Headlines: January 31st, 2002

Over half of prisoners discharged from UK jails re-offend within two years. The National Audit Office in its latest report: ‘Reducing Prisoner Re-offending’ reveals that many prisoners leave prison without having had the opportunity to address their offending behaviour. The auditors found that the degree of support prisoners receive to reduce the risk of re-offending was a postcode lottery. This lack of a strategic approach to the issue was characterized by the absence of a reliable information system to show the impact of programmes and the performance of individual prisons.The report re-states the well known characteristics of the re-offending problem. Many of the prisoners have drug problems and poor levels of literacy and numeracy. Prison regimes do little to improve educational or work skills. Finding accommodation and work on discharge from prison can be a major challenge for many. So called ‘unaccredited’ schemes have addressed these issues with varying levels of success, but the Prison Service has not built on this experience.

The report urges a more dynamic approach to reducing re-offending which should include every prisoner being assessed on the risk of re-offending and a plan set out to tackle theses risks. The planning of prisoner’s time in prison should be improved, particularly in enhancing job prospects, so that there are benefits on discharge. There is also a plea for closer working with the Probation Service and other agencies.

Link: http://www.nao.gov.uk