A landmark new Northeast conference forum for the rehabilitation of former prisoners took place in Newcastle this week and has been hailed a great success by participants including Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Kim McGuinness, CEO of the Northeast England Chamber of Commerce John McCabe and Lindsay Blackmoor Deputy Director of HMP Northumberland.
As keynote speaker, Kameel Khan of Project ReMake set the tone emphasising the futility of custody without rehabilitation and the resulting reoffending rate. Central to Dr Khan’s argument was the need to give prisoners the opportunity of a structured life and employment on release.
Representing the Northeast business community John McCabe observed “We need to be building pathways that are understood and recognised by candidates and businesses, that take people from where they are to where they need to be. That might be taking someone with a technical qualification and putting them through a digital bootcamp. Or repurposing someone’s experience as an electrician to enable them to take a job in electric vehicle battery manufacture. The important thing is to acknowledge individual circumstances, experience, strengths and weaknesses and provide support that’s tailored to that.”
Speaking alongside Darren Burns, National Recruitment Manager of Timpson’s, they each emphasised the moral and economic impact businesses can have in rehabilitating offenders. In an increasingly tight labour market this route both opens new recruitment channels and positively impacted the socio-economic impact of reoffending.
Speaking after the Changing Perceptions Conference, Oswin Project CEO Fiona Sample commented “Today has been enlightening and significant. We have heard moving testimony from prison leavers of the impact of giving hope and a second chance has in breaking the cycle of reoffending. We need to carry this message to a wider audience to change society’s perceptions”.