How Can We Break the Cycle of Reoffending in UK Prisons?
The UK prison system is under considerable pressure at present – and one aspect which is of particular concern is rates of reoffending. Statistics show that close to half of all ex-inmates go on to reoffend within a year of their release. This figure is even higher for juvenile inmates (66%).
This figure isn’t just alarming as an indication of just how much the current system is failing – it’s also financially concerning too. At a time when the government is making serious cuts to the justice system, these steep rates of reoffending are costing the tax payer around £13 billion per year.
Is there an answer to this crisis? And if so, what is it?
Why Do Inmates Reoffend?
There are numerous reasons why prisoners go on to commit further crimes after their release. Here’s just a few.
- Lack of employment. Ex-inmates are legally required to declare that they have a criminal record when they apply for jobs. Regrettably, this carries with it a stigma – and many employers are likely to reject employing an ex-prisoner. This leaves the released inmate in an unenviable position. Unable to make money legally, they either have the option of going on benefits or returning to crime. Unsurprisingly, several choose the latter.
- Drug addiction. According to official figures released on the Parliament website, 70% of inmates report using drugs before entering prison. 51% admit to being ‘drug dependent’ – indicating the extent of the problem. If the addiction isn’t adequately addressed whilst behind bars, it’s all too easy for prisoners to return to criminal behaviour upon release in a bid to gain access to drugs once more. Worryingly, resolving drug problems in prisons is unlikely to happen any time soon. Indeed, a quarter of all inmates reported that it was ‘easy’ or ‘very easy’ to get drugs whilst in prison.
- Isolation. Inmates often report that they feel isolated and alienated from the outside world when they’re in prison. Returning to normal life after serving a sentence can be a shock – both physically and mentally – and some inmates find it difficult to cope upon release. This causes them to feel psychologically distanced from society, and more likely to return to a life of crime.
Is There a Solution?
There are a variety of things that could help the situation. Firstly, employers should be encouraged to hire ex-inmates- and perhaps there should be an incentive in place for doing so. Likewise, it may be beneficial to support released prisoners in entrepreneurial activities.
Drug addiction is a difficult issue to address, especially without the funds in place to combat the problem effectively. However, greater focus on rehabilitation whilst in prison may help the situation to a certain extent.
Finally, encouraging greater connection with the outside world whilst behind bars would reduce feelings of alienation from society. Communication with family and friends should be actively encouraged wherever reasonably acceptable.
Supporting Inmates Before Their Release
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To find out more, click here.