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The Prison Reform Trust says prisoners should be asked what would stop them from re-offending

Date: (5 September 2012)    |    

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The campaign group ‘Prison Reform Trust’ has called on the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to commission a payment by results pilot to test the effectiveness of the active involvement by prisoners in their own resettlement plans.
The controversial suggestion has come in the wake of a warning by the charity saying that re-offending levels were at risk of rising as resources for assisting prisoners back into the communities was coming under pressure.
Re-offending rates for those serving shorter sentences were pointlessly high the director of the charity Juliet Lyon said.
Almost half (47%) of adults released from prison were being reconvicted within a year, and those rates rose to 57% for those serving shorter sentences.
A plausible solution to reduce habitual offending had proved an elusive goal for campaigners and policymakers. Lyon says the new study, Out for Good, produced with grant making charity the Pilgrim Trust, gives "straightforward" suggestions for government to act on.
Kimmett Edgar, head of research at PRT, says the payment-by-results proposal would require funds from the MoJ, but he insisted this kind of pilot could be an inexpensive way to garner crucial "insights" into helping prisoners help themselves.
The MoJ was running its own payment-by-results schemes around resettlement mainly where agencies meet offenders as they leave prison and then try to help them reintegrate into the community.
A MoJ spokesman says the department recognises that re-offending rates were too high and that, as a result, reform of the criminal justice system was being carried out. As part of the reform, he cites a resettlement pilot scheme which sees prisoners serving less than 12 months being met at the gates by an agency who try to resettle them in the community.
But Edgar said there was a need to rethink of what resettlement should involve citing an example he said if a prisoner was a drugs user and wanted help in that first and foremost, there was no point in ticking boxes for employment. The offender might have great insights into what would stop him from re-offending. The approach is modelled on the same principle as personalised budgets [in social care and mental health] where the service user is understood to be the person best placed to know what they need," he explained.
In addition, the report, which interviewed former and current offenders, proposes that a central principle should be, to encourage "prisoners to take responsibility" for their own resettlement long before they leave jail.