Nacro Director of Policy, Helen Berresford on the rehabilitation and the need to transform our justice system | Nacro

Nacro Director of Policy, Helen Berresford on the rehabilitation and the need to transform our justice system


“With almost daily reports of the growing problems in our justice system and new figures showing little change to stubborn reoffending rates, we must increase our focus on prevention and rehabilitation.
“The latest government figures reveal a 0.9% decrease in overall proven reoffending rates during October 2014 and September 2015 in comparison to the previous 12 months, exactly the same percentage decrease as the most recent figures published in April 2017. This adds to a persistent trend of reoffending rates showing only slight fluctuations with no significant decrease or change since 2004. In addition, new figures show that in prisons self harm rates have increased by 17%, assaults have risen by 20%, and serious assaults on staff have increased by 32% over the past 12 months up to March 2017, each reaching record highs.

“The juvenile reoffending rate of people leaving custody remains high at 68.9%, showing an increase of 0.9 percentage points compared to the previous 12 months. This comes as recent figures from the Youth Justice Board (YJB) show that youth custody levels are showing a continuous rise for the first time in almost a decade, with over 6% more children and young people aged up to 18 years old within the secure estate, in comparison to 2016. Worryingly, the recent report from the Chief Inspector of Prisons warned that youth custody centres are so unsafe, amid appalling conditions and rising violence, that a tragedy is inevitable.

“It is clear that we need urgent action to truly transform our justice system and achieve the dramatic reductions in reoffending we need. Firstly, we need to stem the flow of people going into the criminal justice system. By focusing on prevention and effective alternatives to custody, such as community sentences and supervision orders, we reduce the number of people entering our prison system in the first place. Secondly, we need a relentless focus on rehabilitation. Mental health support, education, purposeful activity, well equipped and supported staff are all essential parts of helping people turn their lives around whilst in prison. As they leave prison, people need support to find a stable place to live, improve their health and gain employment – these are crucial to help drive down the stubborn reoffending rates.

“Nacro staff work with offenders and ex-offenders across the country, often with complex needs, supporting them to build positive and independent futures. We know what is needed for effective rehabilitation. 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.

“A renewed focus upon prevention and rehabilitation will go a long way to tackle high reoffending rates across the country. This will benefit society as a whole by making our streets safer, reducing victims of crime and giving people the chance to make a valuable contribution.”