The Government's Approach to Crime Prevention - Home Affairs Committee Contents


3  Reducing re-offending


Scale of the problem

70.  The Government's Social Exclusion Unit published a detailed report on re-offending in 2002, which drew renewed attention to the scale of the problem. It noted that despite falling in the 1980s, reconviction rates had risen again in the 1990s so that at the time of publication people who had been in prison accounted for one in five of all crimes and nearly three in five prisoners were re-convicted within two years of leaving prison.

71.  The Ministry of Justice told us that for cohorts of offenders discharged from a custodial sentence or beginning sentences in the community between 2000-2007, the frequency of adult and youth re-offending over the following year fell by 20.3% (from 185 to 147 offences per 100 offenders) and 23.6% (from 151 to 115) respectively.[133] The data provided below also show smaller falls in the proportion of individuals who re-offend. 39% of adult and 37.5% of juvenile offenders in the 2007 cohort re-offended within a year, down from 43% and 40% in 2000.[134]

Table 3: Adults—frequency, severity, and actual and predicted re-offending rates[135]


No. of offenders in cohort  
Frequency  Severity  Binary (yes/no)  

per 100 offenders  

% change from 2000  

per 100 offenders  

% change from 2000  
Actual  Predicted 
       % re-offending  % change from 2000  % re-offending 
2000 Q1 
2001 Q1           
2002 Q1 
2003 Q1 
2004 Q1 
2005 Q1 
2006 Q1 
2007 Q1 

Table 4: Juveniles—frequency, severity, actual and predicted re-offending rates[136]


No. of offenders in cohort  
Frequency  Severity  Binary (yes/no)  

per 100 offenders  

% change from 2000  

per 100 offenders  

% change from 2000  
Actual  Predicted 
       % re-offending  % change from 2000  % re-offending 
2000 Q1 41,176  151.4 0.0%  0.91 0.0%  40.2% 0.0%  39.8% 
2001 Q1           
2002 Q1 40,753  142.1 -6.2%  0.94 3.7%  38.5% -4.3%  39.9% 
2003 Q1 40,297  141.5 -6.5%  1.01 10.6%  39.0% -2.9%  39.6% 
2004 Q1 44,153  132.4 -12.5%  0.96 4.9%  38.6% -4.0%  39.0% 
2005 Q1 45,337  125.0 -17.4%  0.90 -0.7%  38.4% -4.4%  38.4% 
2006 Q1 48,938  123.1 -18.7%  0.83 -8.7%  38.7% -3.7%  38.4% 
2007 Q1 52,544  115.7 -23.6%  0.73 -19.5%  37.5% -6.6%  38.7% 

72.  The Director-General of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), Phil Wheatley, drew our attention to the difference between predicted and actual offending rates, which he argued show the service is "adding value" through its rehabilitative interventions. From the data above, this does not appear particularly marked. However, when broken down further, it is possible to see particular improvements for some groups of offenders. For example, the predicted rate for offenders sentenced to four years and over in custody is 25.1%: in 2000 the actual re-offending rate was 23.4% and by 2007 it was 17.6%.[137]

73.  Despite these falls, the Ministry of Justice estimates that around half of all crime is committed by people with previous convictions.[138] The most recent figures published last month confirm this state of affairs, which has remained unchanged since 2000. Moreover, they show that 28% of sentences given for indictable offences in 2008 were handed down to offenders with 15 or more previous convictions; this has actually risen from 17% in 2000.[139] The figures in tables 3 and 4 mask higher re-offending rates amongst some groups of offenders, and also only relate to re-offending that happens within the first year. Further examination of the full data set by the Prison Reform Trust showed that 65% of the 2004 prison cohort were reconvicted within two years of being released, and 75% of young men aged 18-20.[140] The Minister of State for crime and policing admitted that:

For some young people [re-offending] will be as high as 75% to 80%—for people under the age of 18. For some people on community-based sentences, it may be between 45% and 60%. For those on prison sentences, maybe 60% to 75%.[141]

74.  The overall re-offending rate for the cohort of offenders released from custody or beginning a community sentence over the following year has continued to fall over the last few years in terms of actual re-offending and frequency of re-offending. The biggest falls relate to the frequency of re-offending; those for actual re-offending are less substantial. However, those with prior convictions still account for around half of all crime committed and this has remained unchanged since 2000. For young males the likelihood of re-offending may be as high as 80%.


75.  The Social Exclusion Unit identified nine key factors influencing the likelihood of re-offending: education, employment, drug and alcohol misuse, mental and physical health, attitudes and self-control, institutionalisation and life-skills, housing, financial support and debt, and family networks. For example, being in employment reduced the risk of re-offending by between a third and a half; and having stable accommodation reduced the risk by a fifth. Only 20% of prisoners have the writing skills, 35% the numeracy skills and 50% the reading skills of an 11-year-old child; 60-70% of prisoners were using drugs before imprisonment; and 70% of prisoners suffer from at least two mental disorders.[142] Home Office analysis of data in the OASys offender assessment system in 2005, shows the level of problems experienced by offenders:

Table 5: Offender needs[143]

Section of OASys  
Percentage of offenders assessed as having a problem  


Custodial sentences  
Education, training and employment  
Financial management and income  
Lifestyle and associates  
Drug misuse 
Alcohol misuse 
Emotional well-being  
Thinking and behaviour  
Number of criminogenic needs  

