Thursday, December 30, 2010

Alternative to Custody and Probation for Offenders who are Military Veterans

Life Change UK and three other charities (Alabare Christian Care and Support, The Langley House Trust and Exeter City YMCA) are developing an alternative to custody and probation for offenders who are military veterans. This has been welcomed by Crispin Blunt MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice.

Role of the Probation Service - UK Parliament

Role of the Probation Service - UK Parliament

Friday, December 17, 2010

YouTube - The Royal Navy: Hasler Company Pt 1

YouTube - The Royal Navy: Hasler Company Pt 1 How the Royal Marines are working to help those veterans suffering with physical and mental trauma post operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Veteran Offender 'Change' Project

The City of Exeter YMCA has joined Alabare' Christian Care and Support, the Langley House Trust and Life Change UK in the ongoing development of the 'Change' project, an alternative to Custody and Probation for Veteran Offenders.
Watch this blog for future announcements.

Crispin Blunt sets out vision for youth justice - Ministry of Justice

Crispin Blunt sets out vision for youth justice - Ministry of Justice

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Exeter YMCA Working with Young People

See how Exeter YMCA is making a difference to young people's lives in the city -

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Royal College of General Practitioners - Guidance to help GPs support veterans’ healthcare needs

Royal College of General Practitioners - Guidance to help GPs support veterans’ healthcare needs

Police News - Forces Consider Kent Military Veterans Scheme

Police News - Forces Consider Kent Military Veterans Scheme

News: Mental ill health and offending among veterans need to be better understood, says new report - Centre for Mental Health

News: Mental ill health and offending among veterans need to be better understood, says new report - Centre for Mental Health

Reducing Re-offending by Veterans

'The CHANGE Partnership' - An alternative to Custody and Probation for Military Veteran Offenders.

Life Change UK is developing a new partnership with Alabare' Christian Care and Support and The Langley House Trust. Based upon community half-way houses, the CHANGE partnership will provide intensive 3 month residential courses of rehabilitation for Veteran Military offenders. Each course will be followed by a minimum of 9 months 'Though the Gate' Mentor Support into work and accommodation. Watch this space for future details.

BigSocietyCutsandConsequences.pdf (application/pdf Object)

BigSocietyCutsandConsequences.pdf (application/pdf Object)

Friday, November 05, 2010

Research by the Revolving Doors Agency

Research by the Revolving Doors Agency - - has indetified key factors regarding the reduction of re-offending, namley: -

The self-reinforcing nature of the ‘revolving door cycle’ makes it difficult to break.
Approaching needs in isolation is unlikely to have sustained impact.
Solutions lie outside of the scope of Criminal Justice agencies.
People with multiple problems need help from a range of services and working partnerships.
Stimulating local strategic leadership and partners, encouraging joint ownership and development.

What Works: -
Intervene early
Navigate exit routes at all stages of the criminal justice system
Support holistic rehabilitation and recovery
Make use of existing community resources
Work in partnership
Involve users in designing and delivering services
Deliver services that believe in people and their capacity to change  

In order to promote positive change, Partnerships need to embarce these fundamental issues.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Veteran Home in Plymouth

In partnership with the Royal British Legion, Alabare' Christian Care and Support have opened a half way house for Veterans in Plymouth. With Life Change UK and the Langley House Trust, over the next 2 years it is planned that the concept be further developed to provide rehabilitation centres for Veteran offenders as an alternative to custody and probation.

This all fits well with the PM's emphasis on the Military Covenant and the Ministry of Justice drive to reduce the prison population and engage with Third Sector organisations.

An introduction to Alabare's current work with veterans can be seen here -

Friday, October 15, 2010

Research with the Prison Governors’ Association

Research by Imperial College London and the Howard League for Penal Reform provides an insight into how Prison Governors view the impact of prison. A copy of the report can be seen at - and on the right side of this blog under Comment and Opinion

Critically, PGA members’ views about the ability of the prison service to address the key re-offending pathway of Attitudes, Thinking and Behaviour is damning. Yet, unless we facilitate a positive change in the thoughts and feelings of offenders, their behaviour will remain the same; this surely applies to us all.

