People with some of the most complex needs in society are getting trapped in a cycle of contact with the Criminal Justice System. Often for decades.
Each year, 30,000 people go to prison for a sentence of fewer than six months. Many are sentenced due to non-violent offences including theft and minor drug offences.
These crimes are often linked to underlying issues of poverty, trauma, substance misuse, homelessness, and poor mental health. Short sentences provide little time for support to address such issues, resulting in repeated arrests and repeated time in prison.
Brighter Futures and the VOICES Partnership have joined the Fulfilling Lives Programme to raise awareness of the issue. It shares the stories of those who have experienced frequent contact with the Criminal Justice System over many years and highlights where change is needed.
For those serving longer sentences, the support available can be inconsistent and often does not meet their needs.
Andy Meakin, VOICES Director, says: “Support services provide a vital link between people and the community to promote recovery and independence. They help people experiencing multiple disadvantages to make a positive change.
“People simply cannot break the cycle they are in without dedicated support, and for some, going to back into prison may even feel safer than the options they have on the outside.
More service capacity is needed to divert those with some of the most complex needs in society away from the Criminal Justice System and into the community-based support and treatment they need.”
A Stoke-On-Trent resident, Dave, spent many years stuck in the prison cycle. He said “two days after my prison release I woke up at 2am wishing I was back in prison, where I had not had access to alcohol and felt better than the state I was now in.
“I desperately wanted to jump from my apartment window out of pure despair and helplessness. I needed someone to help and direct me.”
The Fulfilling Lives campaign also recommends that additional support is needed for those facing multiple disadvantages. Local partnerships are also advised to invest in coordination roles and peer mentor roles, to ensure that people can access person-centered support both pre and -post-release.
The short campaign can be viewed here – https://bit.ly/StopThePrisonCycle
Brighter Futures leads the VOICES Partnership, a National Lottery Community Fund programme, working with commissioners, services, and Expert Citizens to identify ways of improving services in Stoke-on-Trent.
For more information, visit: www.brighter-futures.org.uk or www.voicesofstoke.org.uk