76.  Once again, witnesses shared this understanding of the main factors influencing the likelihood of re-offending. The need for support for prisoners on release from custody to help them with their accommodation, employment as well as psychological needs came across particularly strongly. In relation to young offenders, the memorandum we received from Catch 22 cited a piece of research indicating that good resettlement support can reduce the frequency of offending by 35% and the seriousness of offending by 10%.[144] The Youth Justice Board agreed that for young offenders:

Three key elements identified that can reduce their likelihood of re-offending are the provision of accommodation that is stable, secure and sustained; engagement in education, training or employment and the existence of positive adult role models.[145]

77.  The section of the Government's Cutting Crime strategy setting out action on reducing re-offending appears to draw on this analysis in that the seven main themes it outlines are closely linked to those described by the Social Exclusion Unit:

  • Tackling the high prevalence of drug and alcohol misuse;
  • Dealing with the mental and general health needs of offenders;
  • Improving offenders' basic skills and their ability to get and retain a job;
  • Ensuring that offenders can access and retain appropriate accommodation, and tackling debt;
  • Improving offenders' ability to see the consequences of their actions and to tackle problems without recourse to violence;
  • Ensuring education, training and employment opportunities for young offenders and raising achievement levels; and
  • Tackling the intergenerational offending cycle through working with offenders' families and children.[146]

78.  The risk factors for re-offending are well understood across the relevant agencies having been clearly articulated by the Government's Social Exclusion Unit in 2002. The need for increased practical support to help offenders find employment and accommodation having served their sentence, as well as for mentoring to assist re-integration came across particularly strongly in our evidence. Measures to mitigate these risk factors form the basis of the Government's strategy to reduce re-offending, which is helpful.

In custody

79.  The figures for January 2010 show that the overall number of people in custody was 83,788, of whom 72,172 were over 21 (adults), 9,506 were aged 18-21 (young adults), 1,700 were 15-17 year olds in young offender institutions, 153 were teenagers housed in secure children's homes and 257 teenagers in secure training centres.[147] By the end of 2009 the population of under-18s in the prison system had dropped below 2,000 for the first time since 2001.[148]


80.  The Social Exclusion Unit concluded in 2002 in relation to initiatives to reduce re-offending that:

Although the Prison Service and Probation Service have improved their focus on reducing re-offending, the current balance of resources still does not enable them to deliver beneficial programmes such as education, drug and mental health treatment, offending behaviour, and reparation programmes and many others, to anything like the number who need them.

The availability of positive initiatives … is patchy, and the majority of prisoners, particularly those serving short sentences, receive little practical support, before release or afterwards.[149]

81.  Our predecessor Committee found little improvement during its 2004-05 inquiry on Rehabilitation of Prisoners, concluding that:

Progress has undoubtedly been made on drug treatment and provision of basic education. However … we found little evidence that serious efforts are being made within the Prison Service to prepare prisoners for the world of work. Much other provision for rehabilitation and resettlement continues to be inadequate … Too few attempts are made, either, to provide rehabilitative services to short-term or remand prisoners.

The Committee called for a major drive to provide work and work-like regimes and training within prisons and an extension of this provision and other rehabilitative interventions to short-term and remand prisoners.[150]

82.  The Head of NOMS told us that spending on offending behaviour programmes, drug treatment programmes and education had risen from £745 per prisoner in 1998/99 to £4,300 in 2008/09, with an additional 40% increase in money going to the Probation Service since the formation of the national service. Phil Wheatley told us he believed that this extra investment had led to the reductions in re-offending.[151] In 2007 Lord Carter directly attributed reductions to re-offending to increased investment in offender interventions both in prison and in the community.[152] Paul McDowell, a prison governor for many years before becoming the Chief Executive of Nacro, agreed that:

The quality of the work delivered in the Prison Service now compared with when I joined has changed significantly. Levels of educational provision, the quality of offender behaviour programmes we deliver, even the ability of the service to join up with other agencies, which has improved though there is a long way to go.[153]

83.  However, Phil Wheatley was "less sure" he could pinpoint precisely which of the increases had made the biggest difference.[154] Despite this, the Cutting Crime strategy sets out the Government's intention to focus resources in prison and probation "where they will make the most difference".[155]

84.  Notwithstanding these improvements, there remains a serious level of unmet need, as represented in the following diagram showing the relationship between the proportion of offenders identified as having particular needs and the proportion of offenders for whom these needs are being met.

Figure 2: Level of unmet needs related to offending among prisoners subject to OASys assessments April 2006-March 2007[156]

We explore some of these areas of need below.

85.  Increased levels of investment in prisoner education and training, offending behaviour and resettlement care have contributed to reductions in reported crime levels; however, there is still a high level of unmet need. The Government wants to "focus resources in prison and probation where they will make the most difference": this is a worthy aim; however, as we noted earlier, the lack of an effective evidence base may make this difficult to determine.


