Updated: Dec 5, 2022
By Rebecca Bocchinfuso – Director of Amicus
On Wednesday November 9th, 2022, the Amicus and Miscarriages of Justice Project teamed up to schedule a debate on whether it is truly possible to rehabilitate offenders, or whether the focus during sentencing should be more focused on deterrence and protection of the public. Though there were a variety of differing opinions, the consensus was clear. Yes, criminals can be rehabilitated, but the current climate of government expenditure does not allow for effective rehabilitation of offenders to take place.
In order for effective rehabilitation to ensue, there must be an adequate injection of funds into the criminal justice system. In 2021, £200 million was invested into rehabilitation services to cut crime. This money was given to charities and companies whose aim is to rehabilitate offenders by offering employment and housing services. Government action seems to show a commitment to enhancing support to offenders upon their release from custody, but is this the only way to tackle reoffending?
The Norwegian prison system serves as a perfect example of how to adequately address the problem of reoffending. In Norway, they believe that people receive a custodial sentence should come out as “better neighbours”. Thus, the focus in Norway is truly on rehabilitation rather than deterrence whilst offenders are in custody. As a result, the recidivism rate in Norway is just 25% after 5 years of being released, which puts England and Wales’s recidivism rate for that same period of 75% to shame.
As such, though current government action to increase support for offenders’ post release is a step in the right direction, shifting the focus to conditions within the prisons is another promising method of reducing recidivism rates.
Ministry of Justice and A. Chalk, ‘£200 million investment in rehab services to cut crime’ (Gov.uk , 21 May 2021) <https://www.gov.uk/government/news/200-million-investment-in-rehab-services-to-cut-crime> accessed 26 November.  C. Ahalt, C. Haney, K. Ekhaugen, B. Williams National Library of Medicine, January 2020) <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6987915/ > accessed 26 November  A. Kirwin, ‘Why aren’t all kails like Noway’s?’ (The New European, 26 May 2022) <https://www.theneweuropean.co.uk/why-arent-all-jails-like-norways/#:~:text=In%20Norway%2C%20the%20recidivism%20rate,in%20the%20same%20time%20period.>accessed 26 November.