The UK has extremely high rates of reoffending – in fact around half of all crime is committed by people who have already been through the criminal justice system. This suggests that the criminal justice system is not effective at preventing those with a criminal record from committing further crimes. Not only does this defeat one of the main functions of the criminal justice system – to prevent crime and deter would-be criminals – it also comes at a great cost to the taxpayer. The cost to the taxpayer of reoffending is estimated to be £9.5 to £13 billion per year. That is a huge sum of money and in our current economic climate, we simply cannot afford it.
Reoffending rates have been too high for too long, despite major government spending on the issue in the past decade. This government spending has been a complete waste of resources. There has been little change in reoffending rates and almost half of those released from prison go on to commit another crime in the following year. The prison system is clearly not putting people off from reoffending again. But we desperately need to prevent people from reoffending, to reduce the number of victims in society and to reduce the costs to the taxpayer. To achieve this, we need a criminal justice system that punishes people in a proper and effective manner, while supporting them so that they do not commit a crime again.
The government can do this by offering a ‘payment by results’ approach. The idea behind this approach is that providers of rehabilitation will be rewarded if they offer truly effective rehabilitation. This will give them an incentive to properly rehabilitate offenders since it is in their interest to do so. It is important to remember, however, that there is not one simple solution to the UK’s high rates of reoffending. A number of approaches need to be combined to work towards this common goal. Another approach would be to offer more meaningful and productive work for prisoners so that they can develop skills and a sense of community. This will help to integrate them into society once they are released.
Since many offenders are in prison for drug charges, drug abuse should be prevented inside prisons, and drugs counselling should be provided after release. This will serve to prevent further drug abuse outside of prison, a lifestyle which can lead to crimes such as theft. In addition, once offenders are released that should not be the end of the rehabilitation process. Support should be there for them so that they can resettle in their communities, become more employable and find work as soon as possible.