The effectiveness of the ‘pathways’ to resettlement in England and Wales.

| July 8, 2019

Question:

Critically assess the effectiveness of the ‘pathways’ to resettlement in England and Wales.

Answer:

Title: Critically assess the effectiveness of the ‘pathways’ to resettlement in England and Wales

Introduction

The ‘Pathway’ approach was introduced as part of the National Action Plan and it is made up of seven core ‘pathways. These pathways include education, training and employment; accommodation; drugs and alcohol; mental and physical health; finance, benefit, and debt; attitudes, thinking, and behavior; and children and families of offenders (Maguire & Raynor 2006, p. 21). This paper assesses the extent to which the ‘pathways introduced as part of the National Action Plan have been effective in resettlement in both England and Wales. The paper begins with a background analysis of the issue of resettlement of ex-prisoners in England and Wales, particularly with regard to the creation of the seven pathways. This is followed by a detailed assessment of each pathway individually.

Content

To understand the role played by the seven pathways, it is imperative to look back into 2002. This is the time when the first Social Exclusion Unit (SEU) report was released. The report gained a lot of political influence largely because it was publicized through the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Pycroft, A, 2010, p. 28). Apart from gaining a lot of publicity, this approach enabled the authors of the report to come up with solutions that needed to be addressed by various departments (Lewis 2003, p. 37). A good example is the case where the Education, Housing, and Health departments were engaged. Earlier on, these departments did not give any much attention to ex-prisoners.

Moreover, the SEU report addressed the issues that needed to be addressed in the case of prisoners serving small sentences (Harding 2010, p. 139). In one instance, the authors noted that two thirds of these prisoners had been in unemployment before they were convicted. Also, a third of them lacked any place to call home immediately they were released from prison. Moreover, half of them were not qualified to undertake any skilled or professional job. Similarly, half of these ex-prisoners were living with the problem of substance abuse. All these factors were seen to contribute to an increase in chances of reconviction.

The SEU report blamed various crucial national agencies for failing to ensuring that the needs of ex-prisoners were met (Farrall 2005, p. 19). In ideal situations, this would be an important part of the rehabilitation process. Most of these recommendations ended up being reported again in a 2004 report. This report addressed the same problem, whereby a National Action Plan was designed with objective being the reduction of re-offending. The only new thing about the 2004 report was that it addressed the issue of convicts facing community sentences. Additionally, it addressed the issue of ways of avoiding re-offending once prisoners had been released.

In April 2006, the National Action Plan was used to design strategies of ensuring that former convicts do not become offenders for the second time (Hucklesby & Hagley-Dickinson 2007, p. 192). These strategies were designed to go hand in hand with a complete action plan through which the appropriate services would be provided. From this complete action plan, seven ‘pathways’ of service issues were identified. Currently, these pathways are being implemented through various partnerships at the regional level. In England, the different regional agencies that are supervising this implementation are being overseen by nine different Regional Offender Managers. In Wales, the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) has already employed an Offender Manager. It is the duty of this Offender Manager to ensure that the requirements of all the pathways are followed.

In the overall, the goal of making the pathways a success is a responsibility of the Home Office. Within the Home Office, many efforts have been made to ensure that various government departments cooperate with service agencies (Home Office 2004, p. 7). The rationale is to ensure that the right services are offered to ex-prisoners to prevent them from committing fresh crimes. To make work easier, the Home Office considers each pathway in isolation. In this case, it is easy to identify the roles requiring both national and regional approaches. Moreover, it is easy to monitor performance at these levels. In this way, the administrators are able to determine whether specific agencies are adhering to the goals of different pathways.

The organizational context in which these services are being delivered has changed a lot in both England and Wales (Maruna 2004, p. 20). For instance, NOMS has been created. Under NOMS, only one management system is in place for work relating to prison services and probation. The only exception is that there is a formal line separating interventions from offender management issues (Lewis 2004, p. 169). These two roles are currently available for bidding, whereby agencies from all backgrounds may qualify to provide the service.  Indeed, the Pathways method has also been effective with regard to the use of an end-to-end system. The objective of this undertaking is to ensure that there is more coordination between probation and prison service. The outcome of this change of events is that throughout one’s sentence, a convict is always under the supervision of one manager.

There is also the use of an Offender Assessment system that is standardized and used at the national level (Davies 2010, p. 102). Through this system, the risk of re-offending is assessed. This greatly helps in determining how different service resources will be provided to different offenders. Similarly, the pathways have led to the formation of a period during which supervision is made on license. This plan is known as ‘custody plus’, and is mainly directed at prisoners who are serving small sentences. This plan was first made possible when the Criminal Justice Act 2003 was passed. After they are released, short-term prisoners both in England and Wales are required to be taken through a supervision period. This has greatly facilitated the work of ensuring that a systematic approach is used in preventing offenders from committing fresh offences.