As I have highlighted repeatedly in previous blog entries, staff training is the key to this process. Without a major change in understanding, ethos and provision to meet this pathway, re-offending rates will remain stubbornly high.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Welsh Assembly Investigates PTSD with Veterans

This link shows a Welsh Assembly Health meeting addressing Veterans and issues associated with offending, PTSD and mental health provision. For those with any interest in this subject, the film is well worth watching.

To view the meeting, use this link in your browser and click on Items 3 - 6

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Prison Reform Report - Punishing Disadvantage

Punishing disadvantage

This introduction is copied from the Prison Reform Trust web site -

The Prison Reform Trust has just launched its You Gov Poll report regarding the punishment of children. A census of nearly 6,000 children who entered custody in the second half of 2008 analysed the offences for which children were imprisoned, with results showing that three-fifths of the children sentenced to custody were convicted of crimes which usually result in community sentences, with half imprisoned for non-violent crimes.

A detailed analysis of family and social circumstances revealed the multiple layers of complex disadvantage many of the children had experienced. Three quarters had had absent fathers, a quarter had been in care, one in five children had harmed themselves, and one in nine had attempted suicide.

The report, the most comprehensive of its kind in 25 years, comes at the
same time that a YouGov poll confirmed that nearly two-thirds of the public think the minimum age of imprisonment, currently 10 years old, is too low, with a further two-thirds in favour of raising the minimum age of imprisonment for non-violent crimes to at least 14 years old.

You can download a summary briefing of the report and the YouGov poll here -

If we are to reduce re-offending, we must address the causes. Failure to do so will only result in more crime, social exclusion and increasing costs.

Mental Health of Veterans Leading to Offending

Last night Channel 4 News showed a very disturbing item regarding the increasingly large number of US Army veterans who are suffering with mental illness, post their operational experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan. The piece highlighted how these issues are often leading to family breakup, alcohol abuse and crime. The cost of helping these men and women is growing by the week.

Whilst the UK numbers are clearly fewer, they are growing, with charities like Combat Stress being stretched to keep up with demand. More resources are undoubtedly required to help veterans and their familes overcome the trauma of war. Failue to do so will result in increasing costs to the Justice System, Health and Social Services.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Churchill anniversary speech: criminal justice reform - Part 2

Churchill Speech by the Justice Minister - Rt Hon Crispin Blunt MP

Although delivered in July, it is worth reminding ourselves as to what Crispin Blunt said about his vision for promoting change, with a focus on the reduction of re-offending - For anyone who cares about addressing the causes of crime, this speech is well worth reading and provides hope for the future -

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Understanding the impact upon Families of Veteran Offenders

In recognising the increasing number of veterans entering the justice system, let us not forget the impact this also has upon the families. Not only have family members personally endured the long and anxious periods of absence during operational tours, anticipating the dreaded telephone call or knock on the door, they have also seen how their loved one (husband / son / brother / sister) has changed and struggled to come to terms with their experiences. To then see them fall by the way side and enter the criminal justice system, one can only try to imagine the enormous and damaging impact it must have on their children and other family members.

Having risked their lives and endured so much for their country, this situation cannot be right. Any Military Covenant must surely recognise these issues and undertake to address them.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Veterans entering the Criminal Justice System

Last night's BBC 2 Newsnight item highlighting the issue of veterans entering the Criminal Justice System is to be welcomed. Estimates’, suggesting that between 3% and 8% of the prison population are veterans is a damning indictment of our failure to understand and care for those who have put their lives on the line for our country. With the intensity in operations in Afghanistan expected to continue for at least the next 5 years, the situation will undoubtedly become worse, well beyond the time of withdrawal. More service personnel will end up suffering from various levels of mental illness and stress, the impact of which their families and local communities will have to cope with.

When funeral cars pass through Wootton Bassett, many people travel long distances to be there, demonstrating their support to families of the dead men and their deep appreciation for what their sons, husbands, brothers and friends gave; the ultimate sacrifice. Similarly, millions of pounds have been given to help those suffering with horrific physical injuries caused by bombs and IEDs. Whilst these reactions are to be applauded, many others suffering with serious mental trauma and stress are not being sufficiently recognised and supported.

