Ahead of the publication of the 2017 Prison and Courts Reform Bill, Nacro Chief Executive, Jacob Tas, said:
“We welcome the Prison and Courts Reform Bill White Paper, in particular the expected government commitment to focus upon preparing prisoners for release through education, training and improved mental health provision, with a duty to rehabilitate offenders being enshrined in law. We now need urgent action and real investment to make the vision for a transformed justice system a reality.
“There must also be a relentless focus on rehabilitation. Currently almost half of people who leave prison reoffend within a year. Focusing on what is needed to rehabilitate offenders from the moment they are convicted is a crucial first step to help people move onto crime-free lives and create safer communities.
“It is vital however that all rehabilitation plans translate into actual day-to-day practice. Nacro staff work with offenders and ex-offenders across the country, often with complex needs, supporting them to build positive and independent futures, and we have seen that good health, access to education and training, a secure home, a stable job, and supportive relationships are all important to help people move on. All too often, we see offenders released from custody struggle to secure the important things they need ranging from consistent mental health support, access to employment and to a place to live, with many ex-offenders being left unemployed and homeless leading to an increased likelihood of reoffending taking place.
“To stem the flow of people going into the criminal justice system we believe that effective alternatives to custody need to be explored further ranging from various types of community sentences, GPS tagging and supervision orders, which can, under the right circumstances, help to reduce costs, avoid unnecessary short sentences and aid the rehabilitation process.
“Nacro believes this Bill presents a real opportunity for government to undertake a fundamental review of the criminal records regime, which is outdated, complex and can cause unnecessary barriers for people trying to secure jobs. Time and time again, Nacro staff have seen offenders living in our supported housing accommodation, or those we have helped to secure jobs, turn their back on a life of crime after being given a real chance to do better. We look forward to increased partnership working between government and the voluntary sector going to forward to tackle high reoffending rates across the country and give offenders a fresh start.”