The pathways approach has greatly improved the perception of ex-prisoners in both England and Wales (Davies 2010, p. 75). Through this approach, each prisoner starts to be viewed as a citizen who has the potential to change and start contributing to the economy. Attention on these individuals starts as early as 6 weeks before they are released from prison. It continues until 9 months after they have been released from the prison. Each individual feels that he is of importance to society because he is assigned a Key Support Worker. The responsibility of this worker is to observe their needs both while in prison and after they have been released. These monitoring sessions are carried out on a regular basis.

Such monitoring is of great help because it enables the ex-prisoners access benefits such as health services and payment of bills (Pratt 2006, p. 122). It also helps them get access to services that they may not be aware of. At other times, these individuals may find it difficult to use mainstream services. With sufficient monitoring, this problem is addressed in an excellent manner. In such a situation, it is not surprising that the pathways of resettlement have gained support in both England and Wales since they were introduced. There is a widespread feeling that these pathways have a potential to reduce the rate of re-offending as well as crime in general.

Level of effectiveness of the seven pathways

Education, training and employment

Various research studies have been undertaken so far to assess various projects relating to the pathways. A good example is the project reported by Davies (2010, p. 14), which was carried out by the Godwin Development Trust. It was in the form of an Employment Project. In this project, even those individuals who did not complete the process benefited from the exercise in one way or the other. On the overall, the results of the study reported by Davies (2010) seemed extremely encouraging. Indeed, the level of reduction was higher compared to the national average in England and Wales. As of 2010, the national average of re-offending was 60%, while successful clients recorded a re-offending average of only 18%. On average, all clients recorded a re-offending rate of 24% (Farrall 2011, p. 39).

Although two years are required for a comparison to be made with the national figures of the Home Office, Davies’ (2010) findings indicate a positive trend. Moreover, it is clear that the re-offending rate is much lower among individuals who complete the project compared to those who drop out of the project. This indicates very clearly that the pathway projects are effective for resettling individuals who have just been released from prison.

Another benefit of projects founded on specific pathways is that they help in improving the lives of individuals in many ways (Davies 2010, p. 53). In other words, the individuals end up benefiting not just in the areas targeted by other diverse aspects of their daily lives as well. For example, a project focusing on the pathway of education ends up being of great benefit with regard to other areas, including employment and accommodation. Similarly, a project aimed at increasing employment prospects ends up being of great help in the area of accommodation. Indeed, it is natural that an individual who has just come out of prison will have to be helped in many ways if any project is to succeed.

Accommodation

The issue of accommodation has attracted as much attention as the pathway on education, training, and employment. In both pathways, it is easy to discern the progress that has been made (Moore 2011, p. 19). One of the problems relating to accommodation has to do with lack of commitment to housing by various public sector organizations as far as the needs of ex-prisoners are concerned. This lack of commitment is largely as a result of negative attitudes towards these people.

An excellent example of lack of this commitment is highlighted by Maguire (2007, p. 3), whose case study is on South West region of England. Prison leavers who come into this part of England do not get as much assistance from various relevant agencies as it would be necessary. In his study, Maguire (2007, p. 3) relies on interviews with frontline staff as well as senior executives of relevant agencies within this region. There is also a lot of information obtained from prisoners as well as statistical material, reports, and policy plans.

The main finding of Maguire’s (2007, p. 5) study was that the accommodation pathway was yet to offer ex-prisoners the sort of assistance required for survival upon reentering the society. So far, most of the issues relating to accommodation that Maguire highlighted have not been fully addressed. These issues include loss of homes because of the sentence, loss of jobs and business relationships, and lack of sufficient skills to deal with these problems.

In most cases, the relevant organizations have been adopting a piecemeal approach (Davies 2010, p. 57). Moreover, funding is an almost regular problem. In this realm, the initiators of the pathway approach appear not to have fully convinced third sector participants to re-direct their investments as appropriate.

Nevertheless, the last few years have appeared to mark a significant break with the bleak past as far as accommodation for former convicts is concerned (Maguire 2004, p. 231). This improvement has been achieved because the government has recognized the relationship between accommodation problems and reoffending. This realization is the one that culminated in the establishment of NOMS. It is also because of this realization that the government appointed Regional Offender Managers. These managers were handed the task of presiding over interventions for all offenders. Within the NOMS framework, an Offender Management Model was developed. This model has been of great help in providing standards for sentence planning and management of all offenders. This management extends beyond the prison gates to cover issues of resettlement. This improvement has been recorded in both England and Wales.

