Lisa Smitherman, Director of Justice Catch-22, asks whether new plans for rehabilitation and resettlement signal a move away from prison as the default.

Prison reform?

This is a guest post by

Lisa Smitherman, Director of Justice at Catch22.

Last year, the Government announced its £2.5 billion plan to build four new prisons – housing 10,000 prisoners – on the premise that ‘more and better prison places means less re-offending.’[1] Without doubt there is a desperate need to modernise prisons and to reduce overcrowding. The claustrophobic conditions of an inner-city jail compared to one housed in acres of land can make for a very different experience of prison education for example. Those with outside space can deliver a range of practical courses, whereas we’ve seen teachers attempting to deliver sessions in tiny interview rooms and workshop offices when other space was not available in city prisons. When it comes to technology in prisons, this is far easier to roll out in modern prisons, where equipment such as smart whiteboards and in-cell technology are the norm. A ‘better’ prison experience without doubt makes reoffending far less likely.

But the idea that locking more people away is a mark of success – and keeps the public safer – is a misnomer. As anyone working in the criminal justice system knows, in the majority of cases serving a prison sentence does not prevent further crime.

A last resort

This is particularly the case with short terms sentences. A staggering 63% of those serving prison sentences of 12 months or less went onto reoffend within a year in the UK. Furthermore, sentences of under a year without supervision on release are associated with higher levels of reoffending than sentences served in the community via ‘court orders’[2] The long-term damage and scarring that can be done to a person in the prison setting is often far greater than the benefit to the individual or society at large.

Short term sentences not only produce high levels of reoffending (which is estimated to cost £18 billion a year), they also contribute unnecessarily to the overcrowding of prisons. Nearly half (44%) of all UK prisoners are servicing sentences of under 6 months – and 69% of those have committed a non-violent offence.[3]

Such is the concern around short-term sentencing reoffending figures, there have been high level political debates about scrapping short sentences all together[4].

Prison should be a last resort; reserved only for those who have committed the most serious and dangerous offences.

Effective community options

If prison isn’t always the answer, then what is? Effective community options are underused, yet their effectiveness – particularly for people with a large number of previous offences and people with mental health problems –  cannot be overstated.

Community sentences allow offenders to undertake a rehabilitation programme, and work in the community, while under the supervision of the probation service. Done well they can enable people to develop stronger ties to their community, their family, and enable positive outcomes in education, training and leading to employment.

Of course a community sentences without effective support won’t have the desired effect – and that support has to focus on the circumstances and needs of the individual.

MoJ’s new Commissioned Rehabilitative Services

The Ministry of Justice’s Commissioned Rehabilitative Services, known to many in the sector as the Dynamic Framework, has just announced the names of the successful organisations who will provide specialist housing, employment, personal wellbeing and training support to reduce reoffending. You can see the full list of new providers here. I have also reproduced the list at the bottom of this post.

The £200 million investment will see these organisations working with the probation service to support prison leavers on licence, those requiring post-sentence supervision and those serving community or suspended sentences.

The MoJ says the move is ‘one of the improvements being made to the Probation Service next month as responsibility for supervising low- and medium-risk offenders comes back under public sector control.  The delivery of unpaid work in community sentences and behavioural change programmes are also being brought back in-house.’

[1] 10,000 extra prison places to keep the public safe – GOV.UK (

[2] The impact of short custodial sentences, community orders and suspended sentence orders on reoffending (

[3] Prison the facts Summer 2019.pdf (

[4] Short Prison Sentences – Tuesday 29 January 2019 – Hansard – UK Parliament

prisoner at bus stop
© Andy Aitchison

Back to basics

At Catch22, we believe that in order to thrive, people need three basic things: a good place to live, good people around then and a purpose in life. We call them the ‘3Ps‘. If delivered well, these rehabilitation and resettlement programmes have the ability to provide individuals with those basic needs. And if they do so, there is a high chance that reoffending rates will decline.

