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A Second Chance

Does prison work?

In this country, prison is intended not just to be a way to punish people for crimes committed, or to be a deterrent to dissuade those who would commit crimes. Prison is a system where people go to be rehabilitated, taught to curb the behaviour and emotions which lead to offending and enabled to become fully contributing members of society.

Many prisoners are released before serving their entire term, this is because the Probation Service, professionals in this field, judge that through the available evidence (prison staff reports, details of courses participated in etc) it seems clear that the offender has learned from their mistakes, improved their behaviour and is unlikely to reoffend.

If we wish to allow this system to work then we as a society must endorse it and give it our full support. Being unable to find honest employment is known to be one of the main contributing factors leading people released from prison to reoffend. We need to trust that these programmes work or there is no point in releasing anyone if we just believe they will repeat their criminal behaviour. Prisons would become more and more crowded by the day and without the possibility of parole the inmates would have little motivation to reform their attitudes.

Won’t these second chances lead to more crime?

The Victim Support group and the Prison Reform Trust believe not. In studying cases of people who had been released early from prison following ‘restorative justice’ programmes (programmes where offenders agree to meet their victims and victims’ families to apologise in person) they found some encouraging results. Those released early under the scheme were far less likely to reoffend, their victims also felt safer and more satisfied than those of people who did not complete such programmes and served their full term.

So with the proper treatment, support and training for dealing with the outside world, and the assurance that by making amends and changing their thinking they can be accepted by society, former offenders can be successfully reintegrated to it.

Can education really help?

When you look at the figures it is clear that, as you can probably deduce, education, employment and crime are directly linked to one another. Prison statistics show us that more than half of the prison population have a reading and writing ability at or below that of an eleven year old child. Seventy percent of those in prison were unemployed at the time of their offence and a third were homeless when they committed their crime.

This seems to definitively show that crime is largely due to a lack of other options. If people are given training so that they can find employment and have a home, it follows that then their chance of reoffending and the crime rate as a whole will fall. Most people do not want to be criminals, they simply feel that they have no choice.