A crucial step forward in transforming the way offenders are rehabilitated was mapped out last week as Justice Secretary Chris Grayling announced a nationwide network of resettlement prisons.
These reforms mean all offenders leaving custody will receive ‘through the gate’ supervision and support to assist in turning their lives around. The introduction of 70 resettlement prisons across England and Wales will mean nearly all offenders are released from prisons in, or close to, the area in which they will live. As a result they can begin working towards their rehabilitation in the community from the moment they arrive in prison.
In addition, it will also mean front line staff outside prison can begin laying the groundwork and building links with the offender at the earliest opportunity. This will include seeing them come out to employment or training, and support to tackle drug and alcohol addictions.
Trials will begin in the North West of England in autumn 2013, with a full roll out by autumn 2014.
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said:
“Rehabilitation in the community must begin behind the prison walls and follow offenders out through the gates if we are to stand a chance of freeing them from a life of crime.
“Currently, a local area could expect to receive offenders from dozens of prisons across the country – this is hopeless. It is little wonder we have such high re-offending rates when you have a prisoner leaving HMP Liverpool, given a travel permit to get them home to the south coast, and then expected to simply get on with it.
“This approach is a significant step forwards in our reforms to tackle re-offending and lays the groundwork for building a genuine nationwide network of ‘through the gate’ supervision and support for all offenders.”
Offender Rehabilitation Bill
The Offender Rehabilitation Bill will extend statutory supervision to 50,000 short-sentenced offenders each year, who will serve their time in custody in a resettlement prison and come out to a tailored package of supervision and support.
Those serving longer sentences will continue to serve their sentences in the most suitable prison to address their offending behaviour and the majority will be moved to a resettlement prison at least three months before the end of their time in custody.
Currently those serving less than 12 months are released without any statutory supervision and often from prisons in a different area of the country from where they will be living. Those serving longer sentences currently, could also be released from anywhere in the country, without reference to where they may be living in the community.
The resettlement prisons will be aligned with 21 contract package areas (CPAs) across the country, as laid out in the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms. These areas will see private, voluntary and public sector workers bidding to provide community based rehabilitation work in each area. Currently, adult male prisoners are being released to the new London CPA from up to 100 different prisons across England and Wales; from 2014 the vast majority of adult male offenders living in London will be released from just 11 resettlement prisons assigned to the area.
The effects of such measures remain to be seen but it is hoped they will make significant improvements to the rehabilitation of offenders.