – adverse childhood experiences, poverty and ill health – that lead people into poor health, mental health, homelessness, drug and alcohol addiction and crime. I want to use this understanding to bring about changes in the West Midlands, working with partners to address these causes to improve the chances people have.
My Police and Crime Plan describes the objectives and initiatives we will put in place for ex-offenders who have been through the Criminal Justice System, enabling them to help build a more prosperous West Midlands. These include work of the Victims Commission and a busy year in 2017 for our Gangs and Violence Commission. We are also working with partners on new approaches to responding to substance misuse as well as specific projects to help offenders and ex-offenders into work or training.
The refreshed West Midlands Criminal Justice Board is up and running, building on existing relationships in the region to improve collaboration with partners across the criminal justice service, ensuring transparency around our work and local priorities, and improve outcomes for both victims and offenders.
In November, I was pleased to host our Rebalancing Act event, building the on the joint publication by Revolving Doors Agency, Home Office and Public Health England. The event brought together more than 70 people discuss how crime prevention and the prevention of ill health can work together to end these inequalities, improve health and reduce re-offending rates. This demonstrated again the need for joint action on mental health, drug and alcohol abuse, homelessness and other inequalities.
I am firmly of the view that, despite the good work being done by many, collectively our drug policy is failing. In December I hosted a summit to reach practical and lasting solutions that reduce the harm of drugs in the West Midlands. It is estimated that the total public-sector cost of substance misuse in the West Midlands is £1.4 billion each year. Half of all burglary, theft, shoplifting and robbery is committed by people suffering from serious addiction to drugs including heroin and crack cocaine. Every three days in the West Midlands somebody dies from drug poisoning, while organised criminals are profiting from this misery. This failure means the public put up with more crime, public services are put under more strain, and not enough is done to reduce the harm of those suffering from addiction. I will report back shortly with the deliverable proposals from the drug policy summit.
I have part-funded a secondment for one of our police superintendents to direct implementation of the Thrive mental health action plan, and this complements the work of West Midlands Police on Street Triage and a Liaison and Diversion service covering the entire Force. Thrive commits partners to joint projects to improve mental health provision. There is a strong focus on the criminal justice system, but linking to other key problem areas such as housing, employment and primary care. This is proving to be a successful umbrella for some excellent joint activities, starting to make a real difference to people’s lives.
A resource for Directors of Public Health, Police and Crime Commissions and other health and justice commissioners, service providers and users (2017)
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