Successful offender rehabilitation hinges on personalised services. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach to reducing reoffending. Currently, there is too much of a gulf between the often intense support provided to prisoners when they’re in a custodial setting and the support they get upon release. That gap needs to close.

Away from the default

So does this emphasis on community rehabilitation signal a serious move away from the idea that prison sentences should be the default?

Clearly there is a still work to do to promote community sentencing as a preferable alternative to short-term prison sentences. But if the new rehabilitation programmes are successful, it will prove reoffending is best tackled by a focus on people – their lives, their challenges and experiences and their aspirations – rather than on the prisons in which they too often end up.

Thanks to Andy Aitchison for kind permission to use the images in this post. You can see Andy’s work here.

Full list of new providers

Full list of contracts awarded according to region

Please note, the figures given are for the standard term of the contracts which are 2 years and 9 months, unless specified (see each contract below). Note Women’s services contracts are for 3 years and 9 months. For Accommodation and Education, Training and Employment services these are predicted values.

East Midlands

  • Women’s Services
    • Lincolnshire Action Trust – £544,992 (Lincolnshire)
    • Changing Lives – £1,240,656 (Leicestershire)
    • Nottingham Women’s Centre – £1,831,193 (Nottinghamshire)
    • Women’s Work Derbyshire – £1,509,887 (Derbyshire)
  • Support services for issues including mental health, family and relationships
    • The Forward Trust – £998,975 (Lincolnshire)
    • Ingeus – £6,021,064 (Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire)
  • Accommodation
    • Nacro – £2,963,412
  • Education, Training and Employment
    • Ingeus – £2,913,656

East of England

  • Women’s Services
    • Advance – £2,128,122 (Bedfordshire, Essex, Hertfordshire)
    • St Giles Wise (SGW) – £2,177,655 (Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Suffolk) (Northamptonshire – until June 2023)
  • Support services for issues including mental health, family and relationships
    • Nacro – £3,054,280 (Suffolk, Northamptonshire, Hertfordshire)
    • The Forward Trust – £4,374,002 (Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, Norfolk, Essex)
  • Accommodation
    • Seetec – £2,883,298
  • Education, Training and Employment
    • Seetec – £2,729,155

Kent, Surrey and Sussex

  • Women’s Services
    • Advance – £1,317,735 (Kent)
    • Brighton Women’s Centre – £1,167,285 (Sussex)
    • Women in Prison – £588,630 (Surrey)
  • Support services for issues including mental health, family and relationships
    • The Forward Trust – £2,557,318 (Sussex, Surrey)
    • Seetec – £2,135,134 (Kent)
  • Accommodation
    • Seetec – £1,977,871
  • Education, Training and Employment
    • Seetec – £1,903,774


  • Women’s Services
    • In London, women’s services will be commissioned jointly with the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) from mid-2022 with the Probation Service providing funding to MOPAC’s existing providers until then.
  • Support services for issues including mental health, family and relationships
    • Catch 22 – £12,501,519
  • Accommodation
    • St Mungo – £4,882,708
  • Education, Training and Employment
    • Maximus – £4,999,117

North East

  • Women’s Services
    • Changing Lives – £4,253,089 (Cleveland, Northumbria)
    • St Giles Wise (SGW) – £866,581 (Durham)
  • Support services for issues including mental health, family and relationships
    • Ingeus – £3,032,996 (Northumbria)
    • St Giles Wise (SGW) – £3,177,664 (Durham, Cleveland)
  • Accommodation
    • Thirteen Housing Group – £2,740,568
  • Education, Training and Employment
    • Ingeus – £2,903,359

North West

  • Women’s Services
    • Lancashire Women – £1,791,947 (Lancashire)
    • PSS UK – £3,050,765 (Cheshire, Merseyside)
    • Women’s Community Matters – £319,435 (Cumbria – until June 2023) (Subject to contract)
  • Support services for issues including mental health, family and relationships
    • The Growth Company – £5,732,481 (Lancashire, Merseyside) (Cumbria – until June 2023)
    • Seetec – £2,108,173 (Cheshire)
  • Accommodation
    • Seetec – £2,988,646
  • Education, Training and Employment
    • Maximus – £3,151,152

