Support for prisoners leaving jail: Community Rehabilitation Companies not having any impact, say inspectors

Support for prisoners leaving jail and moving back into the community was poor and the work of most Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) was not making any difference, according to the Chief Inspectors of Probation and Prisons. The government’s Transforming Rehabilitation reforms were meant to improve rehabilitation, but those good intentions have not been realised. The general position has not improved in the eight months since HMI Probation’s  last inspection of Through the Gate services. Today they published a report, An Inspection of Through the Gate Resettlement Services for Prisoners Serving 12 Months or More.

Through the Gate resettlement services were introduced in 2015 to bridge the gap between prison and the community. The government’s hope was that the newly formed Community Rehabilitation Companies would resettle prisoners successfully and so reduce reoffending. The inspectorates published a report in October 2016 on the poor-quality services for prisoners serving short sentences. This more recent report looks at services for prisoners serving longer sentences. It found that CRCs are making little difference to prisoners’ prospects on release and the overall picture was bleak.

CRCs are now responsible for helping prisoners to prepare for release and to resettle in the community. This includes helping prisoners to find accommodation, as well as employment, training or education, and help with managing their finances, benefits and debt. These services had previously existed in prisons but in a fragmented way. Inspectors found that CRCs were focusing most of their efforts on meeting their contractual targets, to produce written resettlement plans, and not giving enough attention to responding to the needs of prisoners.

Through the Gate services are not well enough integrated into prisons and CRCs alone cannot reduce reoffending. Prisons need to do more to support resettlement, including properly screening for prisoners’ needs, assessing the risks a prisoner might pose and planning and delivering rehabilitative work where needed. Wider problems with the prison system mean prisoners rarely receive effective rehabilitation while detained.

Many prisoners have enduring problems including mental illness and addiction and links between treatment in custody and the community were not always easy. Affordable accommodation is hard to source and claims to state benefits take time to process so some prisoners are released with nowhere to live and may face weeks without any income. The impact of Through the Gate services on education, training and employment was minimal and those prisoners who did get jobs quickly after release had either started work while in an open prison or had made their own arrangements.
Except for some prisons setting up bank accounts for offenders, work on finance, benefits and debt was not being delivered to any great extent, and the use of mentors had not been developed as anticipated. Through the Gate services are poorly integrated into mainstream prison systems and no clear guidance has been given on how greater integration should be achieved. The incompatibilities of the IT systems used by different staff in preparing prisoners for release were major obstacles.

Key recommendations made by inspectors include the Ministry of Justice and Department for Communities and Local Government in England and the Welsh Government Department for Communities and Children working together to recognise homeless released prisoners as a priority need for housing. The Ministry of Justice and HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) should consider whether CRC contracts are the best way to deliver effective resettlement services and make sure every prison provides services to meet the needs of prisoners in respect of education, training and employment, finance, benefit and debt and support for victims of domestic abuse and sex workers.

HM Chief Inspector of Probation Dame Glenys Stacey said, on behalf of both inspectorates:

“There were great hopes for Through the Gate, but none of these have been realised. Staff working for Through the Gate services in prisons are keen and committed, but they are making little real difference to people’s life chances as they leave prison. The gap between the government’s aspirations and reality is so great. There is no real prospect that these services as they are will reduce reoffending. Instead there needs to be a renewed focus and effort.

“To be sure of success, the government and HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) need to look again at the contractual arrangements with CRCs. They must also make big improvements to IT systems, and make sure processes and targets are aligned and joined up between prisons, CRCs and the National Probation Service so that effective work gets done.”

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Notes to editors:

  1. The report is available at  from 21 June 2017. An earlier report, published in October 2016,  An Inspection of Through the Gate Resettlement Services for Short-term Prisoners can be found here.
  2. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation is an independent inspectorate, sponsored by the Ministry of Justice, and reporting directly to the Secretary of State on the effectiveness of work with individual adults, children and young people who offend, aimed at reducing reoffending and protecting the public.
  3. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons is an independent inspectorate, inspecting places of detention to report on conditions and treatment, and promote positive outcomes for those detained and the public.
  4. Inspectors visited nine prisons, where Through the Gate services were being delivered by eight different CRCs with seven different corporate owners. Inspectors looked at the cases of 98 prisoners, before and after release.
  5. For further information please contact Jane Parsons at HMI Probation & HMI Prisons press office on 020 3681 2775 or 07880 787452.