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Tackling Britain's Prison Crisis

There is no doubt that our prisons are in crisis. With year upon year of cutbacks, far too few prison officers to cope and increases in violent assaults, deaths and suicides, Liz Truss' promise of more staff can't come soon enough.

However, increasing prison officers isn't the only answer. Surely, long term, reducing our prison population is the only way to tackle our over populated and crumbling Victorian jails.

Look at Norway who have a recidivism rate of just 20% against the UK's 46% (60% for those who have sentences of less than one year).1 Their philosophy is make sure that prison life mirrors real life as much as possible. 2

For some, this is the soft option, too easy and comfortable. If you're a victim of crime, you may well think so, after all, who wants to think that the perpetrator of a crime is having an easy time of it? But on the other hand, surely knowing that somebody has a lesser chance of re-offending means ultimately reducing not only the crime rate, but the victim rate.

Perhaps if the Government started talking in these terms rather than focusing upon what awful places UK prisons are, perhaps if they started to really look at what has the best possible chance of reducing re-offending to both save money for the tax payer and make the UK a safer and better place to be, then the public would get behind it.

So how do we cut re-offending rates and make society a safer place?

Not by forcing people that are frightened of failure and dropped out of school at an early age into classrooms where we tell them they can achieve everything they want, put the student of the month up on the wall because Ofsted like it, give them a bunch of certificates and then release them and hope for the best.

Or by completing a tick box questionnaire, 'yes, I have a job with a mate when I get out', 'that'll do nicely thanks', or lining up a job or further training scheme without tackling the very behaviours that led to the offence in the first place - violence, substance misuse, peer pressure, money issues, relationship problems...

Real life for many offenders upon release includes struggling to secure adequate housing, rejection after rejection when applying for jobs, relationship strain, temptation to fall off the wagon and an unrealistic expectation that someone, somewhere can help.

Only by giving each individual a tool box of life skills that includes social, emotional and mental resilience in order to cope with the problems and concerns that life throws at them can we really start to focus upon rehabilitation.

Let's do as Norway does and emulate real life, not in a 'fluffy' way, but by being realistic about what lies ahead, breaking destructive patterns of behaviour, teaching individuals to resist peer pressure and make informed decisions and learn to view setbacks, adversity and change as challenges.

Maybe then we can start to see a real change, and Britain will be a better place for all of us.


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