86.  The Ministry of Justice told us that NOMS delivers a "range" of accredited programmes to tackle offending behaviour, covering anger management, domestic and other types of violent as well as sexual offending. This included provision for over 17,000 violent offenders in 2008/9.[157] However, in her Annual Report for 2008-09 the Chief Inspector of Prisons, Dame Anne Owers, pointed to the difficulty in accessing offending behaviour programmes:

Only around two-thirds of prisoners in training prisons said that they were able to complete some or all of their sentence plan targets at their current prison. Throughout the prison estate, there were gaps in courses linked to violence … There were significant waiting lists for enhanced thinking skills (ETS) and in particular CALM. Some prisoners were discharged without having completed courses, and others, particularly sex offenders and indeterminate-sentenced prisoners, spent long periods waiting for a progressive transfer to undertake courses.[158]


87.  The Ministry of Justice has increased investment in education provision for offenders threefold, from £57m in 2001/02 to more than £175m in 2009/10.[159] The Chief Inspector of Prisons' Annual Report found continued improvement in the quality of provision; Ofsted judged only two prisons to be inadequate compared with 24% in the previous year, and for the first time, assessed one adult prison as outstanding. However, the quantity of, and the access to, educational and vocational training remained problematic:

The most common finding was that there was simply too little activity to engage the number of prisoners held. Only 59% of the adult male closed prisons inspected were assessed as performing well or reasonably well in activity, and only four out of 34 were assessed as performing well.[160]

88.  The Centre for Crime and Justice Studies has argued in respect of young offenders that, despite official statistics, each year far fewer are making progress in numeracy and literacy, partly due to overcrowding and the high turnover rates, but also as a result of the lower levels of staffing and difficulties in accessing courses.[161] Adnan Mohammed of User Voice believed that institutions are not set up to help people to learn new skills:

I think we just storage people: put them in storage and leave them to fester and then they come out with no skills … When I was in the camp on the Isle of Wight, there is something called Prison Council and we made some suggestions. They were always telling us there was not enough funding, so we said, "Why can't we have the prisoners that are in the prison with us"—the mechanics and the electricians that have skills—"empowered to let us help learn the skills?"[162]

A series of focus groups with young people in custody commissioned by the Home Office and published in 2000 found that many of the young people wanted to use their time in custody constructively and were frustrated by poor inductions and sentence planning and the difficulty of completing the education, cognitive skills and parenthood courses they valued.[163] Given what we were told by User Voice, this lesson does not appear to have been heeded.[164]

89.  Furthermore, recent comments from the Chief Inspector of Prisons, Dame Anne Owers, conjure up an alarming vision of the future:

As the population expands, resources are under increased threat. The cuts already announced for next year come on top of already sliced budgets, with the possibility of even more cuts later … As I said last year, there are two risks: of increased instability in inherently fragile environments, and of reducing prisons' capacity to rehabilitate those they hold.

The new benchmarking process for key regime activities is at least honest— clarifying what can actually be delivered within limited resources. But it is also an exercise in regression to the mean. Prisons doing excellent work are being told to aim for the bronze standard; prisons with full employment are told that this will not be affordable; innovative work, outside formal and mandated interventions, is under threat.[165]

90.  We are pleased to note the Chief Inspector of Prisons' assessment of the improvement in the quality of educational and vocational training in prisons. However, we were concerned that quantity of provision is still an issue, and that insufficient progress had been made to address the conclusions about a lack of purposeful activity drawn by our predecessor committee in 2005. We were struck by the assessment of one former inmate that prisons just "storage people". Sentence planning should be improved to ensure that prisoners can access and complete the courses that would be most of benefit to them. The threat of budget cuts has the potential to reverse the advances made in quality. Considering the vast cost of crime to society, cuts in this area appear irrational.


91.  In 2008/9, only 38% of prisoners entered education, employment or training upon release.[166] A Home Office study from 1998 noted that a clear message from the available research was the necessity for prisons to work more closely with outside employers and plan their provision to match labour needs.[167] The Justice Minister of State, Maria Eagle MP, informed us that the Government now has a Corporate Alliance of over 100 employers who train specifically for the kind of jobs that they want, including some who guarantee jobs to people who have successfully completed the training when they come out. A new work plan is also being developed to ensure that each business sector is represented by at least one employer who will champion offender employment, linking up with Jobcentre Plus' Local Employment Partnerships.[168]

92.  Liberal Democrat spokesman Chris Huhne MP drew our attention to a largely self-financing and "successful" pilot run by the Howard League for Penal Reform, which paid prisoners wages comparable with the market rate from which they paid tax, national insurance and into a compensation fund for victims.[169] The scheme to which he referred was a social enterprise in HMP Coldingley called Barbed, which was forced to close down in December 2008 after two years of producing graphic design for a wide range of clients. The Director of the Howard League, Frances Crook, described on her blog the "insurmountable problems that made it impossible to run as a business":

The cut in hours made it impossible to compete. Two years ago we started at 30 hours a week but the prison cuts meant we lost about 8 hours per person. There was never any possibility of overtime or flexibility—if we need a few minutes to finish a piece of work, hard luck. The sudden and frequent lock downs meant we could not fulfil contracts … the policies, attitudes and practices [of prison management] prevent any real activities going on in prisons.[170]

Prisoners spent on average 11.8 hours a week in employment activities in the period April-December 2009.[171] An investigation by Society Guardian in September 2009 found that in many cases contracts between employers and prisons are "exploitive", offering prisoners mundane and repetitive work with little opportunity for training or rehabilitation when they are released.[172]

