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Thursday, 17 December 2015

Post 5 - Dum Down Offending Behaviour and What Do You Expect?

We had occasion to have discussions with some guys who were recently released from prison, they had served relatively different terms inside ranging from 18 months to in excess of 19 years, they were in for  a variety of offences ranging from Murder to Fraud, we engaged with them over various topics and had many lengthy and insightful discussions.  One of the things that quickly became apparent was the varying degrees of insight into themselves and their offending behaviour and the simple questions like why they had committed the offences they had and why they were not going to do it again.  On the surface simple questions and ones you would think were asked prior to release of certain types of prisoner, and ones which you would think were asked by prison governors or the Parole Board when they conduct their reviews of the suitability of release for those they are tasked with decision making regarding release or progression.

As the Parole Board state within their literature "We carry out risk assessments on prisoners in England and Wales according to provisions in the Criminal Justice Act 1991 and the Crime Sentences Act 1997  "Our main responsibility is to protect the public, and we manage the early release of prisoners serving fixed-length sentences of 4 years or more and the release of prisoners who are serving Life Sentences or Indeterminate Sentences for Public Protection and the re-release of prisoners who had been given life or indeterminate sentences were released and were then re-imprisoned"
However apparently not so simple.

Example;  One person is of the view he is a better class of 'killer' ergo 'above' others in the criminal 'pecking order' as he killed a male, not a woman, nor a child.  The fact that his victim was a boy just out of his teens seemed to escape him (cognitive distortion) and the fact that almost all those who die at the hands of a criminal leave behind victims also seemed to escape him in the emotional sense.  Yes, a discussion on an intellectual level related to victim awareness can be had with most people who are released from prison, but how many feel genuine remorse, guilt and shame, for their actions is another debate.  One it appears some are ill equipped to undertake.

American prisoner stratification is somewhat different to that of prisons here in the UK, and an article by 'Jim Smith' in 1995 The Pecking Order is also shown to be pertinent today as much as it was 20 years ago as demonstrated by the clear views of our example given above.

Another Example is the fraudster who "only defrauded charities" where "there are no victims"... Hello?  Yes another cognitive distortion.  A complete failure to comprehend that monies taken from them deprives potential beneficiaries of charitable works/handouts.  This person spends 3 weeks in a B Category local prison followed by 19 months in an open prison where of course life is easier, so no experience of a real prison environment ergo no deterrent some might say?

So the question needs to be asked.  Who is responsible for "Dumming Down" Offending Behaviour programmes?

The Ministry of Justice in 2014 reported their offending behaviour portfolio and explain that although most programmes are monitored and or implemented by Forensic Psychologists in the main they are facilitated by uniformed prison officers, where the entry criteria is minimal (see Requirements) and where they clearly state "Personal qualities and life experience are more important than academic qualifications."  In 2003 OBPU were involved in studies which clearly showed interventions were the way to go, facilitated by psychologists.  Yet within a decade cost came into play, psychologists were moved back from front line interventions and replaced by prison officers!

How can it be that programmes so important to the process of reducing crime (victims) can be facilitated on a daily basis by in the main unqualified prison officers?  Yes they may have supervision, even possibly with a psychologist, but surely it is obvious yet needs to be said, the training that comes with years of study and then practical application on site under supervision of a senior practitioner cannot be replicated by a formally uneducated person regardless of how pleasant their manner within the group or culture.  Probation Officers who are formally educated cannot assist as they are inundated with report writing and whats to be done?

The challenges which in our view require qualified facilitators and professional oversight are;

Religious Radicalisation, Sexual Offending, Decision Making, Parenting, Problem Solving, Life Skills (cooking, money management, personal hygiene, housekeeping, ironing etc), Basic Education (numeracy & Literacy), Emotional Management, Relationship Skills, Use of Weapons and Violence...just to name a few.

Just another set of obstacles and challenges for Mr. Gove and possibly ones he needs to address quickly before we have complete chaos and implosion of an already fragile infrastructure judging by the levels of re-offending within prisons (because an assualt inside is still a crime, as is a theft or a deception), occurring even before people are released.  Around half of all crime is committed by people who have already been through the criminal justice system.

The cost to the taxpayer of re-offending is estimated to be £9.5 to £13 billion per year according to a government policy paper in May 2015 ... "Re-offending has been too high for too long, despite significant government spending on offender management in the last decade. There has been little change in reconviction rates and almost half of those released from prison go on to re-offend within 12 months.  So clearly the need to reduce re-offending to reduce both the number of victims and the costs to the taxpayer is evident and in order to achieve this, we need a tough but intelligent criminal justice system that punishes people properly when they break the law, but also supports them so they don’t commit crime in the future."

So do we need to increase the numbers of psychologists and probation staff significantly and redefine the role to include more face time facilitating interviews with prisoners and facilitating interventions and programmes?  Short term seems expensive, however long term gains make this the CHEAP option as real insight is developed by prisoners and thereby real reductions in recidivism may be a real outcome.  We make no claims to be experts or even to make a reasonable case, we were simply dumbfounded at the cognitive distortions clearly still apparent in those we encountered during our discussions and do not claim they are in any way representative of the majority.

However the reductions in staff are real and present, the choice now is do we hire more uniforms or do we make a real investment in reducing crime and recidivism in our society?

As Michael Gove said in his speech there is "treasure in the heart of man" Click here

So go to our website and take a look.