Good Help in Prison Rehabilitation

15 JANUARY 2021


“Despite waves of reform, reoffending rates in England and Wales have remained persistently high for the last 15 years. Yet evidence indicates that the vast majority of people in the criminal justice system (CJS) want to move away from crime.” 

In our recent publication – Good Help in Prison Rehabilitation – Vicki Cardwell, CEO of Spark Inside, argues that the objective of rehabilitation services should not only be to support people to live free from crime, but also to fulfil their potential. This shift in purpose needs to be met with a step change in support on two levels: helping people caught in the CJS build confidence, identify purpose and realise their goals; and providing practical support for people leaving prison – finance, a place to live, access to employment. 

There are many people and organisations in prisons and communities that are already doing these things, but we have not yet been able to mainstream this good practice. A number of longstanding and more recent problems are inhibiting this: a system that does not address people’s inner motivation to change; a focus on risk that constrains prisons and probation services in the kind of support they can offer; a lack of clarity about who is accountable for providing practical support to people leaving prison. 

But there are also many strengths in the existing system. The reasons why people reoffend and what it takes to support people to build a life away from crime are well understood on a theoretical level and reflected in policy aims. There is great potential to fully embed a Good Help approach. The discussion paper outlines several recommendations to do this, including increasing the discharge grant; training prison and probation staff in coaching skills; putting coaches and mentors at the centre of support; having more people with lived experience taking on roles across the CJS; and establishing a national job scheme for young prison leavers.


The full discussion paper is available to download here.

We want to help any member of the CJS improve the Good Help that they offer. In particular we would value conversations with: 

  • prison governors; and
  • those seeking to bid for and run probation services 

to explore what they are already offering and how their current arrangements could be enhanced. If any of this has inspired you at all and you would like to explore how this could be taken forward in your work, please do get in touch.