Home > Roads to recovery: exploring UK prison rehabilitation and its alternatives.

Shepherd, Jake and O'Regan, Niamh (2023) Roads to recovery: exploring UK prison rehabilitation and its alternatives. London: Social Market Foundation.

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  • UK prisons face several challenges, including a rising prisoner population and reports of understaffing, overcrowded facilities, and inadequate services.


  • In light of these problems, experts are calling for penal reform and placing stronger emphasis on rehabilitation and resocialisation principles.


  • Rehabilitation is already a core purpose of the UK prison system, but it appears to be falling short of its own standards.


  • According to inspectors, the majority of prisoners lack work and training opportunities.


  • 53% of prisoners are in their cell for more than 22 hours a day – rising to 69% during weekends.


  • Only 35% of those with metal health issues receive help, while 32% finish addiction treatment programmes in prisons and secure settings.


  • Reoffending – 39% within the first year of release and 75% within nine years – amounts to £18.1 billion in economic and social costs every year.


Other countries can help provide valuable insights into improvingincarceration and rehabilitation in prisons.


  • The Norwegian approach actively encourages inmates to lead a fulfilling life after their time in prison, and reforms have led to a dramatic decrease in reoffending rates.


  • The Netherlands offers specialist mental health treatment and has allocated greater prison resources to rehabilitation. Changes in the justice system have led to less reoffending, a significantly smaller prison population, and fewer prisons.


  • Other potential measures deployed internationally include greater use of non-custodial sanctions, rehabilitation training for prison staff, and restorative justice practices.

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