Friday, September 05, 2008

'Prison-to-work' scheme could save £300m

The Policy Exchange think tank has rightly said that, to reduce re-offending, efforts should be made to prioritise getting prisoners back into work.

The impact that employment has in providing a greater sense of self-worth, self-esteem and security, as well as a reason for getting out of bed in the morning, is well recognised. These fundamentals are no different for offenders. Indeed, it is the lack of employment and its personal benefits that has often led to the offending in the first place.

If only it were that simple. The journey from prison to work is enormous and for many offenders actually quite frightening. Most have never been there and are consequently well outside their comfort zone. The resulting attitudes and behaviour often lead to failure. Similarly, most employers have little or no experience of working with offenders and dealing with what most perceive as inappropriate behaviour. Yet they are expected to take on ex-offenders as though they were any average member of society seeking work.

The same problems apply to those responsible for supporting, teaching and training ex-offenders. Very little training is given to address and manage challenging behaviour; rather it is left to experience. Regrettably, that experience is often the result of considerable stress and additional work, penalties that most trainers and employers are not willing to take on.

If ex-offenders are to gain access to new skills and remain in work, it is essential that those who teach, train and employ them are given the understanding and skills to facilitate the journey. Until this is recognised and put in place, many teachers, trainers and employers will be reluctant to take on the task and we will continue to waste large sums of money as offenders remain within the criminal justice system.

The Life Change UK training programme facilitates this important requirement and stems from considerable experience in delivering successful residential courses for young adult persistent male offenders at a community based charity in Devon called C-FAR. Unfortunately, owing to a lack of criminal justice funding, in April 2005 the charity was placed into voluntary liquidation. One is now left wondering what might have happened had the Centre been operational today?

1 comment:

Kevin said...

I had the privilege of working at C-FAR for 3 years for Trevor.

It is good that those in power are talking about dealing with ex-offenders in a positive way by looking to integrate them into society.

What is a shame is that those in power didn't recognise the help, support and encouragement that C-FAR provided for the young men who were trying to be different from what they had been.

Just recently I was shopping in Tavistock, and a young man came up to me and asked who I was. I didn't recognise him immediately. He explained that he now had a steady relationship, expecting their 1st child and had just qualified as a plumber.

He was one of the lads we had seen at the Centre and he looked great. He told me that although he struggled with the programme at the time, now he was grateful and his life was different.

Did every person change? No of course not, but think about the saving to the countries "coffers" by having this person on the straight and narrow.

Would prison have succeeded with him? Possibly, but it would have cost a LOT more!