Efforts to reduce reoffending and get prisoners into jobs risk failure if they don’t address rising homelessness and other critical barriers faced by prison-leavers, according to a report released today from the prison rehabilitation charity Switchback.
An analysis of 250 young adult prison-leavers supported by Switchback shows that four in 10 faced homelessness upon release, over half had a drug or alcohol issue and over two thirds had anger or aggression issues.
In their report, More Human, More Effective, Switchback is calling for changes to ensure prison staff are well-trained, access for the voluntary sector is improved, and prison-leavers receive one-to-one support to build stability across all areas of life.
Their report comes as prison violence and self-harm reached record highs and nearly half of prison-leavers are re-convicted within a year, the same rate for over a decade.
Launched at an event on Tuesday with Prisons Minister Rory Stewart, Switchback’s report draws on insights gleaned from a decade of supporting prison-leavers to make lasting change and enter sustainable work. Switchback’s own intensive, one-to-one approach ensures that 78 per cent of Trainees who complete Switchback move into sustainable work, and only 8 per cent reoffend within a year compared to 49 per cent nationally.
At the event, Prisons Minister Rory Stewart said:
“Switchback shows that if you really want to change lives, this is exactly the approach that makes sense – with that degree of intensity and care.
“Historically the reoffending rate has been at about 50 per cent since about the Second World War. This is a very stubborn reality which is very difficult to turn around – unless you do what Switchback is doing.
“The lesson from Switchback is that providing that trust, that human relationship is central for change. What is heroic about the work that Switchback does is its ability to change lives and to inspire us that it can be done.”
Switchback Founder and CEO, Alice Dawnay, said:
“Every day at Switchback we see people in prison determined to change their lives, but so often they can only do so in spite of the system. Most prison-leavers want a job but won’t still be in work six months later if they’re homeless and facing a drug or mental health issue without support.
“As the government rolls out its Education and Employment Strategy for prisoners and considers the future of probation after the failings of Transforming Rehabilitation, we need an approach which delivers consistent support for all prison-leavers to build a stable life after release – and not just move into work but stay there for the long term.”
Former Switchback Trainee, Ahmed, who left HMP Isis in 2016, said:
“A lot of prisoners want to change but they don’t know how to. If it weren’t for Switchback I probably would have gone into some dead-end job that I wouldn’t have kept, and most likely I’d be back in prison again. Switchback helped me slow down and find work with more structure that’s better paid — and that that meant I haven’t been back to jail. That changed my life.”
Switchback’s report More Human, More Effective: insights for a better criminal justice system includes four key principles for change, and proposes a series of shorter-term actions that could make a big difference now, including a private space on each prison wing for one-to-one support, and ending Friday and Bank Holiday releases when key services are closed.
Switchback is an award-winning charity supporting 18-30 year-old men to live life differently after prison. Operating across London, Switchback provides intensive one-to-one support either side of the prison gate alongside work-based training with partner employers to enable prison-leavers to make real, lasting change.