Friday, 26 October 2012

What will really drive a reduction in re-offending?

This week saw UK media discussion and political debate again relating to initiatives to reduce re-offending. But are all the elements needed for successful transition really understood by society?

I am actively helping ex: offenders and also their families to make the transition to a new life and my interest, is seeing support for real people change taking place. 

However I would like to see this approached through a joined-up mind-set of experts, specialists, communities and involving ex: offenders too.  These 4 are the key stakeholder Groups that have a vested interest and not unlike many other change activities you see within; Education, Business, Healthcare and Public Sector; it only works when stakeholders come together to design and deliver the change. Not as easy as it sounds though. 

In the UK I detect a dis-jointed understanding of what drives people into crime, but more importantly what keeps them locked within the temptation of crime, and the type of deep damage to society when scaled up and across the UK. Damage to; communities, families and of course to the public purse. I don’t see an acceptance of the fact that crime is something that not only affects everyone, but to address it effectively, it needs to involve everyone too. Emotions run high when you ask people their views on crime and what drives it – especially from those who have never experienced it within their close family and are blinded by bias and mis-information.  

My response to this recent media attention and debate is to challenge it by asking "if you were able to research all newly released or recently released ex: offenders, do you think that many are emotionally prepared for what they need to face out here in order to be able to create a new life and evade criminal temptation?" By asking this I am not asking for sympathy for ex: offenders, but I am asking for an understanding of what it is that drives people to take-up crime again. Only then do you determine the keys for change and the engagement needed into that change. After all, if you humanize a situation and ask society to look at the emotional and behavioural aspects they often become very open and empathetic – rather than irrational. 

I am a firm believer in changing what drives the person, by utilising resources and insight that surround them right now. What makes the person tick and look at the world today, what drives them in the context they live within today and how are they relating to their extended family and support ensures that they realise what the start point is. Many people simply don’t know anything better/any better way than what they have become accustomed. Give them an understanding of what their needs are, such as; consistency, love/connection and feeling significant to others, they can then realise that these are factors that drive us all - nothing unique. Give them access to other ex: offenders to work with and they see that can they are not unique in feeling vulnerable and uncertain of the future now they are outside the gate. A need for money and an ability to make it also drives them – as with us all. We need to create a mechanism that they can join, that takes them through a transition that actually means something and is designed to be funded by success across all 4 stakeholder groups.

This basic human aspect understanding is missing from the “how to reduce reoffending” debate. Millions are spent processing and managing the results of crime, each week. Yet only hundreds are spent helping support ex: offenders and their families to make a positive transition and move into a new life. The ratio is wrong and the return on the investment of processing and managing the results of crime is debatable.

To reverse the ratio, see a reduction in spend on processing and managing, re-using the money to develop new initiatives to support transition “outside the gate” inside the community, is where I see a tangible opportunity to reduce re-offending.  But all stakeholders need to be involved and engaged.

BUT, this would be a long and frustrating process requiring honest, balanced political involvement and use of media to better communicate the journey to society – less about scoring points and more about creating and managing a momentum of deep change.

Question is, is there really an appetite for this, above spin! 

Until next time....

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