BUILDING new homes may not seem like an obvious topic for a Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC.)
Surely I’m here to make sure Cleveland Police does its job, make sure victims are at the heart of everything we do and be the public’s voice in policing?
What does building low cost homes, upskilling people who have offended and then helping them find jobs have to do with the role of the PCC?
Supporting prisoners and former offenders to turn their lives around and stop their offending behaviour is currently one of the biggest themes running through the work of the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC.)
If people don’t have a reason to offend, they won’t commit offences and the crime rate – and, therefore, the number of victims – falls.
Research by the Ministry of Justice shows that having a job and regular income is one of the best ways to stop people re-offending.
Removing the reasons to offend
For people, who have served a custodial sentence of less than a year, the re-offending rate among people in work is 9.4 per cent lower than those, who remain jobless.*
If you add the opportunity to rent – or buy – a low cost home into the mix, you have already addressed three of the main reasons why people re-offend.
That’s why I’m so interested in a programme currently underway in the South West of England.
Prisoners due for release from Exeter Prison, are building affordable homes in the city.
The South West Reducing Reoffending Partnership (SWRRP,) which is supported by all five PCCs in the area, launched Prisoners Building Homes last year.
The programme sees prisoners nearing the end of their sentences work on modular homes on a brownfield site in the city.
Prisoners Building Homes aims to bridge the gap between prison and employment, preparing prisoners for release.
It’s just one of the potential solutions, which myself and my team will be looking at this year.
Programmes range from working with people, who have committed lower level crimes, on the award-winning Divert scheme to lookling at why perpetrators commit domestic abuse.
The justice system plays an important part in punishing people for their crimes but we need to look at longer term solutions.
We need to look at why offenders do what they do – and remove some of their reasons for offending.
If the reason to offend isn’t there, people are less likely to commit crime. Ultimately, there will then be less victims.
We all want to live, work and study in a safer Cleveland. Cutting down the reasons for offending is the best way to do it.