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Russell Webster

Russell Webster

Criminal Justice & substance misuse expert and author of this blog.

Re-offending on release from prison

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SPCR is a longitudinal cohort study of 3,849 adult prisoners in England and Wales sentenced to up to four years in prison. Interviews were conducted with offenders on reception to prison, in the weeks prior to release, and in the community approximately two months after release. Participants were matched to the Police National Computer (PNC), allowing reconviction rates to be calculated.

The Surveying Prisoner Crime Reduction Study

Last week (28 November 2013) the MoJ published the latest results from the Surveying Prisoner Crime Reduction (SPCR)  longitudinal study. The study is funded by a range of government departments in order to increase understanding of prisoners who re-offend on release from prison.

SPCR is a longitudinal cohort study of 3,849 adult  prisoners in England and Wales sentenced to up to four years in prison. Interviews were conducted with offenders on reception to prison, in the weeks prior to release, and in the community approximately two months after release. Participants were matched to the Police National Computer (PNC), allowing reconviction rates to be calculated.

What did the study find?

The research focused on four key factors it found to be independently associated with re-offending after release:

  1. Prior offending
  2. Drug use, accommodation and employment in the community
  3. In-prison attitudes and behaviour
  4. Regular truancy from school in childhood

I highlight the key points from each of these factors in turn below.

Previous

Unsurprisingly, previous offending historySPCR report was found to be the most important factor in predicting re-offending. Offenders who had a more complex offending history were more likely to be reconvicted on release, those serving their first prison sentence less likely.

Crime type was also important. Offenders convicted of an acquisitive crime (theft, robbery, prostitution, handling stolen goods, burglary) were more likely to go on to re-offend than offenders serving sentences for other crime types (for example, violence, sexual offences, drug offences, fraud and forgery, vehicle-related offences, and ‘other’ offences).

Behaviour and experiences in the community

Again, it’s no surprise to have confirmed the finding that criminogenic needs experienced in the community, such as insecure accommodation, employment needs and substance misuse were identified as good predictors of reoffending – even after controlling for criminal history. The key findings were:

  • Offenders who were homeless or living in temporary accommodation prior to their prison sentence were more likely to re-offend on release than those with more stable accommodation (this finding is highlighted in a separate report, and the subject of a separate blog post tomorrow)
  • Offenders who reported Class A drug use after custody were more likely to re-offend than those who did not.
  • Prisoners who reported being employed at some point in the 12 months before custody were less likely to re-offend than those who had not been employed during the same period. (A separate report profiles prisoners in terms of their employment pre-custody.)

Behaviour and experiences in prison

Data analysis found that offenders who were less willing to follow prison rules (measured through adjudications data) were more likely to re-offend (again after controlling for other factors).

The report authors suggest that this finding provides an opportunity to identify and target this group to try to engage them in supervision and support services – which all released prisoners will be mandated to receive under the changes in the Offender Rehabilitation Bill currently going through parliament.

Early life factors

The research found that offenders who reported regularly playing truant from school as a child were more likely to go on to re-offend on release than those who did not. Although prisoners have a much higher rate of a range of negative childhood experiences – witnessing violence, being abused, taken into care – these differences did not turn out to be significant predictors of reoffending in the statistical analysis.

Conclusion

Another factor highlighted by the report and well known from desistance research, is that a large proportion of offenders grow out of crime. The research was able to quantify this:

“Each additional year of age was associated with a two percent reduction in the odds of re-offending.”

Although most of these findings seem commonplace, there does seem value in remembering that prisoners’ experience inside is a key indicator of reoffending on release. Currently, we make little effort to engage with troublesome prisoners inside to help them improve their chances of leading fulfilling and law-abiding lives on release.

 

Grateful thanks to photographer Mark Harvey for permission to use the featured image above. You can check out his work at the Social Issues Library

 

 

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All Probation Posts are sponsored by Unilink

With over 20 years’ experience in the criminal justice sector, Unilink is a world leader in probation and community corrections software applications, as well as prisoner self-service, prisoner/case management and prisoner communications. Unilink’s integrated suite of products provide a complete digital solution enabling efficient running of prisons and probation. Underpinned by biometrics it integrates seamlessly to deliver security, efficiency and value – while being proven to help rehabilitate prisoners.

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