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Page last updated at 09:57 GMT, Monday, 29 March 2010 10:57 UK
Homes for ex-criminals reduce re-offending in Tameside
By Kevin Fitzpatrick
Reporter, BBC Radio Manchester

Alan Cotton
Alan Cotton: escaping prison's 'revolving door.'

Repeat offenders in Tameside are being kept out of prison by a project which gives them somewhere to live.

The Spotlight project targets the group most likely to re-offend - those who have been in prison less than a year.

Offering them free accommodation on their release from jail has seen an 86% drop in re-offending.

The scheme is reported to have saved more than £500,000 of taxpayers' money in the past six months, according to Home Office calculations.

Two thirds of people who have been in prison re-offend within a year of their release - the proportion is even higher for people who have been in custody less than 12 months.

Of that group, many say a lack of accommodation is a major cause of their re-offending.

In Tameside, the probation service has spent £45,000 providing them with somewhere to live and support for 12 offenders who were homeless when they left prison.

By spending the equivalent of keeping one person in prison for a year, the scheme has helped a number of former offenders from going back inside.

'Prison was my home'

John-Paul Kirkham is one of those who has benefited. He has spent most of his adult life in and out of prison.

If they give us somewhere to live, we have got something worth staying out of trouble for.
Alan Cotton

"Prison was my home because at the end of the day I got fed," he said.

"At times, I looked forward to it, because it was a roof, it was a room, it wasn't cold."

Adding: "I got out last time with four people who were homeless and didn't know where to go, stood at the jail wanting to go back in.

"One pinched a car and ended up back in."

In addition to the money spent on accommodation, Tameside has spent a further £75,000 on helping with drug addiction and speeding up benefit applications which has reduced re-offending rates even further.

'Revolving door'

Alan Cotton, 39, said he has spent most of his life in a 'revolving door' with prison and he believes it could have been prevented.

"Someone, somewhere has woken up and realised that people like myself need help," he explained.

"Now we are not just getting thrown out of prison and told to get on with it.

"If they give us somewhere to live, we have got something worth staying out of trouble for."

'Causes of crime'

The government has no statutory obligation to support people who are over 21 on their release if they have been in prison for less than a year.

But Enda Ross, Integrated Offender Management Co-ordinator in Tameside said she believed that the Spotlight project will help "to reverse the cycle of failure which many offenders fall into."

"Reduction in re-offending ultimately leads to reduced numbers of victims of crime with people feeling safer in their communities."

"In hard times, it is clear that we need to do things differently and, on the evidence to hand so far, this approach will lead to real reductions in reoffending and massive savings to the public purse.

Adding: "The approach does take courage as it is essentially reinvesting in the causes of crime."

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