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Jail-gate mentors 'could cut crime'

Offenders should be "met at the prison gate" by mentors who can help them escape a life of crime, the Justice Secretary is to say.

Calling for an "enlightened" approach to dealing with criminals, Chris Grayling will set out plans for a major extension of mentoring provided by voluntary groups and private companies on a payment-by-results basis.

In a speech, he will decry the "tragedy" of prisoners leaving jail with no idea how to get their lives back on track.

"Whether you are the hardest of hardliners on crime, or the most liberal observer, every single one of us has a vested interest in an enlightened approach to reducing reoffending," he will say. "We can't just keep recycling people round and round the system."

David Cameron has called for a "rehabilitation revolution" under which virtually all prisoners get help breaking the cycle of reoffending.

Currently only those who are jailed for more than a year are given rehabilitation, but the Prime Minister wants all but a small number of high-risk prisoners to receive support by the end of 2015.

Mr Grayling will say that mentors - including reformed offenders, or "old lags" - can help prison-leavers with issues like housing, getting a job and tackling drug and alcohol problems. When someone leaves prison, I want them already to have a mentor in place to help them get their lives back together," he will say.

"I want them to be met at the prison gate, to have a place to live sorted out, to have rehab or training lined up, and above all someone who knows where they are, what they are doing, and can be a wise friend to prevent them from reoffending."

Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan said: "Labour supports attempts that truly punish and reform those in prison, and rehabilitate them in order to prevent re-offending. But when the Ministry of Justice is losing a quarter of its budget and thousands of prison and probation officers are losing their jobs, the numbers simply don't add up.

"If Chris Grayling is proposing to include an additional 50,000 jail-leavers in rehabilitation programmes and to have an army of more than 60,000 mentors, then he needs to come clean about how this will be funded."


From Belfast Telegraph