Short jail terms for non-violent crimes ‘counterproductive’
Ex-prisoners need support to make transition from life of offending, says ex-offender
“Prison . . . for me is not about rehabilitation and has never been about rehabilitation. Prison, in fact, is destructive, because it fractures families where people end up losing housing, losing employment, and they come out to a worse situation than when they went in.” Photograph: Getty Images
Short prison sentences for non- violent crimes are counterproductive, a conference on reforming ex-criminals has heard. They put offenders in a worse position after they leave prison, resulting in a much more difficult journey to turning their lives around.
Allan Weaver, a former offender who is now a criminal justice social worker with North Ayrshire council in Scotland, said offenders need huge support to help them make the journey from offending to a new life after prison.
“Prison . . . has never been about rehabilitation. Prison, in fact, is destructive, because it fractures families where people end up losing housing, losing employment, and they come out to a worse situation than when they went in,” he said. “Short-term prison sentences, particularly for non-violent offences, are totally pointless. It’s counterproductive.”
Mr Weaver was speaking at The Journey of Desistance conference organised by the Cork Alliance Centre, which this year marks its tenth anniversary working with former inmates.
“The Cork Alliance Centre is invaluable for people trying to make that journey,” Mr Weaver said. “When people come out of prison, they’ve a massive barrier to overcome in terms of stigma. We have to assist them to address their offending - and the Cork Alliance Centre helps them do that.”
Director of the centre Sheila Connolly said more than 1,000 people have used it in the past 10 years and that it works with on average about 70 people at any one time.
“I think for many people coming out of prison there are both internal and external barriers and we work on a lot of internal stuff, helping people to build up their self-esteem and those inner strengths so they can believe in themselves so others can believe in them,” she said.
Participation by former inmates is voluntary.