The best way of assessing the accommodation pathway is to put it into the context within which it was created vis-à-vis its current level of effectiveness (Davies 2010, p. 52). The pathways were created in the form of action plans on the reduction of reoffending both nationally and regionally. Credit for the success of the accommodation pathway should definitely go to the multiagency regional boards that enter into partnerships with non-criminal justice agencies. In these partnerships, the aim has been to increase commitment in efforts to ensure that all ex-convicts are fully re-integrated into their respective communities.

Drugs and alcohol

The issue of drugs and alcohol constitutes one of the seven pathways highlighted in the National Action Plan. So far, the main approach that is being used entails collaboration and partnership. Even before the pathways action plan was conceived, the government was undertaking a program aimed at maximizing the number of drug users by as much as 100% between 1998 and 2008 (Emery 2009, p. 22).

The best way of assessing this pathway is by comparing the changes that have occurred regarding the statistics of ex-prisoners who are drug addicts (Davies 2010, p. 49). In this regard, an improvement appears to have taken place since 2006 mainly in terms of awareness. In terms of dealing with the problem once and for all, it is rather difficult to give absolute figures. This is because some people who may purport to have been completely rehabilitated from alcohol and drug abuse sometimes slip back into the habit. On the overall, significant progress has been made in terms of partnership between private, public, and voluntary sectors. These partnerships appear to have withstood negative attitudes more successfully compared to the scenario in other pathways, for example accommodation.

Mental and physical health

The benefits that have been attained in the various pathways have not really been experienced in the case of mental and physical health of former prisoners. The problem seems to originate from the fact that the ex-prisoner population has not been researched on sufficiently (Burgess-Allena 2006, p. 293). Indeed, this group has been excluded a lot socially (Burgess-Allena 2006, p. 293).

Yet it is not possible to talk about successful resettlement without talking about the health problems that ex-prisoners face (Davies 2010, p. 41). In this regard, this pathway has not led to sufficient results. Indeed, ex-prisoners have many health concerns that they would like addressed. The main problem arises because they are socially excluded and victimized. Moreover, they sometimes have not information about the ways in which they can access certain health facilities.

Nevertheless, the pathway of mental and physical health has contributed to solutions rather than adding onto problems. It has helped former prisoners to express their own health problems. Some ex-prisoners have even been opening up about the reasons that make them fail to seek medical attention in various health facilities across England and Wales. This approach is highly effective because these individuals are the ones who can best express their health problems. They are also the ones who can best explain why they feel that health matters are not a priority in their lives (Burgess-Allena 2006, p. 293).

According to Burgess-Allena (2006, p. 293), another health issue that many ex-prisoners face is poor mental health. This problem is normally made worse by the challenge of substance abuse. In the face of all these problems, there are many things that could be done through the pathways plan. Most of the measures that need to be undertaken are yet to be accomplished. For such success to be achieved, a close working relationship between various stakeholders in the health sector should be maintained.

Finance, benefit, and debt

With regard to the issue of finance, benefit, and debt, not much appears to have been done through the pathways approach as part of the National Action Plan in England and Wales. This is true because most of the finance-related activities that have been of most help to ex-prisoners appear to have come from the third sector (Gojkovic 2011, p. 28). The third sector has appeared to have more influence in finance matters largely because its participation in other matters affecting ex-prisoners has been praised. This is because of the drastic reduction in the rate of re-offending among former prisoners.

There is a great deal of knowledge regarding the various public sector organizations that are involved in finance issues from the perspective of the seven pathways (Davies 2010, p. 45). However, complications arise with regard to the number of third sector organizations and the sort of the work that they do as far as the finances of ex-convicts are concerned.

There is need to map out the exact financial needs of ex-convicts in England and Wales. So far, these needs have not been properly identified (Home Office 2008, p. 4). Either that, or there is insufficient capacity within the pathways framework to address the challenges that ex-convicts face. In this case, the efforts relate to the landscape within which the financial services should be offered and the level of assistance that is most acceptable to them. Other than this, the pathways approach should offer suggestions on the best sources of funding for this undertaking.

