Offender behaviour not tackled before release - report

Prisoner behind bars
Image caption Many prisons do not have the capacity to run courses aimed at reducing re-offending rates

Serious criminals are leaving prison not having been on programmes designed to stop reoffending, says a report.

Prisons and probation inspectors for England and Wales found no plans to deliver treatment programmes to a third of sex offenders needing them.

Most of the 11 prisons examined lacked capacity to meet demand for courses.

Prisons inspectors called it "very disturbing". The National Offender Management Service (NOMS) claimed progress but said more needed done.

BBC home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw says for a government committed to a rehabilitation "revolution" by reducing reoffending among prisoners, the findings of this report will be extremely worrying.

The inspectors said the problems were partly to do with resources.

But they said a significant culture shift among staff was also needed, pointing out that a new computer system, designed to improve the management of prisoners, was not being used properly.

Mr Hardwick said: "On the face of it, it is just really disturbing. What's happening on the ground now in terms of offender management is too poor in too many places and needs to be galvanised."

He said: "Sex offenders are being released without adequate interventions to reduce the risk that they will re-offend."

Two years ago, Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke called for a rehabilitation revolution, saying "warehousing" offenders in overcrowded prisons was bad value for taxpayers.

Mr Hardwick said: "Of course it's important that people are held securely, of course going to prison is a punishment, of course it's important that they're held in safe and decent conditions.

"But if that's all you do, then you are just warehousing people, as Ken Clarke has said."

'Clear recommendations'

Steve Woodgate, the lead inspector, said: "One in four people in prison in this sample not having been assessed is a bit scary."

He said they were "not being followed up, not being reviewed, nobody's really on the case".

Liz Calderbank, the Chief Inspector of Probation, said the analysis of 220 cases across 11 prisons showed 148 offenders needed an accredited programme but there was no plan to deliver this in one in four cases.

She said: "Some prisoners, and most worryingly, some sexual offenders, are not always able to access the treatment they need to change their behaviour before their release."

She said those convicted of serious sexual, violent or gang-related offences "can be very adept at controlling their environment and within an institutional setting will often seek to influence those staff working with them, either by grooming or by intimidation".

NOMS chief executive officer Michael Spurr said there had been a 5% reduction in reoffending since 2000.

"This reflects much better case management both in prison and the community," he said.

"We are targeting resources to reduce risk to the public. Over 1,000 sex offenders completed programmes in custody last year and we will continue to prioritise work on the basis of risk."

He said that transforming the management of offenders was a "significant challenge".

"We have made real progress but accept there is more to be done to break the cycle of reoffending."

Justice minister Crispin Blunt welcomed the report's "clear recommendations for further improvement".

Ms Calderbank said if offender management and rehabilitation were not given the same priority as punishment and containment "we will continue to lock up large numbers of people at increasing cost but to very little effect".

"We were looking for work that was done with prisoners during the course of their sentence which was actually about changing the way they thought," she told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

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