Written by SWBC Chairman, Tim Jones, in conjunction with Sophie Baker, Senior Responsible Officer, South West Reducing Reoffending Partnership. 

May Monthly Briefing: the South West Reducing Reoffending Partnership

 

The South West Business Council is proud to support the South West Reducing Reoffending Partnership (SWRRP), from across the criminal justice system, who are working in partnership to reduce the frequency and harm of reoffending by giving ex-offenders the chance to become valuable members of society to prevent further victims.

One of the initiatives the Partnership have been working on is the Prisoners Building Homes Programme which sees prisoners working with modular housing providers to build low carbon, modular homes for local communities, vulnerable people and key workers across the South West. It provides an opportunity to reduce reoffending by ensuring prisoners have the skills they need to help secure employment upon their release whilst benefiting the wider community.

According to Gov.uk, ex-offenders who get a job after prison are up to 9 percentage points less likely to re-offend and 81% of people think that businesses employing ex-offenders are making a positive contribution to society. The SWRRP wishes to work closely with businesses to provide employment opportunities for prisoners, prison leavers and those on probation in the region.

Police and Crime Commissioner Alison Hernandez of Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, who chairs the South West Reducing Reoffending Partnership, said: “We believe that it is integral to give offenders the chance to be productive members of society and learn work-related skills during their time in prison.

“Learning these skills enables and creates an environment and routine of a legitimate working lifestyle for themselves once they leave, rather than a life of crime or welfare dependencies.”

There are many benefits to employing ex-offenders. The region is facing a skills gap and talent shortage, so employing prison leavers helps address this challenge while reducing recruitment overheads. It also improves workplace diversity and inclusion, and supports social responsibility activity, with 92% of employers saying that diverse recruitment has enhanced their reputation and helped them win new contracts.

Prisoners on a Release on Temporary Licence (ROTL) can attend in-person interviews and training, starting their employment while on day release from prison, and potentially continue the role after their sentence is served. According to Gov.uk, over 400 businesses and government departments are providing employment opportunities to serving prisoners within industries workshops, ROTL placements and employment of prison leavers.

Alison continues: “Sadly only 17% of ex-offenders manage to get a job within a year of release (gov.uk) and that’s where we can make a change. This is why we created the Prisoners Building Homes scheme to help us be a part of the solution and show our commitment to preventing crime. We feel we need to offer incentives and hope that by helping to support them with both a stable job, this will considerably reduce their likelihood of reoffending.”

The scheme also reduces the chance of reoffending by providing prisoners with construction skills to improve their employability and paid work to save for a deposit/rent to access the private rental market and secure accommodation on release.

Alison adds: “Too many people leaving prison have no money and no home to go to. With the Prisoners Building Homes project together we can aim to address the issues by responding to socio-economic challenges of COVID-19; providing low carbon, affordable, modular homes for local communities that meet climate emergency targets, the ambition is to set up a number of factories/ workshops across the South West employing prisoners.”

The Prisoners Building Homes programme works closely with the public sector and local authorities to identify a pipeline of under-utilised sites across the South West for new, affordable modular housing, but there is more that can be done. The South West Reducing Reoffending Partnership is calling on local businesses and landowners who can help to provide further sites for the housing project.

To learn more, contact Sophie Baker, Senior Responsible Officer, South West Reducing Reoffending Partnership Sophie.BAKER@devonandcornwall.pnn.police.uk