My first encounter inside a UK prison allowed me to work with a boy who had been convicted, along with two others, for his part in the murder of a 23-year-old father. I often think of this boy and his victim when I justify the necessity for effective rehabilitation efforts in UK jails.
There are so many unaccounted-for victims of crime, especially in the case of this murder. In the case, a young man was killed protecting his friends. A son lost a dedicated father, a mother lost her son, a woman lost her partner and friends lost an mate. Three young men forfeited the most important years of their lives and their families no longer enjoy freedom with them. This is the tragically human impact of youth murder. It must be mitigated by better rehabilitation.
The UK prison population currently stands at 80,002. By anyone’s standards this is a tragic waste of money, potential and life. This waste, is one of the many reasons why we engage in prisons, spending time reaching out to those that society has locked up.
Why do we lock people up: do we lock prisoners up for punishment or justice, and if so are the two different?
Let’s take a look at the case of the United States. The pursuit of a retributive justice has done nothing to tackle its crime epidemic. Warehousing criminals; delivering punitive sentences to the poorest in society, giving little chance of freedom to violent offenders, and even less opportunity for rehabilitation is ineffective and if comparable with UK costs, it is expensive. The prison population of the USA is 2,193,798; of that, over 80,000 reside in solitary confinement. This is a system that sees the enactment of justice as a road to punishment.
But, in justice, there are two further creditors….society, and the victim themselves. Society loses out on two points: the exorbitant cost of sending someone to prison - a young offender, 15 – 17 year old males, cost £94,000 a year to house in a closed Young Offenders Institute. Adult prisoners cost between £30,000 and £59,000, dependent on their category. This is every single year.
Someone who spends 20 years in prison does not pay any tax. A taxpayer earning £20,000 will pay approximately £6,232 in Income Tax, NI and VAT annually. This means society will forfeit almost £1 million by jailing someone for 20 years, this is even without inflation or the cost of prosecution.
The second and more pressing aspect of justice is our responsibility to the victims of crime. Sentencing exists as part of punishment. However, justice should also compel the perpetrator of a crime to come into line with society’s laws, preventing the creation of future victims. This is above all why we must engage with prisoners; it is in every citizen’s interest to ensure that re offending rates do not remain so stubbornly high. Restorative rehabilitation already exists, but recidivism remains too high.
45% of adults in custody will reoffend. Each will commit an average of 4.5 crimes.
67% of young offenders will reoffend within a year.
The persistence of these reoffences calls for greater urgency. Urgency is not driven by the cost to the state, not only by the tragic wasted lives in prison, but most importantly by the pernicious effect that crime has on the lives of so many; the spider web of misery that radiates out from the murder of one young father. Two of the perpetrators of the crime I mentioned at the start had been in YOIs before they committed their crime; the opportunity to rehabilitate was there, but it was not taken.
When people ask why they should support the effective rehabilitation of inmates, it is because effective spending on rehabilitation and the cessation of offending benefits us all, not just the prisoner.
NEXT: As we move closer to delivering our course, we will discuss what effective projects look like...
Author: Mike Crofts
Mike is the Founder and CEO of The 3 Pillars Project. A former Army Officer, Mike advocates the power of sport, leadership and positive role models to unlock the potential of young people.