But it is not only the financial costs, there is also the personal cost to many thousands of victims of crime. Reoffending is a major issue.
Yet before we ‘demonise’ the offender, let’s look at some other facts:
- Boys taken into care as a child are twelve times more likely to go to prison than the general population (source: Ministry of Justice)
- Prisoners are 20 times more likely to suffer from two or more mental disorders than the general population (source: Social Exclusion Unit)
- Prisoners are 32 times more likely to have been homeless than the general population (source: Social Exclusion Unit)
- Male ex-prisoners are 8 times more likely to commit suicide than the general population and women ex-prisoners 36 times more likely (source: The Lancet)
With statistics like these, plus the strong possibility of having no accommodation, very little money on release, poor or no prospect of work and the likelihood of broken relationships, it should not surprise us that nearly half of ex-prisoners go on to reoffend within one year of release.
One of the reasons for this high rate of reoffending is a lack of people who are genuinely interested in them as individuals. They may be surrounded by professionals, but what can make a real and lasting difference are people who want to know them as human beings, rather than problems to be fixed. Ex-prisoners need people who are willing to walk with them through life’s journey, constructively challenging and caring for them. As Jonathan Aitken put it: Someone who will be a wise friend, helping me work out what I need to do, who to speak to, come with me, give me time to think things through.