Mental illness of course is something that is not easily understood. Unlike physical injuries, it cannot be seen. Many people may not be aware that following the Falklands campaign, of those who participated in the operation, more have subsequently committed suicide than were killed during the fighting. This is another example of how the anticipated intensity of operations in Afghanistan is likely to impact upon many more of our military men and women in the future.

Unless addressed, the associated costs in health, unemployment benefits, family breakdown and the Justice system will continue to rise. It is beholden upon society to recognise the impact that recent conflicts have had upon our veterans and their families; they too need and deserve our care and support. Criminalising them and locking them up in prison is not an appropriate way of acknowledging the personal sacrifices which they have made.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Impact of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) on our Service Personnel

There continues to be much debate regarding the impact of PTSD on military personnel following intensive periods of operations, particularly during the more recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The issue is being linked to the increasing numbers of former servicemen committing offences and entering the justice system. For anyone interested in such issues, a recent interview with former soldier Ben Close serves to highlight the problem, see -

In addition, recent research by Kent Police has demonstrated increasing numbers of former military personnel being arrested for various offences. If we ignore this evidence we will ultimately fail those who have put their lives on the line for their country as well as increase the already considerable pressures and costs on our prison and probation services.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

BIS - Offender Learning and Skills - Primary Aim

The Government's BIS Offender Learning and Skill web page ( states that "punishment will always be a primary aim of the criminal justice system". It goes on to say that "the Government is determined to do more to turn offenders away from crime and into work, improving their skills, and encouraging them to lead productive lives".

Whilst punishment must be seen as a natural consequence of committing crime, it is disappointing to see that punishment is still being promoted as 'a primary aim'. Such emphasis undermines efforts to promote and establish regimes that focus upon rehabilitation. How refreshing it would be to read that 'the primary aim of the justice system is to reduce crime and re-offending'.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Prison Reform Trust - Prison Briefing - May 2010

For anyone needing a quick and easy to read source of information on Prisons and their costs, look no further than the Prison Reform Trust Briefing paper -

It has all the key figures. Hopefully the new Ministerial team will also read with interest!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Increasing need for Rehabilitation of Veterans post end of Military Service

Alabaré Christian Care and the Royal British Legion (RBL) have continued to demonstrate successful outcomes at their 'Mon Abri' supported housing project for veterans in Plymouth. Over the last year, 20 homeless veterans (8 of whom were ex-offenders) have been helped back to more productive lives. Many have suffered with drug and alcohol addiction, PTSD and other mental health issues, including self-harm and attempted suicide. Yet, in a safe environment, the programme of rehabilitation and support has helped to change their lives, enabling them to once again become proud contributors to our society - see .

The 'Mon Abri' veterans have been aged between 24 - 70 years of age. Operational experience has ranged from Korea, Northern Ireland and the Falklands, to the more recent conflicts in Bosnia and the Middle East. The outstanding work of Alabaré and the RBL has clearly demonstrated the need and set an exemplar precedent for similar future projects.

The Government has made increasing efforts to help veterans injured during operations, particularly those with major physical injuries; however, this has primarily been in the form of essential medical care, financial compensation and support whilst still serving. Sadly, the increasing levels of provision needed upon return to civilian life is conspicuous by its absence. Even the vast sums of money so generously donated by the general public to the 'Help for Heroes' fund cannot currently be used to support veterans after leaving the Service; this surely must change.

By using some of the 'Help for Heroes' money for capital housing costs, more charitable, private and public partnerships could be established around the country to provide the programmes of rehabilitation and support so necessary. As demonstrated by Alabaré Christian Care and the RBL, more veterans could then be helped to forge new lives, thereby avoiding the otherwise massive costs associated with rough sleeping, crime and substance abuse. Through projects such as 'Mon Abri', the net returns are potentially enormous, not least the saving of many lives and service families.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Veterans in Prison - Future Rehabilitation Needs

The MOD and the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) have recently issued data on the number of veterans in prison in England and Wales. The Defence Analytical Services and Advice (DASA) of the MOD have estimated that ex-Service personnel in prison represent almost 3% of offenders in prison.

