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The Government has consistently stated that the proportion of prisoners who reoffend upon release from prison in England and Wales is too high. It is argued that reoffending not only creates more victims but also generates major economic and social costs for the community. In May 2013, the Ministry of Justice published Transforming Rehabilitation, a strategy that aimed to tackle this problem. However, concerns remain regarding both the effectiveness and the scope of its provisions. This Briefing discusses the measures that prisons in England and Wales implement with the aim of reducing the probability of reoffending.

Prisons adopt a range of measures to reduce reoffending. These include direct therapeutic interventions to address the psychological causes of criminal behaviour, as well as services to prepare offenders to successfully reintegrate into the community after release. Those services include the provision of academic programmes, vocational courses and employment opportunities. However, although these measures are in place, the Government states that reoffending rates remain too high.

The Ministry of Justice has published several papers concerning the effectiveness of prison services that contribute to rehabilitation. Its Transforming Rehabilitation strategy included the creation of a resettlement service known as ‘Through the Gate’, which seeks to provide offenders with a continuous mentoring scheme from prison through to the community. However, questions have been raised about the effectiveness of the service. In May 2016, the Ministry of Justice published Unlocking Potential: A Review of Education in Prisons. The review called for improvements to the provision of education in prison and the monitoring of that provision.

In November 2016, the Ministry of Justice published a white paper, Prison Safety and Reform, that committed to the development of new measures for tracking how a prisoner’s rehabilitation progressed during the course of their sentence. In February 2017, the Prison and Courts Bill was introduced, which intended to render rehabilitation a statutory purpose of prison; the Bill was dropped in April 2017 following the announcement of the General Election. In August 2017, Lord Farmer issued a report entitled Importance of Strengthening Prisoners’ Family Ties to Prevent Reoffending and Reduce Intergenerational Crime. The report reviewed both the impact of social ties on rehabilitation and how those ties could be best maintained across a prison sentence.

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