Many people return to prison after having completed a sentence. They are released and then go on to reoffend. This represents a structural failure of the justice system to create law abiding citizens and a safer community. Imprisonment itself is identified as a cause of crime rather than a solution.
Justice Action has been working with the Community Justice Coalition and will be distributing a report on recidivism, ‘Recidivism: The Way Forward‘, to emphasise these concerns, what needs to change and generate conversation amongst decision makers.
This paper draws upon prisoners’ experience in consultation with judicial and political figures. The following areas have been identified as the key factors in reducing recidivism:
1. Housing — A significant issue for ex-prisoners is finding housing after they are released from prison, this results in homelessness. Inmates should be released into guaranteed subsidised housing in the private rental market.
2. Earned Release — Currently, prisoners have no encouragement to improve themselves or their skills. Coming from this sort of environment and then being required to adjust to working for incentives and being surrounded by people who are motivated to achieve for personal gain is difficult for ex-prisoners.
3. Computers in Cells with ICT — Computers in cells with safe access to information communications technology (ICT) allows prisoners access to mainstream education, training, and health services. This access also improves mental health as the individual isn’t completely isolated.
4. Social support — Better social support structures for prisoners and ex-prisoners, including peer mentoring, would greatly assist ex-prisoners in reintegrating into the community.
5. Financial stability — A key issue in recidivism is that people leaving prison don’t have the means to support themselves financially. They should be subsidised to enrol in education programs that will lead to employment.
6. Substance abuse — Ex-prisoners are more likely to suffer death or disease from substance abuse than others. They need better access to external rehabilitation services and/or opioid replacement therapies. Other countries have shown that a drug policy that gives primacy to public health principles leads to much less recidivism and much less crime.
7. Learning skills to avoid anti-social habits — Programs should be offered by trusted external suppliers through computers in cells. These should include cognitive skills and other behavioural training to eliminate anti-social habits, as well as psychological assistance in maintaining healthy relationships with family and other members of the community. These programs should continue to be offered after release.
8. Better post-release services — Prisoners are often released with minimal support and understanding about how to successfully function in society when there are so few choices available to them. Rehabilitative treatment alongside reasonable surveillance may improve recidivism rates.