Be active in the community
In the interests of justice and public safety, some offenders warrant the most severe forms
of punishment for the offences they have committed. In short, they need to be in prison.
But for offenders who do not pose a danger to the public, the costs, both financial and
social, of custodial measures far outweigh those of community-based measures.
For this group of offenders, imprisonment makes it much harder for organisations like Nacro
to challenge them in the real world to act differently and to offer opportunities for offenders
and victims to come together and then move on.
There’s a mountain to climb to persuade the public that community sentences work. They are often seen as too complicated, inaccessible and insufficiently robust. Currently, too many offenders drop out before the sentence starts or before it is completed, and too many reoffend. For community sentences to succeed, it is crucial that the work carried out with offenders is not locked away inside town centre probation offices. To get offenders to change the way they think, feel and behave, the work needs to be much more closely associated with each offender’s reality and where that person is at in their life. For this to work, programmes need to become an intrinsic and visible part of the community they operate in, to be active in the heart of neighbourhoods, and not out of the sight and the minds of ordinary people.
It is possible - with new delivery partners, new thinking and new technology - to hold offenders to the terms of their order, to make community sentences accessible and understandable to ordinary people, and to reduce both attrition and reoffending. And this in turn will also help build public confidence.
Being active in the community is money well spent. For many offenders, spending another three months in jail, absolved of all responsibility and exempt from the burdens of everyday life, is the easy option. But learning new disciplines and skills in the community, confronting dependence on alcohol or drugs, having their attitudes and behaviour challenged in the real world, coming face to face with their victim, and giving something back to their own neighbourhood - these measures are altogether tougher and much more worthwhile all round.