Headlines: May 16th, 2005

Councils want a new role that will allow them to take the lead in supporting prisoners after their release. During their time in prison, a significant proportion of inmates lose their house, their job and contact with their family, whilst many face associated financial problems. When the release day comes they are faced with a bewildering range of voluntary, public and private bodies that provide numerous different services. Too many former inmates simply slip through the net and back into old habits. This results in more crime, another conviction and another term of imprisonment. Re-offending not only ruins lives, but it blights communities and costs the taxpayer 11bn pounds every year.The call to re-think re-offending comes from the Local Government Association ahead of the bill to be presented in the Queen’s speech tomorrow. The LGA wants the bill to give councils a statutory duty to help those leaving prison to get back on the straight and narrow.

Councils provide many of the services that help to prevent re-offending such as education, housing and social services. Many also provide advice services in areas such as benefits and drugs. Councils are also involved in the implementation of community sentences. More than 80% of councils have strategies to tackle re-offending and these are delivered through Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships.

Local government has a track record in dealing with youth offenders through Youth Offending Team projects. It is planned to pilot new ‘Adult Offending Teams’ that will allow councils to provide ex-offenders with the co-ordinated and integrated local service from which young people currently benefit.