Belfast Telegraph

New resettlement scheme for offenders

A newly released offender has become the first participant in a resettlement scheme aimed at providing greater support in the first months back in society.

Research shows criminals are most likely to reoffend in the 12 weeks immediately after release from prison.

Under the Reset project, prisoners are mentored through their last four weeks in custody and then met at the gate of the prison on their release day to help with the transition.

Over the next 12 weeks mentors work with the offenders on challenges like finding suitable accommodation and employment.

The first offender to enter the programme was released on Saturday. He has a history of drug and driving offences.

The Probation Board (PBNI) project has been given one year of funding from Stormont's Northern Ireland Change Fund. The purpose of the Fund is to deliver initiatives with a preventative focus in an effort to deliver longer term savings to the public purse.

The Board is working in conjunction with voluntary organisation NIACRO (Northern Ireland Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders), which employs the Reset mentors.

PBNI's acting director Cheryl Lamont said: "We know that the first days and weeks after being released from prison is a critical time in ensuring an offender does not go on to reoffend.

"Research shows that a significant proportion of male prisoners released from custody are recalled to prison in the first few weeks of release due to their behaviours which increase the risk of reoffending.

"They may have a range of practical problems including, for example, unstable accommodation or unemployment and some may fail to comply with supervision or reoffend in the community.

"We have therefore introduced this project which will enable mentors, employed by our partner NIACRO, to begin work with offenders four weeks prior to release from prison, to meet them at the gate on release and provide intensive interventions for a maximum of 12 weeks after release.

"Reset will specifically target offenders who are subject to supervision by PBNI on release from prison. We believe it will enhance community safety and ensure there are fewer victims of crime."

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