Michael Gove has united with Chris Grayling to make the case for prison reform after the Justice Secretary made a series of about-turns on his predecessor’s policies.
The pair said the Government was “tough on crime and smart on rehabilitation”.
Mr Gove, who took over the position after the general election, has abandoned a host of coalition-era reforms, including most recently plans to overhaul the way legal aid contracts are awarded to duty solicitors.
The proposals – drawn up by Mr Grayling – faced nearly 100 legal challenges.
Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, the pair said prisoner reoffending rates were “shameful” and the need for reforms, outlined by the Prime Minister last week, was “stark”.
They said: “Justice must be done, and we have both, as successive justice secretaries, worked to make sure people receive the appropriate punishment for such actions. But there is no contradiction between being tough on crime and smart on rehabilitation.
“Unless offenders are kept safe and secure, in decent surroundings, free from violence, disorder and drugs, then we cannot begin to prepare them for a better, more moral, life on the outside.
“This country’s persistent past failure to reduce reoffending was shameful. That is why we are reforming prisons and probation – so they can fulfil their true purpose of keeping people safe by making people better.”
On Tuesday David Cameron announced the Government would explore using processes for establishing free schools to set up secure academies for young offenders under a radical overhaul of youth custody.
Among the other reversals of policies brought in by his predecessor, Mr Gove closed down a commercial arm of the Ministry of Justice which was bidding to run the prison training service in Saudi Arabia, despite the country’s record on human rights.
He also ended the controversial criminal courts charge, while restrictions on access to books for prisoners were eased.
On legal aid, Mr Gove has already shelved previously planned cuts to barristers’ fees and a scheme to outsource the collection of fines by the courts has also been axed.
Mr Leech said: “The battle between Gove and Grayling may make for interesting media speculation, but it diverts attention away from the real issues that effect our penal system and which damage so many real lives.
“Gove is listening to educated authorities that his predecessor, Chris Grayling, either irgnored or didn’t have the benefit of.
“Whichever it is, the public and our prison system will gain from both being perceived at least as being on the same side.”