Nacro Manifesto | Nacro

Nacro Manifesto

The state of the nation

  • 11

    % of 16-24 year olds are NEET

  • 269998

    people are homeless

  • 65

    % of prisons dangerously overcrowded

One of Nacro’s values as an organisation is courage. We are bold, couragous and ambitious for what we want for our service users. This is what we need to see from our politicians. The UK has large, fundamental, systemic issues that only bold brave action will turn the tide on.

We are calling on the new Government to take up with challenge and create the lasting change that will serve us all, for the long term. Creating safer communities and ensuring that everyone has the best chance to succeed. We want to see three areas urgently addressed.

1. The best chance at a second chance when things go wrong

The approach of consecutive governments of sending more people to prison for longer has failed. Reoffending is high, public confidence in our justice system is low, and the criminal justice system is at a point of crisis. We need a new approach.

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Nick was in a Nacro probation service

“my most recent time in prison was the worst. I was banged up for 23 hours a day. I had to share a cell designed for one. It was cramped and filthy. My cell mate was really unwell. He was having some sort of mental health breakdown but no-one came to see him, they didn’t care or they didn’t have the time. We were just shut away and forgotten about.”

We all want to see less crime, less victims and safer streets. But we need solutions that are evidence based not knee jerk reactions. We are sending too many people to prison who shouldn’t be there. Many enter prison having been homeless, and people in prison have often experienced trauma, exclusion from school, poverty, substance and/or alcohol misuse, difficult family relationships and/or experience of the care system. We see through our work how far too many of their issues remain the same when they are released: the system is not doing what it should to help them move on or to reduce the risk of them committing further crimes. In fact going to prison can make things worse, as people often lose their homes, their jobs, and family and community ties  – all of which we know play a part in reducing the chances of someone committing further offences.

An effective criminal justice system benefits us all. We need to:

Establish a Royal Commission on criminal justice

Establish a Royal Commission on criminal justice

By bringing together political parties and experts in criminal justice both through learnt and lived experience, a Royal Commission would set out a long-term plan to build an effective criminal justice system.

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Stop sending people to prison on ineffective short sentences

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Stop sending people to prison on ineffective short sentences

Short prison sentences are less effective than alternatives in the community at reducing reoffending. They often cause more disruption to people already living chaotic lives and can lead to losing a home, a job, and social support which can all help someone turn their life around. We need to now implement the recent commitment to use community alternatives instead of short prison sentences and ensure the Probation Service has sufficient resources and support to deliver this.

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Ensure prisons are places of rehabilitation

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Ensure prisons are places of rehabilitation

To reduce reoffending and give people the chance to turn their lives around, prisons must become places of rehabilitation. People we support through our justice services tell us how prisons are not focused on rehabilitation and that tackling high levels of overcrowding needs to be a priority as this makes rehabilitation almost impossible. They identify key areas for improvement in prisons:

    • Purposeful activity and a real working day – taking part in meaningful education, learning a trade or skills and being in work while in prison all play important roles in helping people turn their lives around, prepare for release, and provide purpose. Yet around half of people in prison don’t have any purposeful activity. Jobs and education in prison should be available to everyone and the working day should reflect the reality of a working day outside prison to ensure we best prepare people for release.
    • Mental health training and culture – People in prison have significantly higher rates of poor mental health than in the community with high rates of self-harm, suicide, depression and anxiety. Yet too many people leave prison with their mental health problems still unaddressed. Prison staff play a critical role in the day to day engagement with people in prison and so they must be given ongoing training in mental health awareness and support to help drive a culture where mental health is prioritised. And people in prison need to be able to access the mental health treatment and support they need during their prison sentence.
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Giving the best chance at a second chance on release from prison

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Giving the best chance at a second chance on release from prison

Everyone should have the best chance at a second chance when they are released from prison. Having somewhere to live and the means to support both themselves and their family is the most basic of what people need, but all too often people leave homeless, unemployed and feeling lost and without hope. By strengthening the focus on rehabilitation and the commitment to put in place the basics, we know that more people who go through the criminal justice system will get a real second chance.

    • Guarantee that no one leaves prison homeless and that they can move on from temporary housing
    • Develop a network of Prison Departure Lounges – the day of release can be overwhelming and if the barriers are too high people leaving prison can be swept back into old networks and patterns of behaviour. A network of Prison Departure Lounges in every prison that releases people back into the community would provide a one-stop-shop for people as they are released where they could meet their probation officer, make calls to the local housing team or the DWP and set up appointments, meet family, charge their mobile phone, and pick up any basic essentials to help them get through the first few days. These are basic but essential things and having this support on release can make all the difference to ensuring that people have the best chance of building positive futures.
    • Ensure people have immediate access to financial resources – We must ensure that people can make a claim for Universal Credit before release so they are able to access financial resources immediately on release and not left struggling to get by.
    • Strengthen the role of the voluntary sector to breakdown silos– many voluntary sector organisations deliver critical resettlement services to people leaving prison such as help to find somewhere to live; find a job; access finances; or support with substance misuse or wellbeing. But too often these feel siloed due to the way they are commissioned from individual providers. To ensure more joined up and effective services to prison leavers and relieve pressure on the Probation Service, the holistic and partnership approach of the voluntary sector could be better utilised to join up, coordinate and provide an oversight role for these support services.
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Video: Homelessness on release from prison

It can feel like an overwhelming task trying to find somewhere to live after prison, with not much of a second chance.

Nacro’s campaign calls for all prison leavers to have a home and to break the cycle of #CellStreetRepeat

2. Raising aspirations for children and young people

We want all young people to have opportunities and options, not just those from privileged backgrounds. Too many young people who fall behind at school are unable to get the support they need to catch up and thrive after they turn 16 – leaving too many people behind. Every day in our education centres we see young people with huge potential who have faced challenges and who have not always had the support they need to overcome these. We see how with tailored support, and learning and qualifications which create a future pathway, young people not only re-engage but thrive. Efforts to tackle disadvantage have tended to focus on the early years and school age children. But the impact of disadvantage doesn’t stop at 16, and in fact we know that the disadvantage gap gets worse in the last years of compulsory education.

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Learn Without Limits

Our Learn without Limits campaign showed that there is a clear and significant disadvantage gap – the gap in achievement between disadvantaged students and their more affluent peers – which can be seen throughout the course of children’s education.

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A prison system in crisis

As of May 2024, the many courts around the country have stopped holding trials as there is no space in prisons to send people to. Prisons are full, falling apart and failing to rehabilitate. Reoffending remains high. The probation service is on its knees. Only radical change can turn this around. Read our latest blog on how to address the crisis in the prisons system.