Dr Shadd Maruna, of Queens University, Belfast, an international expert on prisoner reintegration, is of the view that sending people to prison almost guarantees that 70% of them will reoffend after leaving. He was a keynote speaker at Prison FellowshipÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s three day Conference on Prisoner Reintegration, held at Silverstream last weekend.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Successful prisoner reintegration requires us to overcome all the obstacles that contributed to the offender going to prison in the first place, - personality disorder, economic and social disadvantage, deficits in human and social capital. We know there are some things that will help the prisoner reconnect with the community Ã¢â‚¬â€œ a stable marriage or relationship, sustainable and meaningful employment, movement away from peer group influences, and a sense of hope and responsibility.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Ã¢â‚¬Å“What works against successful reintegration is the experience of being in prison. It interferes with normative development, robs offenders of gainful employment, and puts them in a situation where community prejudice almost guarantees that any efforts they make to reintegrate will fail.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Internationally, one of the most predictable statistic in criminology, is that between 60% and 70% of prisoners will reoffend on release. Putting offenders with serious drug, mental health or personality issues in the company of people with the same problems for a couple of years, and then sending them out into the community with a huge stigma, almost guarantees that they will re-offend.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Kim Workman, National Director, of Prison Fellowship said that the community and government has yet realise that prisoner reintegration is going to become a significant social problem within the next 2 - years. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Eventually, about 98% of the prison population will be released, and around 85% will be released within the next two years. The prison population is due to increase by around 1000 over the next four years. That means that around 10,000 prisoners will be released annually. We need a community-wide strategy to deal with this issue. Failure to do otherwise, will lead to a very serious social problem.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The Conference is timely, and the discussion and recommendations from it will be reported back to government, and the wider community, before the end of the year. There was strong support from all participants, for a major reshaping and resourcing of the current reintegration policy.