What are the benefits of purposeful activity in prison, asks Justice Committee?

11/12/2012

Does access to work, addiction programmes and vocational training actually encourage prisoners to stop re-offending in the long term? The Justice Committee is asking exactly that question in its inquiry launched today.

The issued was recently raised in Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons, Brigadier Hugh Monro’s report of 2011-12 where it was suggested that prisoners not accessing purposeful activity were merely being ‘warehoused’.

The Justice Committee inquiry will therefore, “consider issues around the opportunity prisoners have to engage in purposeful activity in the course of their imprisonment.”

Justice Committee Convener, Christine Grahame MSP said:
 
“If costs around £32,000 pounds annually, per prison place, so there is an obvious need to reduce re-offending for the sake of community safety, the public purse and prisoners themselves.

“If one hundred prisoners did not reoffend and return to prison then it would save approximately £3.2 million pounds per year. We want to find out whether work, vocational training and education actually result in helping prisoners gain the skills and self-confidence to get a job and stop re-offending.
 
“The Justice Committee therefore believes it is vital we look at the benefits of ‘purposeful activity’ within Scotland’s prisons. Equally, we want to look at the consistency of ‘purposeful activity’ across the prison campus and learn from best practice in prisons where it exists.”

A call for evidence is published today as part of the inquiry launch and asks the general public alongside stakeholders such as relevant prisoner and reoffending organisations and charities as well as the Scottish Prison Service and Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons in Scotland to respond to the following:

* What is meant by purposeful activity and how can this be measured;
* The extent to which prisoners have an opportunity to engage in purposeful activity;
* What are the perceived benefits of purposeful activity and whether there are any examples of best practice;
* What barriers may exist to prevent prisoners engaging in such activities;
* Whether access to purposeful activities is consistent across the prison estate;
* Whether access to such activity can be improved. 

Background

The HMCIPS, Brigadier Hugh Monro’s annual review of 2011-12 defined purposeful activity as, “any activity which, during the working day, encourages the process of improvement. This includes work, vocational training, education and programmes to address offending behaviour (such as addictions) access to PE and visits.”

“The average cost per prisoner place in 2010-11 was £32,146.” - (Scottish Prison Service website).

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