Grayling highlights re-offending
Prisoners on average will have committed an "astonishing" 41 previous offences, the Justice Secretary has revealed.
At a lecture hosted by the think-tank Civitas, Chris Grayling said "Britain's problem is less about offending and more about re-offending" as he revealed the results of a trial of a payment-by-results scheme to rehabilitate prisoners.
The pilot, run by private investors Social Finance with support from a number of voluntary organisations, has seen re-conviction rates at Peterborough and Doncaster prison come down.
Mr Grayling also said he wanted to see ex-offenders brought into prisons to mentor serving inmates - and even vowed to consider employing a serving offender in his own department, the Ministry of Justice. "There's another thing that offenders will have in common in their backgrounds - there is a strong chance they will committee crimes before," he said. "If you are serving time in prison, on average you will have committed an astonishing 41 previous offences."
Speaking after the lecture, Mr Grayling added: "That's just an indication of the fact that we're dealing with a group of people who have gone round and round the system. 80% of the people who arrive in our prisons have already been through a community sentence. Of those who come into our prisons, half will re-offend within 12 months. We're dealing with a problem that just keeps going round and round and round. We sit and talk to a group of prisoners, almost every time you'll find these people are in for the second, third or fourth time."
The Justice Secretary said the results of the payment-by-results pilot for prisoners sentenced to less than 12 months in jail in Peterborough had been "promising".
Between September 2008 and March 2010, Peterborough had a re-conviction rate of 41.6%. This fell to 39.2% between September 2010 and March 2012 as the new scheme was trialled. Nationally, re-conviction rates rose to 39.3%. Mr Grayling added: "Both of them are steps in the right direction. Peterborough, the model I'm looking at, is actually very encouraging indeed."
The pilot provided offenders with help as they prepared for release from jail and then access to services they needed out of prison, including housing, employment and financial services. Ministers are planning to roll this out to all prisoners serving less than 12 months in legislation going through Parliament in the Offender Rehabilitation Bill.
In other newly-published statistics, a similar scheme at Doncaster prison showed a lower re-conviction rate between October 2011 and March 2012, compared with the same months in 2008/09 and 2009/10.
Mr Grayling said: "Tackling our stubbornly high reoffending rates has dogged successive governments for decades. Our rehabilitation reforms represent a golden opportunity to finally turn the tide on the depressing merry-go-round in the justice system. It is simply not good enough that we spend £4 billion a year on prisons and probation, and yet make no real dent in the appetite of offenders to commit more crime."