Attitudes, thinking, and behavior

With regard to attitudes, thinking, and behavior, it should be borne in mind that in recent years, the prison population in both England and Wales has continued to rise dramatically Lowthian (2010, p. 39). In one way or the other, this may be interpreted as having something to do re-offending. In other words, a significant number of offenders must be finding their ways back into prisons after being released from prison. One of the reasons why ex-prisoners prefer to go back to prison is negative attitudes in society (Senior 2004, p. 27). Whenever the society holds negative views towards ex-convicts, such individuals feel that they are not being accepted in society even after promising to reform. In such a situation, they resort to committing fresh offences if only to find their way back into prison.

The pathways approach appears to have made significant steps towards ensuring that ex-prisoners are fully accepted in society. There is sufficient literature to approve this assertion. However, the fact that many former prisoners are finding their way back to prison means that a lot more needs to be done to reduce recurrence of crime, particularly among the same individuals. One crucial suggestion is offered by Lowthian (2010, p. 41), who argues that there is a need for a justice re-investment approach to be used in changing the way society thinks about ex-prisoners. Such an approach is similar to the one that the House of Commons Justice Committee suggested in 2008 (Lowthian 2010, p. 42).

Children and families of offenders

One of the ways in which the pathways approach has helped in reducing recurrence of crime among the same individuals is recognizing the crucial role that the family plays. This role has a lot to do with the transformation of ex-prisoners (Murray 2007, p. 65). In ordinary cases, ex-prisoners would love to come home to the welcome of family members. Unfortunately, this does not always happen. In some cases, family members victimize one of their own who has been convicted and sentenced for committing a heinous crime (Mill, 2011, p. 12). Sometimes, the problem is not about victimizing these individuals; it is about family relationships that are just not stable.

In this regard, the best that the initiators of the pathways project can do is to facilitate the existence of a supportive family environment (Mills 2011, p. 18). In such an environment, ex-prisoners can get sufficient assistance with regard to ways of rebuilding their lives. In some cases, this assistance can greatly help reduce the likelihood of self-harm or suicide.

Through the pathways plan, awareness is being created regarding the ways through which the family can offer support in various ways. One of these ways has to do with ways of dealing with the problems that come with imprisonment. One of these problems, it is believed, is suicide. However, family members in both England and Wales face very many difficulties in helping these individuals reform. These problems replicate themselves in the National Action Plan. Incidentally, literature on these problems has been readily available as far back as 40 years ago (Lowthian 2010, p. 39). This provided the National Action plan strategists with plenty of information on how to design the pathway on the children and families of offenders.

Most of available literature relating to this pathway is on the experiences that families go through when one of their own has been imprisoned (Robinson 2006, p. 39). In contrast, not much has been said regarding family relations from prisoners’ perspectives. If such information was readily available, it would be easy to determine the extent to which ex-prisoners expect their family members to play a supportive role once they become free people again. In the absence of such information, it may equally difficult to determine the level of success of the pathway relating to children and families of offenders. Therefore, there is a need for the perspectives of prisoners to be put into consideration when implementing this pathway. Moreover, this understanding can greatly help in assess whether the pathway has been effective so far in the way it is being applied in England and Wales.

There is an almost unanimous agreement that supportive family ties play a crucial role in ensuring that ex-prisoners re-enter into society in a seamless manner (Codd 2007, p. 257, Lipsey, M, 1999, p.618). Moreover, these ties are greatly helpful in ensuring that no reoffending occurs (Codd 2007, p. 261). The mere fact that the role of the family in preventing re-offending is reason enough to indicate the effectiveness of this pathway. One problem that arises, though, is that in this pathway, a normative approach is normally used.

In this normative approach, it is not clear what actual steps the government needs to take in England and Wales to ensure that families offer sufficient support to ex-prisoners (Franke 2006, p. 79). Specifically, no mechanism has been put in place of compelling family members to offer the necessary assistance to these individuals. Even if such mechanisms were put in place, it would be difficult to set up specific standards of assistance. This is largely because the level of assistance accorded depends largely on the specific needs of the individual. This problem may be seen to be even more complex considering that some individuals may refuse to open up regarding their most stressing problems for fear of being victimized.

Conclusion

In conclusion, National Action Plan that culminated in the creation of the seven pathways was an excellent idea by the government. It is clear that although significant progress has been made in each pathway, there is a need for even further improvement. The level of progress in the pathways is not uniform. For instance, more appears to have been done to address attitude, thinking, and behavior than accommodation (Lewis 2007, p. 35).

Similarly, the level of partnership between private, public, and voluntary sectors has not been uniform (Davies 2010, p. 142). Whereas the accommodation pathway appears to have been shunned by these sectors, the accommodation pathway has been embrace by all three. On the overall, the government’s approach of collaboration and partnership at the national and regional levels has greatly helped in reducing reoffending in England and Wales.

 

References

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