South Central

  • Women’s Services
    • Advance – £2,111,499 (Hampshire) (Thames Valley – until June 2023)
  • Support services for issues including mental health, family and relationships
    • Catch 22 – £4,091,542 (Hampshire, Thames Valley)
  • Accommodation
    • o Ingeus – £1,828,763
  • Education, Training and Employment
    • o Ingeus – £1,889,412

South West

  • Women’s Services
    • Nelson Trust – £2,897,254 (Avon & Somerset, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire)
    • The Women’s Centre Cornwall – £1,765,668 (Devon & Cornwall, Dorset)
  • Support services for issues including mental health, family and relationships
    • Catch 22 – £5,706,872 (Avon & Somerset, Dorset) (Wiltshire, Devon & Cornwall, Gloucestershire – all until June 2023)
  • Accommodation
    • Seetec – £2,852,365
  • Education, Training and Employment
    • Seetec – £2,624,658


  • Women’s Services
    • The Nelson Trust – £1,992,162 (Dyfed-Powys, Gwent, South Wales – all until June 2023)
    • PSS UK – £432,225 (North Wales – until June 2023)
  • Support services for issues including mental health, family and relationships (Young Adults and 26+)
    • St Giles Wise (SGW) – £6,011,313 (Dyfed-Powys, Gwent – all until June 2023) (South Wales, North Wales)
  • Accommodation
    • o Forward Trust – £2,006,168 (Dyfed-Powys, Gwent, South Wales)
    • Nacro – £633,425 (North Wales)
  • Education, Training and Employment
    • Maximus – £2,440,833

West Midlands

  • Women’s Services
    • Changing Lives – £6,095,524 (West Midlands, Warwickshire)(Staffordshire – until June 2023)
    • Willowdene – £1,014,080 (West Mercia)
  • Support services for issues including mental health, family and relationships
    • Catch 22 – £1,639,494 (West Mercia)
    • Ingeus – £8,324,204 (Staffordshire, West Midlands) (Warwickshire – until June 2023)
  • Accommodation
    • Nacro – £3,823,196
  • Education, Training and Employment
    • Maximus – £4,147,256

Yorkshire & The Humber

  • Women’s Services
    • Changing Lives – £1,835,581 (South Yorkshire)
    • St Giles Wise (SGW) – £1,072,461 (North Yorkshire)
    • Together Women – £4,604,673 (Humberside, West Yorkshire)
  • Support services for issues including mental health, family and relationships
    • Foundation – £1,246,789 (North Yorkshire)
    • Ingeus – £6,671,666 (Humberside, West Yorkshire)
    • The Growth Company – £2,593, 567 (South Yorkshire)
  • Accommodation
    • Shelter – £4,068,990
  • Education, Training and Employment
    • The Growth Company – £4,134,343

Greater Manchester

  • Greater Manchester Combined Authority – For the first time, the Probation Service is jointly commissioning the full range of rehabilitative services in Greater Manchester with the region’s Combined Authority from July 2021.


Let’s hope the money goes to the ”factory floor” and not to refurbishing their offices and advertising how great they are, if they are not reaching the people in need of these services, then this will all be another waste of good money that, will not directly target the people who need it.

Moreover, as we’ve witnessed in the past, building more prisons doesn’t and wont ease over-crowding again. What will ease over-crowding are two of the simplest things that the Judicial System can do.

1) Stop sending so many people to prison where, a community sentence would be more beneficial to person and society as a whole.

2) Furthermore, it would help if you could stop sending people back to prison on recall, when they have not committed another offence. These are the productive steps that can make a huge difference to our already over-rowed prison.

Realistic steps that don’t cost money and very easy to implement tomorrow.



Add yours

  1. Well said 1st need decent accommodation along with personal support going at client’s own pace.
    You really talk so much sence.

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