While I was handling criminal cases as a barrister, judge and in the Court of Appeal, I was aware that the critical time for offenders is the period straight after they leave the system. People with a history of convictions must find an ‘anchor’ to make that change to a life without crime. And the longer it takes them to find this anchor or purpose, the more likely it is they will return to prison.
As former Chair of the Parole Board for England and Wales, it was clear to me that the circumstances required to justify the release of offenders was the confidence that there was a support mechanism in place to secure a crime-free life. Parole was never successful unless this was the case.
Supporting Step Together
One powerful way of giving purpose and providing such an anchor to people on release from prison is to help them become involved in community volunteering.
Step Together Volunteering gives a wide range of people, including those with previous convictions, the opportunity to become involved in community volunteering. Facilitating the engagement in purposeful and rewarding activities is a marvellous base for building a crime-free life.
It is evident that society needs to help. People in prisons have to be released at some point and, without intervention, it is not sensible to expect a 100% success rate of re-integration into society. Everyone stands to gain from people with convictions turning their life around. These individuals find meaning and our communities become stronger and better places if there is a reduction in offending. It’s a virtuous circle.
The vast majority of people released from prison are capable of leading a crime-free life with the right support. In my experience, almost invariably for those who reoffend, there has been some failure in support in the critical period after release.
I am supporting Step Together because it provides the help and encouragement offenders need to start the path to a crime-free life. Last year, I had the pleasure of meeting Step Together clients who had left behind a life of crime following a period of community volunteering. This was an inspiring experience.
Step Together is running its annual Christmas appeal based around the story of an individual with a long history of convictions nicknamed ‘Mooch’. This person was involved in crime for more than 40 years and having undertaken volunteering through Step Together, he has turned his life around. Mooch now has a job as a project assistant supporting the homeless in Manchester, he has his own home, and he has re-established contact with family he hadn’t seen in more than ten years. Please watch Step Together's new video to hear Mooch’s story in his own words.
You can support this Christmas appeal by making a donation to Step Together. You can also support Step Together by signing up to the newsletter, which contains inspiring stories on the clients they have helped.