A blog from Offploy's Managing Director, Jacob Hill.
This week I had the pleasure of launching the West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner’s strategy which has taken an innovative approach to dealing with crime by supporting people with criminal convictions away from crime and onto positive pathways.
Whilst the whole point of the strategy is to reduce the number of victims and victimisation, it will still take some people by surprise who may think ‘why should we help the people who have committed crimes? They should be punished.’ Let’s explore this:
As an ex-prisoner and a leader within the voluntary sector, I, like many others, welcome this strategy because at its core, it will turn people who take from society (for a whole host of reasons) and see them contribute instead.
The reality of the situation is that people being released from courts and prisons will become our neighbours. Prison and punishment, whilst necessary, only lasts so long and doesn’t really do anything to deal with the motivators behind the offence committed.
During my talk, I mentioned the journeys of two people we’ve supported plus my own background. (I know you might be getting fed up of reading/hearing my story by now but if you haven’t seen it yet you can read it here).
One candidate had been sent to prison as a teenager and served 10 years for a fight that went wrong, he wanted a job to become ‘normal’ and make his mum proud. The other candidate was a prolific offender who suddenly ‘woke up’ on his third long stretch inside and wanted to turn his life around and get his kids back.
Both these candidates had different barriers to employment but both knew that getting a job, a routine and stable income was the key to their goals of either making mum proud or seeing their kids again.
This strategy by the locally elected West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Mark Burns-Williamson, whose role it is to provide much needed local leadership to our criminal justice system, will see a range of support services focus their attention on supporting people coming out of the criminal justice system so that they do not have to ever go back into it again or create another victim of crime.
Accommodation, employment, support networks and healthcare can have an incredible impact on reducing reoffending. This will create fewer victims of crime and make society safer.
How can we not welcome a strategy, that keeps victims at the centre of its focus but offers something innovative by seeking to tackle the root of the problems that cause crime.
Any approach that helps offenders find jobs will also prevent others becoming the victims of crime.
This is exciting times for the criminal justice sector, I am proud to be a part of a society that focuses on appropriate punishment then rehabilitation.
As a part of the launch I also shared my story with BBC Look North and BBC Radio Leeds