The estimate was determined by matching a database of prisoners aged 18 and over in England and Wales from the MoJ against a database of Service leavers held by the MOD. The 3% figure compares with the Home Office survey of 2,000 nationally representative offenders at the point of release in 2001, 2003 and 2004, which reported the Armed Forces proportion to be 6%, 4% and 5% respectively.

What has not been considered is the number of veterans who are on Probation and other forms of community sentences, as well as those who are homeless and suffering with depression, PTSD and alcohol and drug misuse. Evidence suggests that as more veterans leave the services following extensive periods of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the numbers needing intensive rehabilitation support will grow significantly. Without such support, many more will end up entering the justice system, either in prison or on Probation. Whilst the 3% fig is lower than previously estimated by NAPO, the fig is still very distrubing, and in the absence of Probation numbers, a sad reflection of the country's failure to support our veterans after they have put their lives on the line for the country.

Much more investment in appropriate and focussed rehabilitation support for veterans is still needed.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Prisoner Learning: The Conservative Approach

Alan Duncan MP (Shadow Minister for Prisons) has indicated that the Conservative Party is seeking to promote a 'rehabilitation revolution' within our prisons. He has said that he wants prisons to be places where people can, in the course of their custody, be equipped for life outside prison.

Without doubt, these are aspirations that many of us have been seeking for a long time and it is undoubtedly to be applauded. Only then will we see a meaningful reduction in recidivism. The issue however remains that of providing a supportive environment which is truly conducive to learning, where staff are led, motivated, sufficiently trained and empowered to provide it. Unless these fundamentals are addressed, little will change and re-offending rates will remain high.

The reality is that learning for the majority of prisoners is something that they have historically failed to achieve. Consequently, inviting them to return to the classroom and potentially fail again is something that many are not inclined to repeat. To overcome this most basic issue requires a cultural shift from that of control, security and numbers to that of improved relationships, motivation and change; change of course is hard for us all. Notwithstanding, without encouragement, support and opportunity, few prisoners will engage to the level that can be described as a 'revolution'.

The most critical component in the overall process is the ability and attitude of staff, both officers and teachers. Unfortunately, the understanding and training for staff and teachers / trainers to deliver and manage such an environment is woefully lacking. For a re-habilitation revolution to arise it will be essential to provide increased investment in staff training, strong leadership and a process that promotes a cultural change in the overall learning environment.

Change the thinking and the feelings and you will change the behaviour and encourage the learning.

We demand that prisoners change their thinking and behaviour, but are too often unwilling to look at our own, recognising that we are part of the problem.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The RSA Report - 'The Learning Prison'

How refreshing it was to read the RSA's latest report - 'The Learning Prison' - see via Comment & Opinion on the right of this Blog.

Launched today, the report has brought together a wide ranging set of principles aimed at promoting increasing debate, re-enforcing what many practitioners have been saying over the last decade, there is a need for massive change if we are to ensure the delivery of meaningful re-habilitation in our prisons. This is a 'must read' for all those with an interest in promoting change and reform in our justice and prison system.

Whilst acknowledging some recent advances in offender learning and skills, the report goes on to promote the need for a more “common sense” approach, suggesting that prisons could do much more to promote reform and increase levels of rehabilitation. Importantly, it suggests that considerable political courage is needed to secure public support and to complement the willingness of practitioners to innovate and deliver programmes of rehabilitation; they simply need to be empowered to do so.

To tell people where to go, but not how to get there, you will be amazed at the results

The report rightly identifies that creating an environment where effective personalised learning can take place requires incentivisation, flexibility, imagination, understanding and a change in relationships on the part of all those involved. For this to happen we need truly inspirational and dynamic leadership not simply management.

Management maintains the status quo and focuses on objectives.

Management plans, controls and organizes, thereby solving problems,
delivering outcomes and targets

Leadership is about vision, direction and ‘change’.

Leadership aligns, empowers and motivates through inspiration.

Let us hope that the incoming Government will indeed demonstrate the necessary leadership and vision to meet the requirement. Unless provided, we will simply continue to waste vast sums of money and human lives.

