Reducing reoffending is one of the biggest challenges facing the British justice system. Currently, 6% of those released from prison commit another offence within 12 months – creating over 26,000 new victims every year, while jeopardising their own chances of turning their lives around.
This level of recidivism undermines the effectiveness of public services and creates massive additional costs. The Ministry of Justice and Home Office sit at the sharp end, while their staff endlessly process repeat offenders rather than concentrate on prevention or rehabilitation. But the effects are felt across the public sector.
Local authorities and the Department of Work & Pensions must provide accommodation and a basic income for released prisoners unable or unwilling to find work. The Department of Health handle the mental and physical health impacts of long-term drug addictions and violent crime. Social services must cope with the impact of repeated offending on families – including the creation of new generations of offenders.
Government knows the importance of addressing reoffending, and spends millions providing prisoners with education, training and counselling. But, participation is generally voluntary, and interventions aren’t carefully targeted to address the challenges facing each individual.
Within the prison environment, many criminals are reluctant to admit that they have issues such as illiteracy or addiction - and the long-term benefits of addressing their problems are often lost amongst the hard realities of life behind bars. So many offenders leave prison without having tackled the challenges that brought them there; and once alone on the outside, they too often slide back into criminality.
Investing beyond the prison gates
Let’s reimagine how we tackle the problem. One solution could be to provide support in the form of a prisoners’ personal ‘performance manager’, tasked with the rehabilitation of prisoners. They could adopt a mentoring approach, using incentives to drive rehabilitation through a programme of activities.
On entry to prison, offenders would be interviewed by the performance manager, who would identify the factors most likely to lead to the individual reoffending. Prisoners would be asked to help develop their programme of support and interventions – taking into consideration their needs post-release.