Iceland’s work with ex-offenders should be copied by more companies – Bird Lovegod

Director of Rehabilitation.

Such a profound title, a profound three words.

There are some 87,500 prisoners in the UK, and the entire judicial system is struggling to be called fit for purpose, especially after the disruption caused by Covid.

Iceland is helping ex-offenders back into work (Photo by Jon Rigby)

In terms of reoffending, the proven rates are misleading at best, hovering around 30 percent. Actually, it’s closer to 100 percent. Take 100 prisoners and ask them if this is the first time they’ve been inside, or been convicted, or committed a crime. You won’t see many hands.

As few as one in 30 reported crimes reach court and this makes further mockery of reoffending statistics. The truth is prison only reduces crime for the time the prisoners are there. Once released, they are almost certainly going to reoffend. And society creates more and more of them, especially the ‘Children’s Care Homes’ system, by which a whopping 25 percent of adult prisoners are raised, reared, released, and quickly reimprisoned.

The social consequences for this malfunctioning of individuals and systems are millions of crimes against people and property, and billions of pounds, every year, and the loss of the alternative futures that could have been lived.

Politically the prison system is a cul-de-sac on a rough estate no one wants to live on.

Society would be vastly improved by a focus on rehabilitation, yet this is somehow seen by politicians, and often the media, as being ‘soft on crime’, and so the system continues to process criminals, mold them into a shape that fits only inside the fist of the prison, where it hardens them before releasing them back into society to inflict more pain and suffering until such a time as the police are fortunate enough to actually catch them and send them back to square one.

If former offenders are given a job, they’re 50 percent less likely to reoffend. Almost nothing can be more effective in cutting crime than enabling ex-offenders to have jobs. With jobs comes a place in society, an identity, a position in civilization, a place where they fit. It changes their identity.

Put someone away for six months with no one but criminals to associate with, then release them into an environment awash with criminals, criminality, and drugs, with no money, no job, no role models to suggest any other way, and the probability of them being transformed into a citizen is almost zero. It would take a miracle, an act of God, to take their heart of stone and put a new spirit within them. To change their hearts, and transform their minds.

Actually it does happen. Far more often than you might think. I’ve just read a book called The Cross Behind Bars by Jenny Cooke. It is the true story of Noel Proctor, the chaplain for Strangeways prison. It’s a continuous testimony of the Holy Spirit transforming hard men, broken men, evil men, and transforming them into new men.

Nothing less than this can really work, because only this changes the heart of the criminal, and from there, everything else changes. The first prisoner to be rehabilitated by Christ hung on a cross next to Him. Many many more have followed since.

Christian rehabilitation in prison, followed by ongoing support and provision of employment on release, and we would soon see the prisons start to empty, and the crime rates in society start to reduce. Respect to Iceland for taking this initiative.

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