Headlines: December 3rd, 2008

Giving prisoners the chance to open their own bank accounts while they are serving their sentences can help cut re-offending rates according to research released today. The report from Liverpool John Moores University is based on a project under which offenders opened accounts with the Co-operative Bank.

The study’s author, Paul Jones, says the move appears to be having an impact on the rate of re-offending and he is calling for other banks to follow the Co-Operative’s lead. That is echoed today by the banks Chief Executive who says his company cannot tackle the issue alone.

The study found that in the first two years of the project, which began at Forest Bank Prison, in Salford, 256 prisoners opened accounts. Of those 193 had been released and only 72 have returned to prison, which the research says, suggests that opening a bank account can positively impact on re-offending rates.

The bank has now accepted applications from 28 other prisons and the number of prisoners’ accounts has risen to 1,392 since the scheme began in 2006. Paul Jones said, “Bank accounts are not the panacea for reducing re-offending rates but the scheme at Forest Bank has important lessons for everyone involved in the prison service.” The report urges other banks to become involved but says prisons, banks, the National Offender Management Service, the Government, the voluntary sector and others all have a role to play.

The bank’s Chief Executive, David Anderson, said the company understood that access to employment and housing were extremely important factors in reducing the risk of re-offending but these were only possible where offenders had bank accounts. He went on, “The Co-operative Bank now has a relationship with 29 prisons, which represents nearly 20 per cent of all the prisons in the UK but we cannot tackle this important issue alone. Therefore, I would encourage other banks to play their part in providing accounts for prisoners so all inmates can have this opportunity.”