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As of yesterday, offenders sentenced from as little as one day in prison will be subject to at least 12 months rehabilitation upon release. It will be the primary responsibility of the newly formed Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs), to support an additional 45,000 offenders. 

The government has been quick to state that there will be a ‘new focus on life management’, with what it calls ‘mentors’ on hand to provide much needed support to ex-offenders. Depending on each case this will involve guidance on housing, employment and suitable substance misuse programmes. The idea, will be to help ex-offenders address the underlying causes of their criminality.

We would like to say it’s that easy, but it is a step in the right direction. Something needs to be done to significantly reduce the stubbornly high reoffending rates we have in this country. More than 60% of offenders are back inside within 12 months. 

Hopefully, more structured housing and education services will help support probation officers in meeting their aim of not just supervising ex-offenders, but helping them. We’ve got to be realistic though. 

It’s interesting that Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has said after a decade of repeat reoffending that ‘all this will change’. That’s a big promise to live up to and we’re talking about turning around a decade’s worth of behavioural patterns. There has to be a degree of realism but none of the MoJ press statements mention a gradual decline. What we’re dealing with here is not purely about the individual. It’s about society in general and there will be lots of influencing factors that even the CRCs will need to spend time grappling with. Society needs to be ‘ready’ to give ex-offenders a chance at being rehabilitated and getting their lives on track. 

Without doubt, the fact that offenders will receive a consistent level of support throughout their sentence and beyond is most definitely needed. Under this system, probation staff will pull together an offender rehabilitation plan within the first few days of them entering prison. The same team will support that offender during their time in detention and will continue to support them when released. 

The support for ex-offenders on helping them sort their lives out will work very much in the same way as traditional supervision. 

In terms of how the success of the 12 month rehabilitation scheme will be measured, we hope it won’t just be a case of monitoring how many offenders go on to reoffend inside of 12 months upon release. The real test will be whether the individuals concerned are able to sustain their new behavioural patterns over a longer period of time where they do not have the support of the CRCs. It will most certainly be interesting to see and will hopefully reveal some positive results. 

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