More support for prisoners on release could reduce reoffending

19 Januray 2017

A new research project aiming to help prisoners at HM Prison Belmarsh and HM Prison Elmley to overcome their mental health needs and build a positive life after release has been launched.

The Through the Gate Project has been established by Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust to support prisoners identified as suffering with serious mental health needs on release.

The project was initiated in response to the nationally-recognised problem of this vulnerable group re-offending on release. Housing, access to benefits and inabilities to make personal arrangements with a local GP or mental health services are contributing factors to why people re-offend.

To evaluate the impact of the project, Oxleas has set up: Restarting a prisoner's life onto a supportive path leading to RESETtlement in the community – The RESET Study, in collaboration with Canterbury Christ Church University, in which Doug MacInnes, Professor of Mental Health at the University, is the lead researcher.

The RESET Study will evaluate the impact of the Through the Gate Project on the participants’ housing situation, further criminal activity, admission to hospital, and contact with services. The social networks of the participants who receive the intervention will be explored and their views and experiences of the intervention will also be evaluated, which in turn will help to develop the intervention for future participants.

Professor Doug MacInnes, said: “Men after leaving prison are at a greater risk of breaking the law within the first year of release, and have an increased risk of suicide within the first month. Whilst previous research studies have mainly focused on supported release from prison schemes with the general prison population, there have only been a limited number of research interventions examining support for prisoners with mental health needs after release from prison. 

This study aims to look at an intervention to address the needs of this group during the immediate release period from prison into the community.”

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The RESET Team (Professor Doug MacInnes fourth from the left)

The Rt Hon The Lord Bradley, author of the government initiated review of people with mental health problems or learning disabilities in the criminal justice system, formally launched the project. Lord Bradley talked about the cycle of re-offending and that mental health services in prison should mirror those in the community. Over the years he had witnessed poor or inconsistent approaches in these areas and recognised the value of such projects, describing the service and supporting the research as a ‘beacon of hope’.

Two groups of 60 participants will be compared, one group which has received the usual help when leaving prison, and the other who will have received the enhanced help.

Nacro and Centra Care and Support are also involved the Through the Gap project by providing case workers that prison staff can refer prisoners to go to ahead of their release. They will work on ensuring the basic needs of the participants’ are in place ready for when they go ‘through the gate’ and back into their community.

The case workers meet with the prisoners and work with them right up to their release date, meeting them on the day they leave, to support them in their resettlement.

It is hoped that the group with supported release from prison will make a more successful and long-term re-integration into the community, highlighting the need for the extra intervention.

If successful, the two-year study could help shape the support future prisoners are given after release, bringing benefits to society including improved community safety and a reduction in re-offending.

John Enser, Oxleas’ Director of Forensic and Prison Services, is leading the project. He said: “Better provision on release is most likely to make a significant impact to reduce the number of incidents of re-offending and therefore re-entry into prison.”

Notes to Editor

Canterbury Christ Church University

Canterbury Christ Church University is a modern university with a particular strength in higher education for the public services.

With 17,000 students across Kent and Medway, its courses span a wide range of academic and professional subject areas.

  • 96% of our UK undergraduates were in employment or further studies six months after completing their studies*.
  • We are one of the South East’s largest providers of education, training and skills leading to public service careers.

*2014/15 Destination of Leavers from Higher Education survey

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Last edited: 15/06/2017 15:21:00