Recidivism versus Rehabilitation

It is nothing new to read about the declining state of our prisons worldwide;

Every day, somewhere in the world, in a newspaper, on a television program, or on an internet blog you will find a story about a Prison – a failed inspection test, a leaked video taken on a smuggled phone, a death from illicit drugs, a riot, a prison guard strike.

Simply type Prison in your Google search bar for News; Today there are about 242,000,000 results!

Of those – how many will talk of the positive side? Of all the hard work being carried out behind the scenes? Of the success stories?  I can tell you today “Good Prison News” equates to just 9,920,000 results – and some of those are dubiously linked as Good News!

You see, as the well-known saying goes; “Bad News Sells!”

According to the latest edition of the Institute for Criminal Policy Research’s (ICPR) World Prison Population List (WPPL) published this week (6.11.2018), there are well over 11 million people held in penal institutions throughout the world.

That equates to around 6.4 percent of our population.

That is a shocking figure!

And the costs to incarcerate this amount of our population is equally shocking; Looking at just USA and UK as examples the average cost of incarceration in Federal prisons in USA according to the Federal Register during 2015 was around USD$32,000 around USD$88.00 a day, and in the UK according  to the Ministry of Justice  during 2015-16 the cost per prisoner was GBP£32,500 around GBP£89.00 a day.

That is per prisoner, per day!

Granted, there are many, many people who are serving sentences that should never see the light of day, but then there are those who could with the right tools and support be rehabilitated and reintroduced to society in a positive role, providing not just a beneficial impact on the offender, but given the right circumstances perhaps actually benefiting society in general.

If a prisoner re-offends the cost to the public purse in the UK is quite staggering;

The UK Government Policy on re-offending and rehabilitation quotes that in the period 2010 to 2015 Around half of all crime is committed by people who have already been through the criminal justice system. The cost to the taxpayer of re-offending is estimated to be GBP£9.5 to GBP£13 billion per year.

Re-offending has been too high for too long, despite significant government spending on offender management in the last decade. There has been little change in re-conviction rates and almost half of those released from prison go on to re-offend within 12 months.

We need to reduce re-offending to reduce both the number of victims and the costs to the taxpayer. To achieve this, we need a tough but intelligent criminal justice system that punishes people properly when they break the law, but also supports them so they don’t commit crime in the future.”

Since then many prisons globally are looking at changing the behaviour of the individual through counselling, vocational training, education, addiction support, job placement, and, springing up all over the world are a number of unique initiatives;

In one of the most volatile prisons in the UK, G4 run HMP Altcourse, recent initiatives involving animals “Pets as Therapy” are having beneficial effects on prisoners. Therapy dogs have been introduced to help inmates deemed at risk of self-harm, and birds of prey in a scheme aimed at educating prisoners through caring for them. Levels of violence is falling, and levels of self-harm are also falling, in part thanks to the therapy dogs, but also due to the newly increased efforts to assess the needs of inmates when they arrive.

In the US, in the grounds of the Washington Corrections Centre for Women, an initiative called “Prison Pet Partnership” is run. This non-profit organisation rescues and trains homeless animals to provide service dogs for persons with disabilities and they also operate a boarding and grooming facility to provide vocation education for women inmates. This program benefits all involved, from the animals who are given the chance to lead lives of services, the inmates who learn valuable skills, so they may find gainful employment upon release, and the individuals with disabilities who receive well-trained dogs to help increase their level of independence.

Animals are one thing of course, they have been used in rehabilitation scenarios for many years; one not quite so normal is perhaps the story of Judah Armani, a former music industry executive who in 2017 launched the UK’s first ever prison music label, “InHouse Records” backed by Universal Records, Ernst and Young, and the Royal College of Art among others. He launched the label at HMP Elmley and, has now expanded to a further three prisons in the UK, HMP’s Rochester, Lewes and Isis. With two more to follow shortly.  The initiative allows prisoners to develop their skills in management, song writing and musicianship, with the results of their hard work being celebrated in performance or recording.  The material they create is created from the heart, drawing on personal experience, encouraging what is strong with their back stories, rather than what is wrong with them.  Craig, a 32-year-old Londoner who has just finished a 12-year sentence, is testimony to the label’s restorative potential. Having picked up some basics of music management while convicted, he now has a job “shadowing” a manager at Universal in the coming months. He said, “Right from the get-go, I knew this was something different.”

Armani hopes the prisoners will use music to address the misdemeanours of their pasts. “Songs that glorify violence or put gangs in a positive light? We’re just not interested in putting that kind of music out. We’re all about making sense of people’s pasts and helping create more aspirational futures,” he says.

Whilst in the USA several prisons have started knitting or crocheting clubs. Auburn State Prison has a Crochet Club that has been running for some 30 years! It is so popular that it even has a waiting list to join, although priority is given to military veterans, inmates with good standing can also get involved.  In 2017 alone, they crocheted over 1300 hats, scarves and baby blankets that were handed out to needy people last winter, the group also crocheted 147 red hats for the American Heart Association, which were then distributed to babies born with heart defects across the state.

Of course, behind all the good will, the support, the fantastic initiatives and the need and want of our society to help with rehabilitation, with lies the plain and simple fact that we have prisons to punish and keep the people who do wrong away from the rest of society that needs protecting from them,  And although the support is on hand to help prisoners who want to be accepted back into society, there is still an underlying cause of unrest and disruption in our prisons worldwide, and that is the smuggling of illicit drugs, and contraband into our prisons. Even the most penitent inmate, who is determined to give himself another chance at rehabilitation can fall at the first hurdle if contraband is still available.

ODSecurity manufacturers of the SOTER RS body scanner are working alongside many of our prison authorities worldwide to provide a fast, harmless and infallible way of detecting contraband from entering our prisons, be that drugs, weapons, and mobile phones.  The SOTER RS is a totally harmless body scanner, that is a safe, fast and fool proof alternative to strip searching.

In fact, HMP Altcourse, the UK’s first privately designed, constructed and managed prison, has, in an effort to control their ongoing issues with contraband entering their prison, arranged to trial the SOTER RS body scanner. HMP Altcourse has received bad press over recent years due to the availability of drugs, such as psychoactive substances like “Spice” and “Black Mamba”, and mobile phones.

Jan Steven van-Wingerden from ODSecurity said, “We are delighted to be a part of HMP Altcourse’s plan to tackle recidivism rates in their prison with this multi prong approach of detection, teamed with new initiatives, support and training.”

The SOTER RS is extremely simple and fast. The person to be scanned stands on a platform that is transported from left to right. This process takes about 10 seconds and during that period an x-ray image is generated. The image shows the entire body and all contraband is revealed in it.

The Soter RS makes it impossible to smuggle contraband in the human body.

That simple fact stops drugs from entering our prisons. Which in turn, linked with the rehabilitation initiatives could see a marked difference in our recidivism rates.

Now that is good news!