Stemming from our work with the Prison Information Service in Canterbury prisons, we wanted to provide a complete picture of how Non-Government-Organisations (NGOs) like the Howard League are operating in prisons throughout Canterbury.
In order to do this, our researchers conducted interviews with eight senior Corrections staff members, 15 NGOs (as well as off-the-record consultation with many more) and 45 current prisoners across three Canterbury prisons.
There are a huge range of NGOs doing some exciting things in Canterbury, and it was a great opportunity to find out all about them and the wider environment that they’re operating in.
One of the most interesting findings came when we interviewed the cohort of prisoners. With prisoner interviews, we expect to find a lot of tough cases. These are often people who’ve grown up with crime, and who don’t know any other way of living. More than three quarters of this cohort, for example, had been to prison before. We tend to assume that they like crime, and that the lifestyle it provides for them is in some sense worthwhile.
That’s why we were surprised to find that when we asked them if they want to change their lives away from crime when they’re released, 95 percent of our participants said yes. Of those, fifteen percent wanted to make small changes, while eighty percent said that they wanted to change their lives a lot.
Obviously when you’re interviewing prisoners there’s some room for error: in an institutional environment, many will tend to say what they think you want to hear, even if you swear up and down that you’re not a Corrections employee. Be that as it may, this paints a grim picture: despite the majority wanting to go straight, we know that 71 percent of released prisoners are reconvicted within five years, and 52 percent return to prison.
It’s obvious that will alone isn’t enough in the majority of cases, and our participants agreed with us. Perhaps most tellingly, of those 95 percent who wanted to make a change, more than three quarters admitted that they’d need help to do it.
What we do see here is an opportunity: Canterbury is leading the country in correctional innovation (you can read all about it in the report), so although there’s a long way to go, the help is out there and the right work is being done to see that these people get the help that they need.
You can read the report here, and we’ll be posting some more highlights here on the blog in the new year.