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Criminal justice

Catch22 responds to Prisons Strategy white paper

The Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, taken from across the River Thames. Overlaid is text that reads: "Consultation Response".

In December, the Government released a Prisons Strategy White Paper which outlines their vision to develop a modernised prison estate and to cut crime rates through more effective offender rehabilitation. Drawing on our experience of working in prisons and providing services in other aspects of social support, Catch22 has responded to the paper using evidence from our services.

Catch22 delivers offender management, resettlement and gangs work in prisons and in the community. At the heart of our rehabilitative and restorative work is the belief that relationships are crucial to effective desistance from crime. Last year we supported 26,000 people within the custodial estate through OMU, TTG and Custodial Gang Services, 2,600 people with our offender focused community services and also 12,000 victims of crime. As Catch22 also provides children’s social care, alternative provision education, apprenticeships and routes to employment, our work in prison and probation services is informed by our understanding of the whole system – we understand the barriers to rehabilitation and the opportunities to intervene early. 

Reforming the approach to rehabilitation in UK prisons is something Catch22 has advocated for years. The investment in meaningful education within the prison setting  – with an emphasis on helping offenders into employment – is fundamental to achieving a reduction in reoffending rates and should be transformative in supporting the individual to succeed in many aspects of life on release.  

Core recommendations

  • Greater Prison Governor autonomy. Holding prison Governors to account for prison leaver outcomes through increased autonomy and a drive for greater innovation would both be positive shifts. In order to ensure that Governor autonomy has the desired impact, we need to streamline the organisational involvement in an individual’s employment journey on release. For example, one organisation should be used to build a strong, trusted, relationships and then sign-post based on individual need.  
  • Digital infrastructure improvements. The need for a ‘digital revolution’ in prison is way overdue, as a result of Covid we have seen some positive progress in rolling technology out into certain prisons. Although, there is still great disparity between digital technology in private sector vs. public sector prisons. Even in prisons where IT equipment is available there is still a risk adverse attitude towards embracing its full capabilities. We need third sector organisations, such as Catch22, to provide evidence and recommendations to the Ministry of Justice on how IT security can be adequately addressed and how we can circumnavigate risk-averse approaches to technology.  
  • Investment in more effective prison education. Our current experience of prison education is that it can feel stagnant, and prisoners not always want to engage with. There needs to be greater focus on delivering pertinent and engaging educational services which are aligned with the future employment aspirations of offenders. To do this, a prisoner’s education plan should be a key part of their sentencing plan which itself should be linked into an overarching employability plan – tailored to individual need and the length of the sentence.Education programmes must also contribute towards addressing criminogenic needs as opposed to solely focusing on educational attainment to accelerate the removal of barriers to learning and support re-engagement with education. 
  • Greater drive for cooperation from local employers to recruit from prisons. HMPPS needs to shift the narrative for businesses to engaging with prisoners away from doing it for ‘good social value’ to an opportunity to tap into a valuable recruitment pool. An internal review of labour market need in the resettlement areas of each prison must be undertaken, so that education provision can properly reflect the market demands for employment. We also need to find a way to incentivise local employers who are willing to offer employment to prisoners and willing to be matched to a specific prisoner cohort by guaranteeing supported training, apprenticeship or job offer.