A police boss is recruiting staff for a pioneering project to divert “low level” offenders away from a life of crime and keep them on the straight and narrow.
North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones will be launching the Checkpoint Cymru programme in the Autumn in a bid to cut crime and reduce reoffending rates.
According to Mr Jones, a former police inspector, it will also free up more police and court time.
The concept was developed by Cambridge University and it’s already up and running in Durham where it’s proved highly effective.
Although the figures in Durham still need to be formally evaluated, they show a big reduction in reoffending rates, from 30 per cent down to 18 per cent, with only five per cent of those taking part failing to complete the programme.
The success of the programme in breaking the negative cycle of crime and punishment has already earned it a national award from the Howard League for Penal Reform.
Offenders are offered the chance to avoid prosecution by signing a four-month contract and committing to seeking help from rehabilitation services.
They will be supervised by a skilled “navigator” – which may include people who have overcome addictions to drugs and alcohol – and will face prosecution if they break the contract at any time.
At the same time, Mr Jones will also be introducing another initiative based on a different pilot project, the Bristol Drugs Programme, which has been equally successful.
People caught with small amounts of drugs will be steered towards educational awareness courses similar in principle to the ones for drivers caught speeding and those who take part can avoid a criminal conviction.
Mr Jones will be appointing a total of nine navigators who will be based at the three North Wales Police custody suites in Caernarfon, St Asaph and Llay.
He is also looking for an overall manager for the programme and the closing date for that role is Monday, June 10.
The commissioner said: “Evidence has shown that a high proportion of offenders have underlying issues such as substance misuse, mental health, financial or housing problems which have their origins in traumatic experiences.
“By addressing the underlying causes of their offending behaviour those signing up to the programme are less likely to reoffend as has been clearly demonstrated in Durham.
“In terms of the navigators, we’re looking for people who have this life experience. They might, for example, have an understanding of what it takes to turn things around after their lives were blighted by alcohol or drug addiction or they may have been struggling with debt.
“We’re looking for people who can serve as a role model and an inspiration for those wanting to follow in their footsteps.”
“Both schemes are a way of supporting people to make better lifestyle choices and realise their own potential.”
The launch of the programme is being overseen by Inspector Iwan Jones who has been seconded from North Wales Police to get it up and running.
He said: “The thinking is to be able to give people a second chance at life, to help
people get back into education, to help people get back into employment.
“But it’s also to look after their families, to look after their children because it’s
well known how the effects of adverse childhood experiences lead to crisis in later life.
“One of the primary concerns of Checkpoint is to stop that revolving
door of reoffending that takes up so much police and court time, as well as causing misery to the victims and the families of the offenders.
“We will be providing pathways for offenders to change their lifestyle that revolves around crime by understanding the reason behind the criminal behaviour.
“Very often the offenders have complex issues which may involve problematic alcohol or drug use, debt management, housing issues or whatever.
“The aim is to break the vicious circle by addressing what is at the root of their problems.
“Many of the people who fall foul of the law are victims themselves and many of those currently caught up in the revolving door in and out of the criminal justice system are women.
“All too often they are victims of domestic abuse. It may be that they go out and steal in order to feed or clothe their children which can subsequently lead to a short prison sentence and their children ending up in care.
“A lot of the people involved will have more than one issue so it’s taking a
holistic approach to a person’s situation and conducting a needs assessment so they can get appropriate support to overcome their problems.
“The scheme is aimed at people who commit the less serious offences and it’s certainly not a soft option.
“It is actually harder because those taking part have to commit to work for four months which may include doing voluntary work.
“We give them all the support and all of the help that they need but at the
end of the day they’ve got to do it themselves, so there’s a lot of
pressure on them to comply.
“The aim is to cut reoffending which will be better for everybody. It’s better for the offenders and their families, it’s better for the victims of crime, better for the police and better for the courts. But most importantly it’s better for communities across North Wales.”
More details about the Checkpoint Cymru project can be found on the police and crime commissioner’s website: https://www.northwales-pcc.gov.uk/en/home.aspx