West Yorkshire CRC has announced a partnership with charity User Voice, to support offenders as they progress through the criminal justice system.
User Voice is led and delivered by ex-offenders, who have the special ability to gain the trust of, access to, and insight from people within the criminal justice system.
West Yorkshire CRC is responsible for supervising offenders and ensuring they comply with their sentence and the orders of the court. It manages more than 11,000 offenders at any one time and an average of 900 new cases a month. West Yorkshire CRC is part of Purple Futures, an Interserve-led partnership.
Jason Brown, engagement team member at User Voice in West Yorkshire, said: “We work on the principle that only offenders can stop re-offending so those in prison can talk to ex-offenders to understand how they can turn their lives around.
“Rehabilitation is possible, and people with convictions can turn their lives into an active force for good in society. Rehabilitation is the goal of all User Voice’s work, a process which goes deeper than reducing offending.”
Karen Townend, community director at West Yorkshire CRC said: “Jason is a great example of how the probation service can work with people to make a key difference to their lives. Key to User Voice’s work are Service User Councils. These offer a structured forum where offenders and West Yorkshire CRC staff can come together to discuss how to make improvements to probation and give service users a voice.”
The Councils are groups of people who are, or have been on probation or licence. They engage with other people who report to probation offices about issues to do with their rehabilitation. Following the engagement work, proposals are developed which are aimed at resolving any common issues which can lead to re-offending.
Bradford-born Mr Brown, who served four years in jail for robbery, said: “I understand the trigger points that lead to criminality because I have experienced them first hand but I have come out the other side and the offenders we talk to appreciate that.”
While in prison Mr Brown went back into education and now has a degree in criminology and is currently studying for a masters at Leeds Beckett University.
Gail Bland, User Voice programme manager and another ex-offender, said: “The offenders’ involvement can often have wider and unforeseen benefits for rehabilitation. When they are involved in the design and delivery of rehabilitation services they are often its most powerful advocate, promoting understanding among offenders and acting as ambassadors for change and rehabilitation.
She added: “User Voice is well placed to gain the trust and access to those involved in crime or who have direct experience of the criminal justice system. Its work aims to deliver a powerful rehabilitation experience for service users, better criminal justice services and institutions, and more effective policy. “