Crime Commissioner wants more work to stop prisoner re-offending
A Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner is planning meetings to try to find fresh ways to re-integrate prisoners into mainstream society when they leave custody, even though it is accepted there is little his own office can offer to help with the process.
Dr Alan Billings is PCC for South Yorkshire, which is home to four prisons in the Doncaster area and he has a growing interest in what happens to convicts after their release from custody.
Now he is to convene meetings with other interested parties to try find ways to address their most pressing needs, with the objective of keeping them away from the prospect of re-offending.
Dr Billings' approach comes as the Government has been advised that scrapping jail terms of six months or less for most offenders could be more effective in the long term than locking people up for short periods, a move which has already proved successful in Scotland.
He said: 'I am getting more and more interested in what happens to people when they are leaving Doncaster's prisons.
'I will be convening some meetings which look particularly around the issues which make that transition back into the community better, so they don't re-offend.
'Many people (prisoners) have issues with drugs, alcohol or temperament. That has to be dealt with.'
Releasing prisoners without support would leave them without resolutions for the issues which contributed to them being convicted in the first place, he said.
'I have been looking at what people need. Finance, housing and the possibility of work. These are the issues we have to concentrate on.
'These areas are not in my gift to do anything about; but I can do is get people together and facilitate discussion.
'We do want to get re-offending down, I am very aware we have a big prison population,' he said.
Numbers of prisoners nationally have doubled since the 1990s.
Dr Billings said a trend towards longer sentences, which started when Michael Howard was Home Secretary, had contributed to the growth in prisoner numbers.
As overcrowding grew, that put addition pressures on police because on more violence and crime inside prisons, he said.
'When you have overcrowding, you have violence in prisons. Add to that drugs in prison and you have a heady mix which means violence.
'I am not a fan of short sentences, I don't think they work.
'When younger people who get short sentences and mix with the prison population, you run the risk of introducing them to more serious criminals and that is not a good place to be.
'I think out of court disposals seem to have a bigger impact on reducing re-offending and that is what we should be looking at,' he said.