Of particular interest to me is the RSA proposal for A Centre for Rehabilitation and Crime Reduction (CRCR). In 2000 colleagues and I established a charity in Devon called the Centre for Adolescent Rehabilitation (C-FAR). In so many ways C-FAR was similar in concept to that of the CRCR. Operational for 5 years C-FAR demonstrated many positive outcomes and reduced re-offending by 40%. Regrettably, owing to a lack of CJS funding support, the charity was eventually forced to close. I recall a senior Probation Officer told me that I had to accept, C-FAR was simply 5 years ahead of the game and that for many different reasons, the system was not ready for such a concept. As I listen to the current debate and conclusions of reports such as 'The Learning Prison', it is heartening to see that he was possibly right.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Transitions - Young Adults with Complex Needs

In 2005 the Social Exclusion Unit published an excellent report entitled 'Transitions - Young Adults with Complex Needs' in which it clearly laid out issues associated with the 'thinking and behaviour' of young people and the impact upon education and life skills, work and training, drugs and alcohol, anti-social behaviour and offending. Phil Woolas, the then Minister of State for Social Exclusion, wrote in the Forward - "The test of our success is how we support the most disadvantaged people in our society. That means helping people at key stages of their life when they are most at risk and most vulnerable. The transition to adulthood is one of these key stages."

The report went on to describe how, 'Through the Improving Services and Improving Lives work programme, the Social Exclusion Unit is working with government departments and other stakeholders to deepen our understanding of why some groups benefit less from services than the general population, and to identify approaches to delivery that will narrow that gap. The overall objective of the programme is to make public services more effective for disadvantaged people, in order to improve their life chances.'

Despite the excellent research and statements of good intent, sadly little has changed in actually meeting the needs of so many disadvantaged young adults, particularly offenders and the reduction of re-offending. The rhetoric is sound but the delivery has been poor; the facts speak for themselves with increasing numbers in prison and re-offending rates remaining at or around 75%.

Critically, at its most basic level, too many of those responsible for delivering such work have not been given the front line training, understanding and skills to do so. Five years after the report was first published, this skills gap remains apparent today. Whilst the talk is that of education, training, employment and housing, the reality is still that of control, security, punishment and retribution, with many professionals suffering with stress and anxiety and changing jobs. The need to introduce a new philosophy and ethos to the work has never been greater. Train the staff and give them the understanding, skills and confidence to work effectively and see the change in the young people.

'Change the Thinking and the Feelings and change the Behaviour'

This applies to us all, not just the young people.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Time of Change in Reducing Re-offfending

Over the last two weeks it has been particularly encouraging to note the increasing recognition regarding the need to focus more funding towards community based re-habilitation and restorative justice programmes, rather than prison. The evidence gathered and the proposals made by the UK Parliament Justice Committee for increasing community based rehabilitation programmes can only be seen a water-shed in cross-party policy thinking. All we have to do now is implement it!!

In times of increasing budget pressures, the positive outcomes and subsequent cost savings will more than justify the provision and shift in emphasis. Whilst not suggesting that the public should not be protected from dangerous offenders, the majority of offenders will benefit far more from constructive programmes that help to promote positive personal change.

The Justice Committee has further suggested that new prisons are a "costly mistake" and funds would be better allocated to local public services outside of the prisons. They went so far as to suggest that the prison population in England and Wales should be reduced by a third and that prison is a relatively ineffective way of reducing crime except for serious offenders, and the amount of repeat offenders could be more efficiently reduced through rehabilitation programs such as housing, employment, education, and drug and alcohol services.

Importantly, any programme of rehabilitation must focus upon changing the thinking and feelings of offenders. Only then will society see a meaningful change in behaviour and a reduction in re-offending. All are intrinsically linked; by changing the thinking and the feelings, we automatically see a change in behaviour.

As it stands however, the Probation Service is likely to be overwhelmed by the demand for resettlement support to those leaving prison, let alone effectively running re-habilitation programmes in the community. A further shift and investment in partnership work with private and voluntary and community organisations will be essential.