Volunteering 'can rehabilitate offenders'

04/03/2009 Return to news archive

By Sarah Townsend, Third Sector, 4 March 2009 

Neuberger report calls for coordinated effort across the criminal justice system

More offenders should be able to volunteer within the criminal justice system as part of their rehabilitation, a report by the Government's volunteering champion has recommended.

The report, Volunteering Across the Criminal Justice System by Baroness Julia Neuberger, says that volunteering can play an important part in easing prisoners back into society.

"Volunteering has the potential to rehabilitate offenders," it says. "It can provide skills, a route to employment and learning, a sense of responsibility and a new role in society."

The report also calls on the Criminal Justice System to consider further ways of engaging ex-offenders as volunteers in prisons.

People with criminal records are often excluded from CJS volunteering schemes even when they could have a positive impact, the report says.

"There is particular potential for people who've experienced the system to support current prisoners as mentors," it says. "Nobody is better placed to work with prisoners and reduce the number of re-offenders than someone who has actually experienced prison.

"However, if security measures are too onerous, they may prevent those who have a lot to give from volunteering. A positive Criminal Records Bureau check should sometimes be viewed as an advantage for certain voluntary roles."

The report says that there has never been any "coordinated effort by government to champion volunteers across all parts of the CJS". Recommendations include more government funding for specific volunteering schemes for offenders, and that CJS agencies should develop an efficient strategy to engage the skills of ex-offenders in volunteering.

In response to Neuberger's recommendations, justice minister Shahid Malik has been appointed as the first ministerial champion for volunteering and will highlight the work done by volunteers within the CJS.