Former offenders should be invited to act as “expert” inspectors of criminal justice agencies and be routinely consulted on policy, according to proposals published today.
A report by a taskforce of five criminal justice organisations called for greater involvement of offenders, former offenders and their families in services.
The group, led by charity Clinks, argued that expanding service user involvement would improve rehabilitation and reduce crime.
A year-long consultation across the sector identified a growing “appetite” for greater involvement and examples of successful practice.
Signs of change
It found that while change within criminal justice agencies was slow, there were signs the service user agenda was “starting to be taken more seriously.”
The taskforce, involving The Prince’s Trust, the Prison Reform Trust, Unlock, Action for Prisoners’ Families and two former offenders, made 13 recommendations including amending legislation to support prisoner’s access to employment.
Taskforce chair, Rob Allen, said that people within the criminal justice system had been denied opportunities to be involved despite such practice in other sectors.
“In other areas of social policy it is common to engage with people to ensure their treatment and recovery is effective. But in the field of criminal justice, it is as though a conviction removes any chance of having your point of view taken seriously,” he said. “Cultures, attitudes and structures all need to change if this is to happen in a way that will really make a difference – and I am encouraged by the positive signs that things are beginning to change.”
Paul Cavadino, chief executive of criminal justice charity Nacro backed the taskforce’s call.
“Involving offenders and ex-offenders in shaping penal policy and rehabilitation services is just basic common sense. In planning ways of dealing with offenders with the best chance of reduced reoffending, we must learn from the unique experience of people who have been at the sharp end of the penal system,” he said