93.  We received evidence about the National Grid Young Offender Programme, which provides training for prisoners coming towards the end of their sentences, leading on to guaranteed employment on release. Although dealing with small numbers of offenders—1,000 have taken part thus far—an evaluation found that re-offending rates for participants were only 7%.[173] According to the National Grid, the success of the programme is down to the obvious incentives for offender participants in the promise of paid employment on release; the fact that because the training begins before the offender is released, he or she has several months to get used to the routine of going out to work; the commercial nature of employers' motivation, which makes it viable (participants must go through the company's normal recruitment and training procedures); and the mentoring of participants both pre and post release.[174]

94.  Reading Young Offenders Institution has been involved in the scheme from the start. When asked about its success rate, Clive Barber, the Deputy Governor, told us:

Since the programme started 66 prisoners from Reading have been through it and I am aware of only four who have come back in [although] that does not mean to say they have not gone into other establishments.[175]

However, the institution finds it difficult to involve many inmates as firstly, a large number of inmates are on remand, and are ineligible as they cannot be released on temporary licence; some others will be deemed too high risk and some will be awaiting procedures for a further charge:

To quantify that, Kennet unit holds about 20 prisoners. We accept up to 24 year-olds and we struggle to fill it with prisoners who are of a risk low enough to release them on temporary licence.[176]

Participants must also have a minimum reading age of 11 to enable them to pass the theory part of their driving licence.

95.  It is well established that one of the key difficulties of finding a job stems from the reluctance of employers to recruit people with a criminal record. The Chief Executive of the National Youth Agency, Fiona Blacke, told us:

If, as an employer, you get a positive Criminal Records Bureau check back on someone, you then undertake a risk assessment process to decide whether you are going to let that person undertake the duties and what you need to put in place to make sure the young people they are working with are safe. Most employers are very unsophisticated in that.[177]

Nacro takes "calls in their thousands" from ex-offenders seeking advice about how to overcome the restrictions on them in terms of employment opportunities.[178]

96.  In 2002 the Government committed to legislate to amend the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, which specifies rehabilitation periods after which offenders are no longer required to disclose their convictions when applying for a job. The Act does not extend to offenders sentenced to more than 30 months in custody and the Government acknowledged that, "for many of those who do qualify for the right not to disclose their 'spent' convictions, the disclosure periods have been criticised as complicated and excessively long".[179] The legislation has been yet introduced an amendment.

97.  Witnesses identified one area of work where ex-offenders could make a unique contribution. Adnan Mohammed, speaking as a former offender as well as for an organisation representing former offenders, advised that:

Offenders are most impacted by people who have been through the same experience that they have been. These are the people that most likely they will listen to. If you remove young ex-offenders talking to young people, then the only thing we are left to talk to is people that we have always felt are on the other side to us, either clinical psychologists or social workers.[180]

Adam Halls, who was a former client of Cricket for Change before joining the apprenticeship scheme run by the organisation and then becoming their Development Manager, endorsed this view:

Through the sort of process that I have gone through and all the lessons that I have learned through my own criminal background, I have learned how to engage better with young people who are in the same situation as I am. I am working on a daily basis now with young people who are in drug abuse, who are running away from home or who have real criminal backgrounds, and I can relate to them.[181]

Fiona Blacke advocated a scheme to be set up in young offenders' institutes that would allow inmates to obtain level 1 youth-work qualifications which they could then use with their peers upon release.[182]

98.  Last year only 38% of prisoners went into training, education or employment on release. Preparing prisoners to enter the labour market should be a key objective for prison authorities; it is therefore disappointing that, for example, the social enterprise at HMP Coldingley was forced to close in 2008 apparently because of the inflexibility of prison management. The National Offender Management Service must ensure that schemes operating within prisons teach skills relevant to future employment opportunities and portray working life in a good light. The National Grid Young Offenders programme attributes its low re-offending rates to the guarantee of employment for participants upon release from prison and payment of a decent wage: this would be a good model to replicate, although the numbers of prisoners eligible for release on temporary licence and with the requisite literacy levels for participation in such schemes are low.

99.  The Ministry of Justice has initiated a Corporate Alliance to champion offender employment. This partnership should be assisting employers in becoming more sophisticated in their risk assessments of former offenders. We feel strongly that public sector bodies should be setting a good example to other employers through their recruitment practices in this area. In 2002 the Government pledged to amend the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 to limit the damage of excessively long disclosure periods for some offenders; we would like to know why legislation to achieve this has not been yet brought forward.

100.  Ex-offenders with the right attributes are ideally qualified for youth work with troubled young people because of their experiences. Often they may be the only people to whom such young people will listen. We recommend that the Ministry of Justice pilot a scheme to allow young offenders to access youth work qualifications in custody.


