Alison Hernandez is the Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon and Cornwall
People in our communities who are convicted of a crime and are released from custody, or are starting a court order, have a reoffending rate of 30.9 per cent. It’s 53.9 per cent for adults released from custody with a sentence of 12 months or less.
Our prisons are struggling to turn these people’s lives around in a sustainable way, in readiness to be a positive contributor to society. Because they will be released. Whether victims or society want that or not. They used to be released after only serving half their sentence but thank goodness the Government stopped this for some of the most serious offences.
So victims feel anxious and worried, and certainly, the last thing they want to hear is that the person who carried out life-changing crimes on them will likely be able to do it again.
So the five Conservative Police and Crime Commissioners in the South West region (Alison Hernandez, Devon and Cornwall; Mark Shelford, Avon & Somerset; Chris Nelson, Gloucestershire; Philip Wilkinson, Wiltshire; and David Sidwick, Dorset) have stepped into this space and led the most transformative project we believe has ever been achieved. Prisoners are skilled up to build the homes we most desperately need. They are modular so can be built in factories with prisoners on day release and are Net Zero so are affordable and sustainable.
We can offer a turnkey solution to local authorities which means they don’t have capital costs to buy the houses. It fits with best value guidance to offer around a seven-year lease and one of our contractors will run it as a rental fleet for that period.
My office in Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly has funded, through taxpayers, the first proof of concept build in Torquay at a cost of £130,000 to show it can work. Built in Leyhill Prison and on-site with Probation client help.
The scheme now not only has sites across the South West beginning to be built but factories across the country. We have won a national award for collaboration on unlocking land to deliver affordable housing while reducing reoffending from the Government Property Award last year.
Prisoners are paid minimum wage and that money is secured for their release to use to help support them with their own housing. So even less chance of them being released homeless. They also get used to legitimate paid work. The prisoners have been so keen and committed that they are easy to employ upon release.
One of our contractors now supports 40 ex-prisoners being employed and this will continue to grow.
Such projects are necessary. The latest data on those employed six weeks after custody is a woeful 19.4 per cent and still only 30.4 per cent six months after release. Keeping people busy in purposeful employment is the success to all of us whether an ex-prisoner or not.
But the ultimate measure of success is that reoffending declines; victims and our communities are safer; oh and our homeless families have homes!
This is just one of the successful projects we’ve achieved as Police and Crime Commissioners working together as a team of Conservatives in the South West.
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