Some time ago we were contacted by the Restorative Justice Team as the culprit of a theft from our church, who was serving time wished to express his regret and sorrow for what he had done.
The team was marvellous and the meeting was held and the person was extremely sorry for what he had done.
What emerged was a sorry tale of tragedy and of a life going into meltdown to a large extent due to circumstances.
Many prisoners I have met admit that they struggled in the outside world and turned to drink or drugs which got them into worse trouble. Support upon release is key.
As a church we took an interest in our offender and tried to follow his journey to see what assistance could be given that might keep him from reoffending and rebuild his life. That’s when we hit the snags!
Upon release we discovered that his documents had been destroyed and so all he had was a paper identification, which any half way decent accommodation in Brighton would not accept.
He ended up sofa surfing and probably ended up sleeping rough.
The result was absolutely predictable and he reoffended and ended up back in prison.
We lost track of him then but I pursued the issue of him being released without proper ID. What I discovered horrified me.
I was told that there is no regulation that requires an offender to have proper identification papers prior to release.
Had such regulation existed our chap would have the proper paperwork, got decent accommodation and have had the support to give him at least a chance.
He was scuppered before he began – thanks to the system!
I contacted my MP who referred it to the Lord Chancellor. After six months an answer came which was complete balderdash!
The fact it took that long is a sad indictment on our system and that it simply said how good the Restorative Justice system is was an insult.
A second letter got an equally ridiculous reply without any real appreciation for what was being said. The MP and the Police and Crime Commissioner stood on the side lines and watched the interchange.
I am deeply grieved by the injustice.
Without a regulation requiring proper ID upon release has for at least one person led to a further crime with all the personal pain and expense to the public purse that it entails.
I feel sadness both for our offender and how the system has treated him, but also for the failure of those in authority to pursue something which simple in essence could have all kinds of benefits.
Lord help us!