The roll out of mentoring schemes across England and Wales could help cut the £11 billion-a-year cost of reoffending, former Cabinet Minister Jonathan Aitken has said in a new Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) report.
Mr Aitken, who served seven months in HMP Belmarsh in 1999/00 and who has since successfully mentored numerous offenders, said mentoring should be an intrinsic feature of the Government's Transforming Rehabilitation strategy, which will see 21 new community rehabilitation companies (CRCs) set up to support low and medium risk offenders.
Currently 58 per cent of prisoners sentenced to less than 12 months in jail reoffend within a year of release.
Mr Aitken, a CSJ Fellow who also chaired the report Locked Up Potential, said that by harnessing the efforts of a fleet of new volunteer and professional mentors, offenders could be helped to turn their lives around. The report, which builds upon previous CSJ publications on criminal justice, says mentoring should begin before prisoners are released from jail and continue beyond the prison gates.
The Ministry of Justice estimates that some 53,000 low and medium risk ex-prisoners will be looked after by the new CRCs. Based on evidence from mentoring organisations, Mr Aitken estimates that 15,000 professional and voluntary mentors could be recruited over the next five years to help tackle reoffending.
This would be paid for out of the £450 million annual budget that the Government has allocated for its Transforming Rehabilitation strategy.
Mr Aitken said increased focus on mentoring could be a “game changer” in the Government’s overall attempts to cut crime.