101.  Offenders sentenced to less than a year in custody have the highest re-offending rates, around 60% of adult offenders are convicted of at least one offence in the year after release. These sentences account for over 60,000 adult offenders entering prison each year.[183] Although the biggest increases in the prison population are for those serving over four years, the number of men serving less than a year increased by 19% between 1996 and 2006 and the number of women by 71%.[184] Moreover, adults serving these short sentences are not subject to statutory supervision by probation on release. The average period for young people in custody is currently 73 days.[185] The National Audit Office recently estimated that re-offending by all recent ex-prisoners cost the economy between £9.5 billion and £13 billion and that as much as three quarters of this cost can be attributed to former short-sentenced prisoners: some £7 billion to £10 billion a year.[186]

102.  We have heard the view expressed on a number of occasions that it is impossible to carry out useful interventions with an offender sentenced to less than 12 months in prison. The Governor of Reading Prison told us:

We worked out that the average stay for prisoners was about 12 weeks which is clearly not long enough … As long as people have sentences of perhaps over 12 months—in other words, they are serving at least six months—you can do some serious intervention work to make a difference … While we can probably attain some of the employment targets, and have done successfully, we are not attaining all of the training targets because we have not got people there long enough or they are being released from Reading … Community service orders for short sentences would be far better.[187]

103.  When probed about interventions with offenders on short-term sentences, the Director-General of NOMS, Phil Wheatley, confirmed that the best results are being shown by the longer sentence prisoners. The predicted offending rate for the prisoners serving four years and over group is 25.1% and for the 12-month and over group it is 42.1%. He said:

If you wanted me to work more in prison with anybody you would have to give him longer than a very short sentence.[188]

The Minister of State for crime and policing agreed that "there are people going to prison who would be best served by a community-based sentence".[189]

104.  Matters would also be improved if interventions were better joined up between custody and release into the community. Nacro's Paul McDowell argued that:

We are not necessarily very good at the moment in joining up through the gates. When people are back in the community there is a tendency for us not to continue with the delivery of effective services.[190]

The Criminal Justice Act 2003 provided a legal framework for custody plus, a sentence which would allow an offender to serve both a short custodial sentence and then be supervised in the community afterwards. The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice, Claire Ward MP, recently advised the House that "resource constraints" have meant that the Ministry has been unable to implement custody plus and there is "no prospect" of doing so in the near future.[191]

105.  A lack of co-ordination can also be a problem within the secure estate. Witnesses argued that overcrowding has led to increased churn, whereby prisoners are moved around the prison estate which often means they cannot complete their courses.[192] The recent report from the Chief Inspector of Prisons substantiated this concern:

Population pressure affects the whole system—stretching resources and managerial energy, keeping in use buildings that ought to be condemned, doubling up prisoners in cramped cells, and leading to unnecessary and destabilising prisoner moves. All of this compromises successful rehabilitation.[193]

106.  When we put these points to the Justice Minister of State, Maria Eagle MP, she explained that the Ministry of Justice is now able to transfer offender learning records between custodial settings to allow for continuity. In addition, the Offender Learning and Skills Service is now able to provide the same educational courses in custodial and non-custodial settings to allow offenders to complete qualifications, and is moving to shorter modules to enable short-sentence prisoners to do something towards an educational qualification which they can continue with when they leave a custodial setting.[194]

107.  Witnesses, including Government Ministers, were unanimous in their view that short prison sentences do not allow time for effective rehabilitative interventions to take place. Around 60% of adults serving less than a year are convicted of at least one offence in the year after release. This compares with predicted re-offending rates of 25% for prisoners serving four years and over. However, use of these short sentences has shot up over the past decade. The problem is particularly acute in relation to young offenders, who spend an average of 73 days in custody. The rise in short sentences has contributed towards prison overcrowding, which itself compromises the rehabilitation process as increased prisoner transfer around the secure estate restricts their ability to complete training and treatment.

108.  We discuss alternative options to short custodial sentences below; but where they are handed down, improved case management between prisons and probation officers is key to ensuring that interventions can be continued in a community setting. Adult offenders serving less than 12 months are not currently assigned a probation officer. In 2003 the Government legislated for a new form of sentencing, known as custody plus, which would allow for offenders to serve a short custodial sentence followed by supervision in the community; we are disappointed that there is "no prospect" of this being implemented in the near future.


109.  Progress made in prison can be quickly reversed if there is insufficient aftercare for prisoners upon release. Nacro argued that a renewed focus on the delivery of basic joined-up resettlement processes "is most likely to have made the difference" in respect of reductions in re-offending rates.[195] In her Annual Report for 2008—09 the Chief Inspector of Prisons commended the advances that have been made:

Resettlement, which I described as 'essentially an add-on' in 2002, is now seen as a core part of prisons' function … The seven 'resettlement pathways' define the actual and practical support necessary for reintegration. Some are relatively well developed, and it is welcome to see a greater focus on the hitherto neglected area of children and families.[196]

For example, almost all establishments now have some form of specialist housing advice.[197] In 2008/09, NOMS met its targets relating to housing for offenders, in that 70% of offenders were in settled and suitable accommodation at the end of their order or licence; and 80% of prisoners were moved into settled accommodation upon release.[198]

110.  As part of the Youth Crime Action Plan, in August 2009 the Government announced an £8.4m investment over the next two years to improve resettlement provision for young offenders.[199] Bob Ashford, of the Youth Justice Board, argued that there had been progress in improving resettlement for young people, including:

