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Scheme to cut rate of repeat offending

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A PILOT scheme to cut the rate of reoffending in the Island – which is currently worse than the UK’s – is to be trialled before the end of year.

Nick Cameron new Prison Governor Picture: DAVID FERGUSON. (27179814)

Ministers have given their backing to the introduction of post-release supervision orders which would make it a legal requirement for offenders to engage with Probation and other services after their release from prison.

The five-year average re-offending rate in Jersey currently sits at about 38% – 1% higher than the UK, although figures for the last available year show the rate spiked at 44%.

Access to work, family support, health care and accommodation are seen as major factors in stopping reoffending. But finding stable accommodation for inmates on their release is seen as a major issue in the Island, which is in the midst of a housing crisis. Many are supported by agencies such as The Shelter Trust, which houses an average of 100 people a night in emergency accommodation.

Currently, legislation in Jersey means all offenders are released after serving two-thirds of their sentence. Because there is no legal requirement to engage with Probation or other services after release, only about 20% to 28% do. New plans, which were backed by the Council of Ministers this week, would mean that offenders have a legal requirement to serve the final third of their sentence under the supervision of the Probation Service and other agencies.

‘We want to do this to reduce reoffending,’ said the prison governor and head of the Prison Service, Nick Cameron.

‘Inevitably, under the current system the people who are more likely to reoffend are not the ones who volunteer for support.’

Mr Cameron said he expected that the new legislation would lead to a higher prison population ‘in the short term’, as offenders failing to comply with licence rules were sent back to jail.

‘Estimates are that there will be about an 11% recall rate or about eight to ten more prisoners over the course of a year. In the medium to long-term, though, we hope to reduce reoffending and that will mean the prison population drops.’

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As of this week there were 138 inmates at La Moye – including nine women. Maximum capacity is 200.

Home Affairs Minister Len Norman said: ‘The purpose of the prison service as a whole is rehabilitation, and so if we can aim to bring down the reoffending rate to 20%, 25% or 30% it’s of benefit to everybody.

‘It means less work for the courts, for the police and less money spent by the taxpayer. And of course, one less crime or criminal means one less victim, and that is what it’s all about.’

He added that changes to the Prison (Jersey) Rules 2007 and the Prison (Jersey) Law 1957 would need to be made.

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‘We have started work already. The law changes would have to come before the Assembly.’

Mr Cameron added: ‘We aim to have a pilot in place by the end of the year.’

Under exceptional circumstances, prisoners can apply for and be granted conditional early release, which allows for their release from prison after half of their sentence. Mr Cameron says of approximately 200 releases per year about ten are conditional early release.

Under that scheme prisoners are subject to a licence and legal requirements to engage with probation but only for the period until they would have normally been released under the two-thirds rule.

For example, an inmate sentenced to three years in prison let out after 18 months on conditional early release would serve six months on licence.

Jack Maguire

By Jack Maguire
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