Saturday, June 24, 2006

Another way on risky offenders? 

There is a project that helps prevent re-offending by people convicted of sex offences after they are released from prison. It will not be popular amongst those promoting the current uproar, which perhaps makes this a bad time to discuss it. The implementation of a “Megan’s Law” in the UK risks compromising this initiative.

It is the ‘Circles of Support and Accountability’ project run in the Thames Valley Police area under an initiative of concerned Quakers.

A small circle of volunteers contact an offender before release from prison and after release support them in their moves towards living an offence-free life. The circle also challenges them if they show signs of slipping back into risky or abusive behaviour. This is a much higher degree of involvement with a released offender’s life than the probation service could ever manage, and offers a kind of interaction that probation can never achieve.

To date 23 circles are operating in this Thames Valley pilot project, each concerned with one person regarded as being high-risk for re-offending, and (touch lots of wood) so far none have re-offended.

You can get a report on the first three years of the Thames Valley project from the Quaker website. The report is also on the INTRANET of the probation service.

So far this pilot project has been funded by the Home Office. From April 2007 funding for local projects will have to be provided locally or regionally so it is likely that some LibDem councillors and other activists will be hearing about this work for the first time shortly. It might be helpful for our colleagues to see what the project actually claims to do before the inevitable sniping at ‘do-gooding’ or ‘soft’ projects fouls the debate.

Circles are now becoming active in Hampshire, and projects are starting up in Manchester, Somerset, Exeter, Norwich, Yorkshire, Bedfordshire and Scotland.
Oxfordshire LibDems might like to know that the headquarters of all this work is in Didcot.

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