  • Integrated resettlement support—ensuring that it is not just Youth Offending Teams that are working on resettlement but also local authorities, children's services, housing authorities.
  • Resettlement Consortia—closer working between local authorities and Youth Offending Teams to try to identify young people who are the most likely to re-offend on release from custody and produce an "enhanced offer" in terms of education opportunities, accommodation opportunities and employment opportunities.[200]

111.  However, Chris Grayling MP, the Shadow Home Secretary, considered that for far too many prisoners, things had not changed:

I talk to a lot of police officers who say that what is actually happening is that the guys who are coming out of prison are effectively going straight back to the same streets they were in before with 20 quid in their pocket.[201]

The problem of returning to old habits was also highlighted by User Voice. Their representatives told us that during the first few weeks after release they had been confident they could make a fresh start but then old problems returned which they felt unable to deal with on their own.[202] Their comments echoed the findings of a series of focus groups with young people in custody commissioned by the Home Office and published in 2000, which highlighted a "pressing need for support and someone to talk to after prison".[203] Chief Executive Paul McDowell argued that:

One of the things we believe should be a distinct part of what we do in relation to prolific offenders is an increased level of relevant mentoring for offenders by well-trained adults once they are released back into the community. We are running those types of schemes around the country especially for young offenders. We believe that to be quite effective.[204]

112.  According to Catch 22, the will to provide resettlement support may be there, but the resources are not:

Young offenders aged 12 to 17 may be offered resettlement support under Detention and Training Orders, but in practice, effective sentence planning is limited and largely dependent on the availability of resources.[205]

The Chief Inspector of Prisons agreed that so far only a minority of prisoners have benefited from end-to-end case management through custody and the community. At local and category C training prisons fewer than one in five prisoners said they had been helped by staff to prepare for release, rising to one in four at women's prisons and nearly half of those in open prisons, "though that figure is itself surprisingly low, given their role." In her experience, finance, benefit and debt remained one of the weakest resettlement pathways, often focusing on little more than closing down tenancies and ensuring that benefits were discontinued.[206]

113.  Progress on delivering resettlement support in recent years is likely to have been the key factor in reducing re-offending. However, not enough prisoners are receiving support in preparing for release, especially in relation to finance, benefits and debt. Former prisoners with whom we spoke often had the best intentions to lead crime-free lives upon leaving prison but found it impossible to stick to this path when confronted with unresolved problems. We support increased mentoring after release into the community to build their resilience.

In the community

Prolific and Priority Offender Programmes

114.  Assessing the range of police preventative strategies applied in the UK and elsewhere, Home Office researchers concluded in 1998 that targeting repeat offenders "appeared to be worthwhile".[207] Subsequent research carried out in 2001 found that, of a total offending population of around one million, 100,000 offenders—10% of all active offenders—were responsible for half of all the crime committed in England and Wales. The Cutting Crime strategy document sets out the Government's intention to focus on the most prolific offenders throughout the criminal justice system. The Prolific and other Priority Offender (PPO) programme, implemented from September 2004, directs resources to this group of individuals through a strategy of:

  • Prevent and Deter—aimed at young offenders most at risk of becoming the next generation of prolific offenders by reducing opportunities for re-offending;
  • Catch and Convict—preventing PPOs from offending through speedy apprehension and conviction; and
  • Rehabilitate and Resettle—rehabilitating PPOs through closer working between all relevant agencies and continued support for offenders on the programme.

115.  An evaluation of the PPO programme carried out in 2007 found that:

  • PPOs have higher levels of need than non-PPOs: they were less likely to be in suitable accommodation, more likely to misuse drugs and less likely to be in employment;
  • Offenders favourably compared the frequency of interventions received on the PPO scheme to their previous experiences of the criminal justice system;
  • The introduction of the PPO programme had brought clear benefits in data sharing and partnership working between agencies, although some blockages remained; co-location was apparent in over half of all PPO schemes and was valuable in delivering the programme effectively;
  • Comparing the total number of convictions in the 17 months before and following the PPO programme showed that there had been a 43% reduction in the offending of the entire PPO cohort; and
  • The PPO cohort had a reduction in the rate of their offending following entry onto the programme. The average rate of offending fell from 0.51 convictions per month per PPO in the 12 months prior to entry onto the scheme to 0.39 for the 12 months following entry, a reduction of 24%.[208]

116.  The Head of NOMS agreed that initial findings suggested that the PPO scheme "is making really big reductions in re-offending".[209] The Director-General of the Home Office Policing Group, Stephen Rimmer, told us that the overall reduction in re-offending for people going through the  scheme last year was 29%.[210] Prolific offenders accounted for the largest reduction in the frequency of re-offending that took place between 2000 and 2007. The Government is now going a step further in piloting Integrated Offender Management (IOM), which involves closer co­operation between the police, probation and other relevant bodies to manage offenders through the system. The Minister of State responsible for crime and policing explained the rationale:

In the past, probation may not have known what happened in prison; prison may not have known previous histories in the detail that we want them to; the police may not have managed that individual outside as a potential further offender.[211]

We were given figures for some of the IOM pilots: in Leeds, the overall reduction for re-offending was 45%, and in Nottingham 42%.[212]

117.  The strategy to tackle repeat offenders through the Prolific and Priority Offender programme is based on sound evidence and appears to be working well, with the new Integrated Offender Management approach proving particularly successful at reducing re-offending in the areas in which it has been piloted. Although the number of criminals sentenced for indictable offences in 2008 who had 15 or more previous convictions actually rose to 28% in 2008 from 17% in 2000, prolific offenders accounted for the largest reduction in the frequency of re-offending that took place between 2000 and 2007. The Government should maintain and strengthen its focus on prolific and priority offenders as an integral part of its crime prevention approach.


