Jasmine Storry, a 2018 Conservative Local Election candidate and Parliamentary Researcher, sets out how an enlightened Conservatism can provide former prisoners with a way out of a life of crime.
Ex-offenders are forced to continue to pay for crimes committed – both inside and outside of prison – for too long. It is time that the Government acts to stop this from being the case. Proper rehabilitation of offenders needs to take place, and there are sound economic and social reasons for doing so.
Before you think I’m being unjust or plain soft, it’s important to understand the facts. Did you know that in 2017 alone there were 84,750 people in prison, at a cost per place of £38,042 and a cost per prisoner of £35,371? Shockingly, overall expenditure was £2,997,687,950. What’s more, the Government does not publish the cost of NHS staff within prisons or the costs incurred by our Police Force related to prisoners who have been released. So, it’s fair to say that the true cost to the Exchequer is higher than the official figure. Personally, I can think of better things to spend this enormous sum of money on, like our NHS or education system.
Generally speaking there are four main reasons why people offend:
- Offenders often have a history of drug and alcohol abuse;
- Many have suffered some form of mental and physical abuse;
- A number have confidence issues and lack the skills to find employment; and
- Some have experienced financial difficulties that have led them to commit crime.
Locking people in cells for 23 hours a day is no way to reduce crime and break the re-offending cycle. The prison population has risen by 82% in the last 30 years and 44% of offenders are reconvicted within a year of release. The Government ought to take control of this issue by making sure that offenders can go back into society without reoffending or relying on the welfare system.
To do this, we need to ensure that ex-offenders have the skills they need to succeed in society. Over half (57%) of people entering prison were assessed as having the literacy skills expected of an 11 year old. Unless we ensure that offenders take part in mandatory education, skills and training, we will continue to set these people up to fail. Crime for some is the only way they know how to make a living.
Prisons also need to give offenders structure, which will help them to change their behaviour, tackle drug, alcohol and mental health issues, and learn skills that will enable them to find employment once they return to society. But, the bleak reality is that this is not going to happen anytime soon.
In order to lower the amount of money we spend on prisoners, it is essential that we make every effort to ensure that offenders leave prison with the core skills necessary to get a job or apprenticeship. A great deal has been written about the skills gap that will open up as we leave the European Union. But, we can ensure that businesses have the skills they need via a more enlightened prisons policy. Through a compassionate Conservatism that equips prisoners with the skills they need to succeed, we can boost our economy and ensure that employment is the best way out of a life of crime.