GSD Gibraltar Social Democrats

GSD asks Ministry of Justice to make greater strides in rehabilitation of offenders

The GSD notes statements made by the Chief Minister that this will be a BREXIT budget, by which we understand that this will be a prudent and cautious budget.

The GSD believes that there are measures that could be introduced in the area of rehabilitation of offenders where for a relatively modest cost, the community could benefit both socially and economically. It will be recalled that the GSD Government introduced legislation in relation to rehabilitation of offenders, which enables some convictions to become spent and, therefore, not have to be disclosed to prospective employers. In its Prison reforms the GSD Government also introduced mandatory drugs testing as part of the prison and parole process. In other words, the Parole Board as part of a prisoner’s release on licence can impose the condition that the released prisoner have periodic drugs tests in order to ensure that the prisoner remains clean. It is a great shame that these latter provisions had not been deployed at all prior to last year. It is time not only to ensure that these legislative provisions are used for the benefit of prisoners and society, but to take further steps to help the rehabilitation of offenders and the prevention of re-offending in future.

We would like the Minister for Justice to place education and training at the heart of that strategy on rehabilitation. That means assessing the educational and training levels and needs of prisoners at the point of incarceration and preparing clear, but individually tailored, programs to help prisoners acquire the skills they need to facilitate post release integration into society. It involves a holistic approach where judges, probation officers, the prison service and the Government work closely to ensure people come out of prison with a better chance of making an honest and useful contribution to society than when they were convicted.

It is a fact that a high number of offenders have no or a low numbers of GCSEs, A-levels or vocational training. Coupled with criminal convictions, that places them at a considerable handicap in the labour market which makes it more likely for them to reoffend.

The Ministry of Justice in the UK, has recently reviewed its policy on the rehabilitation of offenders, recognising the link between the lack of employment and educational opportunities with an increased risk of offending and the cost in both human and economic terms that entails. Measures that are being considered in the UK are greater assessment of prisoner’s education needs through, for example, sentencing plans at the point of sentencing that provide a clear direction on what a prisoner will require in order to help him or her improve her training and education while in prison. The UK Government is also securing partnership programmes with the private sector and charities (supported by tax credits) that enable employment and training in prison and on day release. Indeed, prisoner apprenticeship programmes are also being considered for an entire year after a prisoner is released. The Government already has the Future Job Strategy in place and that could be used to ensure prisoners are properly trained as a part of a holistic and early strategy aimed at more effective rehabilitation of offenders and integration in society.

Further, the GSD also note the Ban the Box international campaign by civil rights groups aimed at persuading employers to remove from their hiring applications for non-sensitive posts, the check box that asks if applicants have a criminal record, instead asking about this later in the application or recruitment process. This would at least allow offenders to be interviewed and make a positive impression before they are disregarded out of hand. The GSD believes this to be a worthwhile initiative for certain offences and one which the Government should consider consulting the public, unions and business about.

The reality is that despite legislative changes since 2011 there is still a great stigma associated with the hiring of former offenders. Lack of education, training and jobs contributes to re-offending with all the cost associated with the same. The time is right to prioritize these issues and attempt to end the cycle of reoffending.