118.  As cited in paragraphs 102 and 103 some witnesses advocated greater use of community orders[213] in place of short-term custodial sentences. Historical data indicate that re-offending rates for non-custodial sentences are not significantly lower than for custodial sentences—remaining within two percentage points between 1987 and 1995.[214] However, this is improving. 36% of adults receiving community orders in 2007 re-offended within a year, as opposed to 47% of adults receiving a custodial sentence. Offenders commencing court orders also have lower frequency rates than offenders discharged from prison.[215] Deputy Assistant Commissioner Jarman told us that:

We are just beginning to get an idea of how effective non-custodial sentences can be if we are more robust in making sure that people actually complete the non-custodial sentence, and if we work on trying to prevent them committing crime again.[216]

Speaking in terms of community sentences for young people, John Drew said:

I believe that we engage young people, we confront them with the consequences of their behaviour in a much more purposeful way than we did when I started which was in the mid-1970s.[217]

119.  Nevertheless, we have received contradictory evidence about the effectiveness of supervision of offenders on community sentences. On the one hand, the Governor of Reading YOI stated that she was "content that they are quite well supervised".[218] However the Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesman, Chris Huhne MP, cited anecdotal evidence suggesting that supervision was in fact poor, meaning that community sentences were "not honoured" and "so often breached that they effectively do not do what they are meant to do".[219] This was confirmed by evidence to a recent Justice Committee inquiry from the Magistrate's Association, which expressly stated that the inadequacy of probation resources impinges on the effectiveness of non-custodial sentences aimed at reducing re-offending. Probation officers routinely have 70 to 100 cases each to deal with.[220]

120.  Figures released under a freedom of information request during our inquiry showed that the number of reported breaches rose from 46,589 in 2006 to 68,343 in 2008, a rise of 47% over three years. This could not be explained by a corresponding proportionate rise in the numbers of community orders handed out, as the total only increased by 8,591, from 119,109 to 127,700.[221] This may be in part due to an increase in enforcement action by probation officers which has resulted in the discovery of a greater number of breaches. Justice Minister of State Maria Eagle MP told us that the number of people being sent into custody for breaching their community orders has been increasing: "we take breach of orders much more seriously now than was the case ten or 12 years ago".[222] The Ministry of Justice provided data showing a 71% compliance rate for community orders in 2008/09.[223]

121.  One means of dealing with the problems inherent in shorter custodial sentences is through greater use of community orders, which allow for rehabilitation without exacerbating some of the risk factors inherent in custodial sentences, such as loss of accommodation. Witnesses considered that advances had been made in their effectiveness. However, community orders will only be a satisfactory substitute if properly supervised. The numbers of reported breaches rose by 47% between 2006 and 2008. It is difficult to establish how much of this rise is attributable to increased enforcement action, which would be a positive development, but evidence suggests it is at least in part due to the overloading of probation officers. We therefore find it difficult, regrettably, to give our unqualified support to an increased use of community orders at this time.

133   Ev 90 [Ministry of Justice] Back

134   Severity refers to the rate at which re-offenders committed serious violent crimes (grievous bodily harm, murder and manslaughter) and serious sexual offences. Back

135   Ministry of Justice, Re-offending of adults: results from the 2007 cohort, May 2009. These are the most recently published data. Data from 2001 are missing owing to a problems with archived data on court orders. Back

136   Ministry of Justice, Re-offending of juveniles: results from the 2007 cohort, May 2009. These are the most recently published data. Data from 2001 are missing owing to a problems with archived data on court orders. Back

137   Q 124 Back

138   Ev 90 Back

139   Ministry of Justice, Sentencing Statistics: England and Wales 2008, January 2010, p 23 Back

140   Prison Reform Trust, Bromley Briefings Prison Factfile, June 2008, p 5 Back

141   Q 320 Back

142   Social Exclusion Unit, Reducing re-offending by ex-prisoners, July 2002, p 6 Back

143   Extracted from Table 1: Factors association with offending in Gemma Harper and Chloe Chitty (eds), The impact of corrections on re-offending: a review of 'what works', Home Office Research Study 291, February 2005  Back

144   Ev 106 Back

145   Ev 136 Back

146   Home Office, Cutting Crime-a new partnership 2008-11, July 2007, p 38 Back

147   HM Prison Service website, Back

148   HM Inspectorate of Prisons, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for England and Wales, Annual Report 2008-09, February 2010, p 7 Back

149   Social Exclusion Unit, Reducing re-offending by ex-prisoners, July 2002, p 5 Back

150   Home Affairs Committee, First Report of Session 2004-05, Rehabilitation of Prisoners, HC 193, paras 381-2, 387 Back

151   Q 130 Back

152   Lord Carter, Securing the future: proposals for the efficient and sustainable use of custody in England and Wales, December 2007, p 5 Back

