Whilst he wasn’t much cop as Education Secretary and I quite like the fact that he wasn’t much of a plotter because he was better as a doer, Michael Gove leaves big shoes to fill in the Ministry of Justice.
I’m sure his predecessor in that role Chris Grayling had many admirable qualities and great ideas; he just never really shared with us what they were, instead charging defendants court fees and banning books for prisoners. Gove undid all of that and people involved in the criminal justice system let out a collective groan when he went all Brexit and leadership as he was on course to be the best Justice Secretary we had ever seen.
He was all for training prisoners to get into work on release, making prisons themselves more habitable and better placed to provide the skills and training inmates received so they wouldn’t come back. He encouraged businesses to look at prisons as training grounds for their next workforce.
Whilst all of this makes sense and sounds utterly normal and what someone in that position should always do, the sad fact is that no-one in that role previously had, which must be linked to the ridiculous re-offending rates we have.
His replacement Liz Truss will soon find out that prison governors are a big problem – so many just don’t care what happens to inmates on release. They see their role as one of containment rather than one of empowerment and if the same ones keep coming back it makes no difference to them.
There was a brilliant headmaster appointed to a massively failing school in west London a few years ago who turned it around by asking every pupil on their first day: “Right – which university are we going to be preparing you for?” which led to a huge rise in the school’s academic performance. Mrs Truss could do worse than call in all her governors and get them to adapt that practice and be assessed in a league (everyone likes leagues) by their performance in asking every new inmate they receive this: “Right, what job are we going to prepare you for on release?”