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Time is money: the role of the financial services industry in reducing re-offending

CII Thinkpiece 54

In November 2008, Chris Bath of the reformed offenders charity UNLOCK wrote a Thinkpiece describing what the insurance industry could do to help reintegrate prior offenders into society. He now returns to the series to show that managing post-conviction personal finances is the core to preventing resurgence into crime, and this can actually begin well before people first arrive in prison. 

Every stage in the criminal justice process contains personal finance elements that can potentially lurch people back into crime when they get out, and more needs to be done by both the Government and the industry to stop this, thereby strengthening the pathways to rehabilitation and resettlement.

Re-offending remains a problem in the UK with about half of prison-leavers being reconvicted within a year of release. This paper argues that managing post-conviction personal finances is the core to preventing resurgence into crime, and this can actually begin well before the offender first arrives in prison, and can continue throughout the criminal justice process.

Pre-sentencing: many people entering the justice system are already financially excluded, with 30% of people in prison having no bank account, compared to 4% of all UK households. With the majority saying they were turned down from mainstream finances, many were driven to underground finance such as loan sharks which often push debtors into criminal behaviour.

Sentencing: the move to intelligent sentencing including non-custodial sentences is still not without financial risk to the offender, pointing to the need for assistance with budgeting and financial planning.

Going to Prison: people arriving in prison are effectively severed from control over their financial lives, losing access to income to service pre-existing finance, communication with providers, and access to banking services. An assessment of new arrivals' personal finances may mitigate this.

Serving a Prison Sentence: negligible prison wages combined with limited access to financial services while inside create unfavourable conditions at the end of the sentence. Access to quality basic money advice and the ability to communicate with financial institutions could help to prevent this.

Leaving Prison: is often a high-risk period as the financial problems stored up over the sentence suddenly come to the fore. Three quarters are unemployed on release, and many are frustrated that prison had taken them out of employment and made them dependent on the welfare state. Even being able to open a bank account is difficult.

Life as a Reformed Offender: research shows that while reformed offenders are able to bring their finances under control, many experience difficulty with employment and some aspects of finances such as insurance. There is still more progress to be made to help reintegrate reformed offenders.

 

To read the full article, please see the attached document.

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