Rebalancing Act - a resource for crime commissioners by the Revolving Doors Agency is a timely reminder that crime can stem from a wide range of factors and circumstances.
It is often a combination of issues that lead people to criminal behaviour, rather than a deliberate intention to cause harm. These factors may include mental health issues, substance misuse, poverty, unemployment, trauma and homelessness issues, which not only lead to crime, but also prevent rehabilitation.
Family history can also play a part, for example research has shown 65% of boys who have had a parent incarcerated, have gone to go on to commit crime themselves.
If the root cause of problems is not addressed, the cycle of reoffending often continues.
Barriers to support
The link between poor health and offending is further compounded by the fact that people in contact with the criminal justice system are often underserved by community services and professionals. This may be due in part to the mistrust of authority figures, perhaps caused by previous negative experiences in the criminal justice system itself.
The report emphasises the fact that people with complex problems are less likely to seek help. They may find it difficult to adhere to appointments and office hours and there is also an element of stigma at play which can cause further barriers. As one former offender recently commented – “your past is always in front of you.”
Rebalancing Act recommends a multiagency approach to tackling these problems. Police, support agencies, probation, commissioners, policy makers and communities must all work together to understand the needs of people in the criminal justice system. This joined up approach will provide opportunities to co-create programmes and services, reduce reoffending and encourage greater access to healthcare and early intervention programmes.
A viable alternative to prison
The report also highlights the important role of the Courts and calls for judges to make appropriate use of community based options as an alternative to imposing a custodial sentence.
CGL is one of the largest providers of drug and alcohol intervention programmes for people whose substance misuse drives their criminal activity. We’ve seen how treatment can act as a catalyst for rehabilitation.
Although our in-house substance misuse programmes have enabled many people to leave prison drug free - where possible it is better for individuals to complete their sentence supported by services in the community. We help people to identify strengths and motivations, work towards recovery and signpost them to partner organisations who can address their issues such as benefits, employment and training.
We know that these initiatives do work, and a joined up approach to service design which tackles the causes of crime and incorporates learning from lived experience will hopefully enable more people to break free from crime.
Read about Change Grow Live’s criminal justice services in the community