A local councillor and charity boss have said that prison reform plans announced by David Cameron will not help ex-offenders to find jobs in Dorset.
David Cameron has called on prisons to focus on the education of prisoners. He wants businesses not to seek declarations of previous convictions in job applications in order to promote prisoner rehabilitation.
However, a Weymouth and Portland Borough councillor said it is “pointless” to think about rehabilitation unless the government solve other problems going on with prisoners that prevent re-entry into society. Councillor Rachel Rogers, who used to work for the HM Prison Service, said:
“Lots of prisoners have got other problems like mental health, relationship issue, drugs and alcohol. You can’t really expect them to start concentrating on education because you have got all these issues first. But it seems like the Prime Minister ignored these problems”.
Councillor Rogers summarised the top three urgent issues of prisons from her professional experiences: overcrowding, understaffing, and the lack of communication between prisons and the outside world. A local charity, the Footprint Project that aims to reduce the risk of reoffending, criticised Cameron’s plans. Jo Wells, the manager of the footprint project said:
“Lots of prisoners in Dorset will come out from prisons with nowhere to live, so they usually end up sleeping around Bournemouth Asda. The reason they are in prisons in the first place is because a lot of them have complex needs, which require a range of solutions. At the moment we have a probation service that is seriously underfunded and experiencing further cutbacks; they can’t help everyone. I don’t think Cameron can really change much right now.”
The Footprint Project helped about 80 ex-offenders in Dorset last year. However, statistics from Home Office showed there were still thousands of prisoners waiting for services in Dorset.