For a short time last week I found myself behind bars, as I paid a visit to HMP The Mount near Bovingdon as a guest of the governor, Steve Bradford.
The visit provided a great opportunity to discuss criminal justice issues with Steve and I also took the time to meet some of the prisoners, learning more about their lives, and particularly what, in their view, would help them in their efforts to stop re-offending in the future.
Clearly, one of my key remits as the county’s police and crime commissioner is to work with criminal justice partners to drive forward plans to keep the county safe.
We all need to ensure that more is done to manage offenders on their release from prison if we are to make a difference to stubbornly high reoffending rates.
That is why I am working with the Ministry of Justice to see if there is more that can be done to keep justice local.
I was reminded that only around 10 per cent of the prisoners at The Mount are from Hertfordshire with the remainder coming from London and across the country.
Other Hertfordshire men are allocated to prisons far from the kind of support networks that can help to reduce recidivism – in places like Suffolk and the Midlands.
This makes it difficult for the Prison Service, probation teams and other agencies to put the right support in place to sort offenders out in the run-up to and after their release.
Prisoners told me that getting a job, a place to stay and restoring family ties were the things that would stop them slipping back into their old ways.
The governor is doing a great deal to make his prison part of the community and scores of volunteers are helping him to do that. The men in his care are working hard and local businesses are playing their part by providing workshops, skills and training to help them become useful citizens again.
It is an inescapable fact that offenders are part of our community and that they will return to it – we need to do more to make sure, once we have welcomed them back in, that they then stay out of trouble and start paying back.
Elsewhere this week, I was very pleased to see the ‘offender pays’ element of my ‘Everybody’s Business’ police and crime plan coming to fruition.
Following some excellent work by Herts Police and a confiscation hearing at St Albans Crown Court, a Kings Langley man was ordered to pay back £650,000 of his ill-gotten gains, £160,000 of which has to be paid immediately, following his sentence for conspiracy to supply drugs.
I will continue to work with the police and their partners to build on the county’s excellent record of cracking down on criminal assets.
David LLoyd is the police and crime commissioner for Hertfordshire. You can find out more and get in touch with him at online at www.hertscommissioner.org or call 01992 556600