Staffordshire Commissioner Matthew Ellis has welcomed government backing to stop the ‘revolving door’ of crime by ensuring criminals get treatment as part of their sentences. Over the past 18 months, the Commissioner has played a key role in pioneering the use of this new type of sentence, alongside partners in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent, as part of a two-year, government-backed pilot. Mr Ellis has repeatedly called for measures to stop the ‘revolving door’ of criminals going in and out of prison due to repeat offending, often caused by addictions and substance abuse or mental health issues. As part of a jointly funded initiative with NHS England, he got all key partners together at the end of 2019 to encourage magistrates to use their powers to make offenders get treatment across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent for mental health problems or drug and alcohol abuse, as part of their sentence. The Community Sentence Treatment Requirements (CSTRs) pilot has already achieved significant increases in the number of offenders diverted from short-term custodial sentences and into mental health treatment programmes in the community:
In the three months from October to December 2020 there was a seven-fold increase in the number of Community Orders issued with a Mental Health Treatment Requirement, compared to the same period in 2019, with 22 Orders being made during the period compared to just 3 in the same period in 2019.
Use of Community Orders with an Alcohol or Drug Treatment Requirement has fallen. In the three months from October to December 2020 there were 15 Alcohol Treatment Requirement Orders made, compared to 23 in the same period in 2019. In the three months from October to December 2020 there were 23 Drug Rehabilitation Requirement Orders made, compared to 35 in the same period in 2019.
This decrease is due to the pandemic and gaps in local treatment capacity, but now ministers from the Ministry of Justice and the Department of Health & Social Care have committed to further local funding for treatment services to help tackle drug and alcohol-related crime, which will support the delivery of this element of the CSTR programme. National research shows using such orders can significantly reduce reoffending. Early results indicate up to a 33% reduction in the number of offences committed by individuals in the two years after undergoing drug or alcohol treatment, rising to 59% for alcohol treatment. Mr Ellis said: ‘It’s great to see strong government backing for this approach, which we have now been piloting in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent for over a year. ‘I’m convinced that tackling the root causes of repeat offending is the way forward and will ultimately save not only public money, but also the very high human cost to victims and their families and society in general. ‘This is about halting the vicious cycle, where offenders start out committing less serious crimes, but often rapidly progress to much more serious ones, which are fuelled by their addictions and coming into contact with hardened criminals as they go in and out of prison. ‘Being locked away only pauses the chaos and the damage an individual’s behaviour has on law-abiding people, but it rarely fixes the addiction which causes their behaviour. ‘It’s a revolving door that costs all of us vast amounts of money. The evidence shows that for most people, not all, when they get off their foul addiction, they can get their lives back on track and stop being a drain on society. ‘This approach, tackling the root cause, can only be a good thing and our experience here in Staffordshire is already reaping rewards.’ The CTSR pilot is due to end this autumn and will be evaluated by the University of Northampton. If it proves to be successful in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent and other pilot areas, it will be rolled out nationally.