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Allowing prisoners more access to their loved ones could break the cycle of reoffending

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Allowing prisoners more access to their loved ones could break the cycle of reoffending and £2billion, according to new research

  • New research has shown family contact could reduce reoffending rates 
  • Odds of reoffending are 39 per cent lower for those who get family visits 
  • Researchers claim that if family visits were increased and reoffending fell by as little as 10 per cent it could save taxpayer £1.8 billion 

Allowing prisoners more access to their loved ones could break the cycle of reoffending – and save the taxpayer £2billion, a leading think tank has found.

New research by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) has shown that meaningful family contact is an ‘untapped weapon to reduce reoffending rates’ and will help rehabilitate inmates.

Highlighting what has been coined the ‘revolving door’ of the criminal justice system, latest government data shows that almost a quarter of criminals convicted between January and March 2020 went on to commit another crime.

Yet Ministry of Justice statistics also reveal that the odds of reoffending are 39 per cent lower for a prisoner who receives visits from a family member or partner, than one that does not.

New research by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) has shown that meaningful family contact is an'untapped weapon to reduce reoffending rates' and will help rehabilitate inmates (stock image)

New research by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) has shown that meaningful family contact is an ‘untapped weapon to reduce reoffending rates’ and will help rehabilitate inmates (stock image)

Now, researchers at CSJ claim that if family contact was increased for inmates – and reoffending rates fell by as little as 10 per cent – it could save the taxpayer £1.8 billion in costs associated with housing prisoners.

Last night, Emily Farley, CSJ Head of Criminal Justice, said: ‘Delivering on the interests of the family at the heart of the criminal justice system would have huge benefit for reoffending rates, the taxpayer, and the prospects of children and their families alike.’

Calls to prioritise the needs of families were highlighted in two seminal reviews by Conservative peer Lord Farmer in 2017 and 2019, who argued family connections were the ‘golden thread’ that ran through the processes of all prisons.

He called for an overhaul of prison culture, leadership and investment to ensure that prisoners could maintain and develop family ties in order to aid their rehabilitation.

Yet five years since the Farmer review’s first iteration, the CSJ has called for ‘urgent progress’ on the suggested reforms.

In its latest report, the group has also called for greater compassion within the criminal justice system for families whose loved ones are arrested and imprisoned.

After speaking to dozens of families, the team found that dealing with the justice system can be ‘unnecessarily traumatic’ for innocent children and family members, who suffer a form of ‘guilt by association’.

Highlighting what has been coined the'revolving door' of the criminal justice system, latest government data shows that almost a quarter of criminals convicted between January and March 2020 went on to commit another crime (stock image)

Highlighting what has been coined the ‘revolving door’ of the criminal justice system, latest government data shows that almost a quarter of criminals convicted between January and March 2020 went on to commit another crime (stock image)

And they have branded the fact that there is no official system of record for children affected by parental imprisonment ‘scandalous’.

The report reads: ‘Arrest signals the start of a period of significant emotional upheaval for families. Innocent bystanders who witness the arrest of a family member at home are often left traumatised, sometimes severely so.’

It adds: ‘In prison, families often have to battle a bureaucratic system which treats them with suspicion at best and contempt at worst. While at the point of release, families struggle to shoulder the burden of supporting those who face the uphill challenge of reintegrating back into society.’

Ms Farley added: ‘Our research shows that there is a breakdown between government policy and what is happening on the ground.’

Last night Deputy Prime Minister, Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary Dominic Raab said: ‘The CSJ is right to say that prisoners are less likely to reoffend if they keep strong ties with their families while in jail.

‘That’s why at our newest prison, HMP Five Wells, has a family area, a homework club and facilities to join parents’ evenings so fathers can to stay in engaged with their children’s lives.

Family ties, together with tackling drug addictions, developing skills and getting into work, help to cut reoffending, drive down crime and protect the public.

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