Con­veyer belt to jail

Marlborough Express - - COMMENT&OPINION -

more than 25 per cent be­tween 2006 and 2016, from 7324 to 9193. Over the same pe­riod, de­spite myr­iad ini­tia­tives, re­of­fend­ing per­cent­ages have re­mained static. In 2015, 28 per cent of those freed were back in jail within a year, with the fig­ure ris­ing to 57 per cent af­ter two years. Those num­bers are even more alarm­ing when you con­sider age, eth­nic­ity and gang af­fil­i­a­tion.

There are many rea­sons why that path to and from free­dom is well-worn, but an im­por­tant one ap­pears to be the lack of sup­port claimed by John­son, which is backed up by his lawyer.

John­son left prison with $350 un­der the Steps to Free­dom grant, but like many of the 15,000 peo­ple who get out of prison each year he had no iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and no bank ac­count, un­der­min­ing the nor­mal steps we all take to get ac­com­mo­da­tion, jobs and ac­cess to ev­ery­day ser­vices.

All of this was ex­ac­er­bated when he trav­elled to Welling­ton to live with his mum, only to find she was away at a tangi.

A 2016 Sal­va­tion Army re­port, Be­yond the Prison Gate, pointed out that pris­on­ers be­ing set free with a few dol­lars in their back­pocket and lit­tle else in terms of sup­port is com­mon. Un­for­tu­nately that’s just the start of the chal­lenges they face.

Home­less­ness is also com­mon, with ac­cess to much so­cial and state hous­ing cut off and mar­ket rents be­yond many of them. Just as elu­sive are jobs. In 2014-15, less than 30 per cent of peo­ple re­leased from prison had found em­ploy­ment six months later.

There are pos­si­ble so­lu­tions, ac­cord­ing to the Sal­lies. That 2016 re­port rec­om­mended that, among other things, every pris­oner leav­ing be sup­ported in ap­ply­ing for ID ac­cepted by banks and other agen­cies; that they have ac­cess to sta­ble ac­com­mo­da­tion for six months; and that pub­lic/pri­vate schemes be set up to help pro­vide em­ploy­ment, if they have none.

Some may con­sider peo­ple like Daniel John­son be­yond help, un­wor­thy of fur­ther sup­port. But spare a thought for the first-timer and other, less-ex­pe­ri­enced crim­i­nals. A num­ber of poor choices have set them on a path. With a lit­tle more sup­port that need not be a cul-de-sac of in­car­cer­a­tion.

That’s got to be worth more than $350.

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