Prison alternative cuts re-offending in Bradford

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Probation service project manager Sajid Ali and probation officer Rachell Iluk chat to a client Probation service project manager Sajid Ali and probation officer Rachell Iluk chat to a client

A community order providing an alternative to short-term custodial sentences, which was piloted in Bradford, has been praised for helping to cut reoffending rates in the district.

Latest figures show the Intensive Community Order, which was piloted in a number of areas, including Bradford, from 2008, has seen a compliance rate of 60 per cent meeting its requirements and completing the order.

The figures, released by West Yorkshire Probation Service, show 43 per cent of ICO cases have gained employment, skills and qualification and 67 per cent of those with alcohol or drug-related offending achieved positive outcomes around reduced alcohol and drug usage.

The service said 55 per cent of those experiencing accommodation problems were also able to secure new housing.

Earlier this month, the probation service revealed national research showed the rate of reoffending dropped by more than 16 per cent in 2011 – the largest fall in West Yorkshire.

Sajid Ali, ICO project manager at the probation service, said after funding for the pilot finished last year, resources were re-allocated so the service could continue the scheme due to its success in reducing re-offending.

He said the order’s intensive nature meant offenders were required to meet up to five appointments each week for a year, as well as carrying out community service, which allowed them to work with those who could help them tackle the causes of their offending.

He said: “We believe prisons aren’t the best environments in any case for rehabilitation, because a lot of the time people are spending time with people where ideas about criminality could be developed.”

Mr Ali said the order should not be considered an easy alternative to custody.

He said: “We have had people who have said ‘I’m not prepared to complete this because it’s too rigorous and I would rather go to prison’.

“Prison doesn’t challenge some offenders in ways that the ICO does. A lot of the people we work with lead chaotic lifestyles and to make five weekly appointments is a big ask.”

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