A Service User Response to the Ministry of Justice’s Green Paper
Commissioned by A4e in January 2011, consultations were designed and facilitated by User Voice with the aim of seeking the views of participants in response to the Coalition Government’s Green Paper: Breaking the Cycle.
These consultations were then used to inform and assist the response submitted by A4e as part of the Government’s consultation process.
Two focus groups were held: one in prison with current serving prisoners and one in the community with offenders who had experience of community sentences. The groups were facilitated by User Voice staff who themselves have experience of the criminal justice system.
Explanation of the potential impact of their participation and disclosure by the User Voice staff members, outlining some of their past offending behaviour and how they navigated into successful living, encouraged the participants to talk openly about their experiences.
The two focus groups were specifically designed to involve 3 distinct groups of people:
1. Those who don’t engage with services;
2. Those who do engage with services;
3. Those who have engaged with services.
This categorisation of participants is an important element that is often overlooked. Each group of people has important information that they can give about their experiences, but some can give a greater overview than others.
For example, those who have engaged and are now living successfully can describe what worked in their rehabilitation, whereas those who don’t engage can give insight into why they don’t, but not on successful resettlement into the community.
Being led by ex-offenders, User Voice is able to access all of these groups, where others may struggle.
Key themes emerged:
- Need for greater range and choice of opportunities for education and employment.
From the courses they offer there is only 10% that you can actually do, the rest of them you can’t, so how you gonna be rehabilitated back into society and work and do something that you want to do?
- More meaningful opportunities, either in prison or in the community, such as learning a trade.
Give them a trade. If they’re gonna be in here for 3 years they can do a full time apprenticeship, then they can go out and get on a site.
- Need for provisions, especially community payback, to address underlying issues of offending behaviour.
They need to ask people why they offend.
- Need to incentivise participation, either financially or with meaningful activities.
There is no incentive, the only way you can incentivise people is give them opportunities that we want, ask us. Instead of all these Governors sitting down with a piece of paper writing down we think this, we think that.
- Establish links with employers and educate them about ex-offenders and the use of Criminal Record Bureau checks.
We can’t move on from our past if it always comes up every time apply for a job. What I done 10 years ago shouldn’t be used to judge who I am now.
- Earning a real wage was welcomed, but most thought that the sentence was their payment to victims.
I would like to make a real wage, but I wouldn’t have a problem paying the upkeep of the jail.