Ending the cycle of reoffending

Man in cap stood against a bush
Written by James McDermott

Prison leavers housing pilot saves over £700k in reduced offending.

I have seen first hand the damage that substance misuse has on families, communities, and individuals. Thinking about missed opportunities to help people when they need it the most often keeps me awake at night.

We know that the window of motivation to help someone when they are at their lowest can be small, but it must be seized. The journey of change can be uncomfortable and requires both honesty and will power, but too often this isn’t enough. We know that people benefit from a guide to keep them accountable when it feels like the only option available is to return to a lifestyle of crime.

Tackling the relationship between homelessness and reoffending.

We recently trialled a project to provide prison leavers with housing and specialised substance misuse support. Run in partnership with Change Grow Live, and funded by the Ministry of Justice, the project gave us the chance to do something different. Something that the stakeholders themselves told us they needed.

Yes, resettling prison leavers successfully is a challenge. People leaving prison are known to re-commit crime to avoid homelessness and reoffending can cost the economy £13.5bn a year. However, projects like this work.

We estimate that the pilot saved £701,712 in the five months between November 2021 and March 2023 through people not being recalled to the criminal justice system. We also delivered a huge improvement in quality of life for participants and the local community.

So, what can we do to break the cycle and help people succeed?

Stable accommodation is known to reduce the risk of re-offending by 20%. When someone is released from prison, they need somewhere safe to live to get their lives back on track. Too often they are released with nowhere to go.

A partnership to build a workforce with specialist skills.

Many factors contributed to the success of this project, not least the excellent and essential partnership with Change Grow Live and our colleagues in probation, social care and the prison service. Working together we were able to provide participants with comprehensive practical support pre and post release to keep them focused on staying out of prison.

Our diverse staff team used their lived experiences and recovery skills to provide high-quality, effective support to residents. They encouraged people to try mutual aid support and provided specialist interventions to people at risk of relapse to keep them housed and engaged.

Connecting with others and being active through hikes and sport and taking part in healthy eating sessions and graduation events fostered a sense of community. Others got involved in clean up sessions to improve the local environment.

Our success in numbers.

Our project housed 73 men in 34 dedicated rehabilitation units. The maximum length of stay in our accommodation was over a year, with a quarter staying for longer than three months – time to really effect a change in their lives.

  • There were over 5,000 housing days during the pilot.
  • 1,069 peer led activities were attended, including mutual aid sessions.
  • More than 142 housing inductions were completed.
  • 1,361 psychology sessions took place.
  • 620 ‘Foundations of Rehabilitation’ sessions were attended.

What does the future look like for prison leavers?

We don’t yet know what the next decade looks like for people leaving the criminal justice system, but this pilot shows it is possible to successfully reintegrate people back into the community if the right supports are in place.

It bodes well for a future where people have a genuine chance to turn away from crime and rebuild their lives.

For now, the initial pilot stage is complete. The houses have been converted into recovery houses across the northwest. And we strive to continue creating opportunities for change.