North Yorkshire County Councillors have visited HMP Kirklevington Grange near Yarm to speak to prisoners about their experiences.
Members of the County Council’s corporate and partnerships overview and scrutiny committee, which scrutinises planning and delivery of community safety services, wanted to hear about the support prisoners receive in the prison system and the community to help them to stop committing crime.
The visit was part of the committee’s investigation into levels of reoffending in the county and what is being done to reduce them. Over the past 12 months, it has scrutinised the work of the Youth Offending Service, the local Probation Service, Community Rehabilitation Company and has also visited HM YOI Wetherby.
Committee chairman Cllr Derek Bastiman said: “A lot of good work is done with people at risk of offending and those who have committed criminal offences. A broad range of services are working together to help to ensure that people get the support they need. The key to reducing reoffending is access to work and housing and all too often these are not available.”
Committee members have raised concerns about the levels of adult re-offending in the county and the apparent inability of the Ministry of Justice to provide meaningful, local data to support a more in-depth understanding of what interventions work and where practice could be improved.
The committee members felt that speaking to adult offenders from North Yorkshire who are in custody at HMP Kirklevington Grange but near to release would help them to understand the situation better.
Cllr Bastiman thanked the prison for accommodating the visit. He said: “I was impressed by the openness of the men that we spoke with. They gave us an insight into some of the frustrations they had about preparing for release and trying to build a new life in the community. Time and again in our discussions access to education and practical training came to the fore.”
While HMP Kirklevington Grange has invested considerable time and effort in developing courses in construction and other subjects that will maximise the chance of getting a good job upon release, many of the men highlighted the lack of access to education and training elsewhere in the prison system and before they moved into open conditions at HMP Kirklevington Grange. This meant there was limited time before release to access the courses they needed.
Cllr Bastiman said: “The committee will debate the findings of our investigations at our next meeting and identify recommendations to take forward. I accept that this is unlikely to fundamentally change the way that things are done, but I hope that by raising the profile of these issues we can contribute to a broader process of change.”