Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Rehabilitation of offenders and reducing re-offending

The estimated number of crimes in the East Riding attributed to re-offenders is 6,500 with an estimated cost implication of £22.8 million.

This is a serious issue; costing the East Riding a phenomenal amount of money and for this reason must be given the highest priority, and should be given the strongest leadership.

Clearly prison works for some people and not for others, community payback and fines work for some and not others.

Sentencing is a serious issue - we will all have different thoughts on sentencing guidelines, but ultimately it is about primary legalisation, which is the will of the Government, who do seem to want to control every aspect of our lives.

Prison sentences given to offenders fall into two distinct categories - those sentenced to less than 12 months and those over 12 months.

The evidence indicates that those sentenced to less then 12 months committhe majority of re-offending. Why is this?

A prisoner serving over 12 months will benefit from programmes that are available in prison, once released will be on licence and under statutory supervision by the probation service, and most importantly will have a single case manager throughout the prison sentence and upon release.

But for those serving less than 12 months, the prison service has neither the time nor the opportunity to effectively work with the prisoner, they are released without being under licence and the Probation Service has no statutory right or obligation to work with them.

On completion of the sentence an offender can leave the prison gates with £40 in their pocket and nothing else… not even someone to meet them and take them to the benefits office – is it any wonder they go on to re-offend?

All prisons offer a detoxification service for prisoners withdrawing from drugs or alcohol – but it’s up to the prisoner to take this up – although all prisons carry out random drug testing on 10% of the prison population every month. This is achieving only modest success and must be improved.

The Regional Reducing Re-offending Action Plan sets out nine key areas of work with offenders with community or custodial sentences, these are termed ‘pathways’ and include:

  • Accommodation

  • Education, Training and Employment

  • Mental and Physical Health

  • Drugs and Alcohol

  • Finance, Benefit and Debt

  • Children and Families of Offenders

  • Attitudes, thinking and Behaviour

  • Prolific and Priority Offenders

  • Voluntary Sector and Community Sector Engagement
As with most things, tackling re-offending is very much target driven, unfortunately we have the large organisations with National Targets and large budgets that don’t necessarily dovetail well with local targets – and can’t commit fully to partnership working.

Specifically, prisons operate regionally taking in prisoners from the region rather than the locality… Here it would seem logical to see regional funding and regional targets. But for this to happen major legislative changes are required.

Locally we have many different agencies, organisations and partners working on the different pathways, either together or separately.

To compound this there are 5 of the Government's National Performance Indicators:

  • NI 18 - Adult re-offending rates for those under Probation supervision:

  • NI 30 - Re-offending rate of prolific and priority offenders

  • NI 143 – Offenders under Probation supervision living in settled and suitable accommodation at the end of their order or licence

  • NI 144 - Offenders under Probation supervision in employment at the end of their order or licence

  • NI – 40 Problem drug users in effective treatment

But perhaps it's just as significant that there is no indicator relating to ex-offenders who are not under Probation supervision or managed under the PPO scheme.

From April 2010 agencies will have a shared statutory responsibility to formulate and implement a strategy for the reduction of re-offending in the area (as well as the existing duty to formulate and implement a strategy for the reduction of crime and disorder)

The Reducing Re-offending Group (an action group of the East Riding LSP’s Safer and Stronger Communities Action Group (SSCAG)) is chaired by the Probation Service, which would seem to be the most suitable organisation, and one that takes a regional view.

Other Group members include the Police, NHS East Riding, Job Centre Plus, victim support, Learning and Skills Council, HM Courts Service, HM Prison Service, and ERYC (Safe Communities Housing and Organisational Development), the latter giving a local perspective.

This group focuses on Accommodation, and Education, Training and Employment, while maintaining an overview of the other pathways…. and SSCAG has acknowledged that more leadership needs to be exercised, and I support the Probation Service in doing this, but they must be held to account if they don’t.

Probation has tended to be reluctant to involve itself in work that does not directly involve the offenders for whom it has statutory responsibility. I would urge them to work closer with all partners.

In conclusion - Many organisations have responsibility for reducing re-offending, the East Riding of Yorkshire Council's Safer and Stronger Comunities Overview and Scrutiny Committee (on which I sit) identified a need for greater coordination and a current lack of leadership.

Is it really acceptable not to provide the strongest possible leadership of a service provision that has a cost implication for the East Riding of £22.8 million ..."?


John in Gilberdyke said...

Any sign of our payback work in Gilberdyke Paul?

Daniel Bond said...

This all comes back to the localism agenda, devolving power downwards and outwards where possible. Clearly the city or county councils are best able to deal with low level crime, particularly community service and local crime reduction methods, because they can tailor the solution to the local situation. On a larger scale, provision of prisons makes sense regionally for most situations because it not only keeps offenders near to home (which has proven results for reducing reoffending and improving behaviour in prison) but also allows more efficient use of resources than doing it locally. Finally, on a national scale there will always be the need for certain institutions (maximum security, life sentence prisoners with no realistic prospect of release) which are most efficiently provided in one or two locations where locality provides little benefit as compared to the disadvantages.

What I do think is important, and something which needs to be addressed, is the current situation where finding locations for new prisons is very difficult due to NIMBYism, even when the area would be ideally suited to housing a prison. In the US a prison might be the major employer for a town and therefore towns will actively welcome the building of a new prison, why aren't more deprived areas of this country doing the same to revitalise their economy?

KevO (aka Bluetracker) said...

If we want to reduce re-offending then make the punishment a deterrent.
Prison today is no deterrent, to many its a holiday away for a few months with free board and lodging completed by better facilities than inmates had before they got caught.
To those who think I don't know what I'm talking about I would ask you to go on a fact finding tour of a prison.
You'd soon see that only those who get homesick on a day trip to Cleethorpes would be bothered about staying in prison.
We have to bring back some sort of discipline into our social structure if we are to even dent the re-offending numbers.
National Service may be the answer as 'civvy street' is just too soft a touch for today's re-offenders to worry about.