153   Q 168 Back

154   Q 130  Back

155   Home Office, Cutting Crime-a new partnership 2008-11, July 2007, pp 4, 37 Back

156   Extracted from Justice Committee, First Report of Session 2009-10, Cutting Crime: the case for justice reinvestment, HC 94,Chart 3. The green bars represent the percentage of offenders with needs; the grey bars represent the offenders with interventions planned to meet these needs. Back

157   Ev 91 Back

158   HM Inspectorate of Prisons, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for England and Wales, Annual Report 2008-09, February 2010, pp 54-5 Back

159   Ev 92 Back

160   HM Inspectorate of Prisons, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for England and Wales, Annual Report 2008-09, February 2010, p 45 Back

161   Enver Solomon and Richard Garside, Ten years of Labour's youth justice reforms: an independent audit. Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, May 2008, p 10 Back

162   Q 75 Back

163   Juliet Lyon et al, 'Tell them so they listen': Messages from young people in custody, Home Office Research Study 201, 2000 Back

164   Annex A Back

165   HM Inspectorate of Prisons, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for England and Wales, Annual Report 2008-09, February 2010, pp 7-8 Back

166   Ev 92 [Ministry of Justice] Back

167   Julie Vennard and Catherine Hedderman, "Effective interventions with offenders", Reducing offending: an assessment of research evidence on ways of dealing with offending behaviour, Home Office Research Study 187, 1998, p 109 Back

168   Q 407; Ev 93 [Ministry of Justice] Back

169   Q 275 Back

170   Frances Crooks' blog, 22 December 2008, Back

171   HC Deb, 29 January 2010, col 1123W [Commons written answer] Back

172   "Inside the sell blocks", Society Guardian, 9 September 2009, Back

173   Ev 96 Back

174   Ev 97 Back

175   Q 189 Back

176   Q 192 [Mr Barber, Mrs Bryant] Back

177   Q 67 Back

178   Q 171 [Mr McDowell] Back

179   HM Government, Justice for All, Cm 5563, July 2002, p 111 Back

180   Q 67 Back

181   Q 445 Back

182   Q 67 Back

183   Based on Departmental analysis of those released in the first quarter of 2007, cited in National Audit Office, Managing offenders on short custodial sentences, 10 March 2010, p 4 Back

184   Ministry of Justice data cited in Prison Reform Trust, Bromley Briefings Prison Factfile, June 2008, p 6 Back

185   Q 114 [Mr Drew] Back

186   National Audit Office, Managing offenders on short custodial sentences, 10 March 2010, p 4 Back

187   Qq 197, 200, 211 [Mrs Bryant] Back

188   Qq 124, 144, 146 Back

189   Q 324 Back

190   Q 165  Back

191   HC Deb, 3 February 2010, col 17WS [Commons written ministerial statement] Back

192   Q 178 [Mr McDowell]; Q 272 [Mr Huhne MP] Back

193   HM Inspectorate of Prisons, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for England and Wales, Annual Report 2008-09, February 2010, p 8 Back

194   Q 405 Back

195   Q 162  Back

196   HM Inspectorate of Prisons, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for England and Wales, Annual Report 2008-09, February 2010, p 6 Back

197   Ibid, p 54 Back

198   Ev 92 Back

199   Ev 90 Back

200   Q 110 Back

201   Q 357 Back

202   Annex A Back

203   Juliet Lyon et al, 'Tell them so they listen': Messages from young people in custody, Home Office Research Study 201, 2000  Back

204   Q 163 Back

205   Ev 106 Back

206   HM Inspectorate of Prisons, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for England and Wales, Annual Report 2008-09, February 2010, pp 6, 54 Back

207   Peter Jordan, "Effective policing strategies for reducing crime", Reducing offending: an assessment of research evidence on ways of dealing with offending behaviour, Home Office Research Study 187, 1998, p 66 Back

208   Paul Dawson, The National PPO evaluation-research to inform and guide practice, Home Office, 2007; Paul Dawson and Lucy Cuppleditch, An impact assessment of the Prolific and other Priority Offender programme, Home Office, 2007 Back

209   Q 154  Back

210   Q 329 Back

211   Ibid. Back

212   Ibid. [Mr Rimmer] Back

213   Introduced in 2005 to replace all previous community sentences, a community order can have up to 12 requirements, which allow judges or magistrates to tailor-make a sentence for each offender. There are unpaid work, accredited programmes aimed at changing offenders' thinking and behaviour, exclusion from certain areas, residence, mental health treatment, drug rehabilitation, alcohol treatment, supervision, curfew, prohibtion from taking part in certain activities, participation in specified activities, such as improving basic skills, and attendance centre. Back

214   David Moxon, "The role of sentencing policy", Reducing offending: an assessment of research evidence on ways of dealing with offending behaviour, Home Office Research Study 187, 1998, p 90 Back

215   Ministry of Justice, Re-offending of adults: results from the 2007 cohort, May 2009, p 31  Back

216   Q 256 Back

217   Q 92 Back

218   Q 211 Back

219   Q 261 Back

220   Justice Committee, First Report of Session 2009-10, Cutting Crime: the case for justice reinvestment, HC 94, paras 75-76 Back

221   "Hike in number of community orders breached", Regeneration and Renewal, 8 February 2010, Back

222   Q 401 Back

223   Ev 133 Back


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