Rehabilitation of Prison Leavers
Opinion generally divides on whether the primary function of the prison system should be punishment or rehabilitation. It goes without saying that those who are a danger to others must be incarcerated; also that actions need to have consequences, else where is the deterrent? However, the high rate of re-offending should be a concern. Studies have shown two factors that consistently impact re-offending rates: instability of external circumstances (lack of security around employment and accommodation, substance abuse) and behaviours (prior offending, behaviour issues during the sentence).
For those sincerely wishing to make a new start on release, I believe it is critical to help support a perception of identity that can withstanding both any discrimination met in the community and resist any impulses to return to former behaviours, combined with providing the required practical support to ensure stability after release. Many people who find themselves in a prison system have had the misfortune to grow up in environments where they have received no positive reinforcement, and consequently do not have a strong foundation for self-esteem. Many have also grown up in an environment where offending is normalised. We can only draw upon the discourses that are available to us; therefore, a critical part of rehabilitation must be to ensure that more helpful personal and social discourses are available.
Having have the privilege to be asked to speak in a prison where my book had been well received, and finding that my identity approach had a positive impact, I am in the early stages of putting together a program for inmates due for release, and of putting this through proof of concept.