As a finale to his year as High Sheriff, Tom Birch Reynardson has invited former Chief Secretary of the Treasury Jonathan Aitken to give a talk at the Said Business School. Convicted of perjury and imprisoned in 1999, he will share an insider’s understanding of why such a huge percentage of offenders return to jail.
The evening will take place on 7th April 2016 at the Said Business School beginning at 6.00pm, with the lecture starting at 6.15, and a drinks reception afterwards.
Serving an 18 month prison sentence in three different establishments – Belmarsh, Stamford Hill and Elmley prisons – has given Jonathan an insight into what makes offenders tick. While incarcerated Jonathan was also able to observe the pressures that prison managements and staff have to face – the daily chaos of chronic overcrowding, endemic drug abuse, widespread mental illness and volatile mood swings.
Tom, who holds a charitable fund with Oxfordshire Community Foundation, comments: “Approximately three quarters of young prisoners under 25 and two thirds of all adult prisoners are re-convicted within two years of their release. These figures are shocking and I feel that we must do something about the problem. As a former Chief Secretary of the Treasury, Jonathan also observed from on high the costs of prisons. The average cost per prison place is £36,808 each year (the cost per place at Belmarsh is £58,886). Interestingly, Eton College, another establishment in which Jonathan Aitken was incarcerated, charges £35,721 each year.”
Today, the annual cost of running our prisons and managing offenders is about £5 billion. Dwarfing this sum are the annual costs of re-offending, which have been conservatively estimated by the Social Exclusion Unit at £11 billion. The combination of these figures means that society is footing the bill for criminal offenders of a staggering £16 billion per annum.
The purpose of the evening is for Jonathan Aitken to provide some food for thought and suggest some ways in which the re-offending rate might be reduced. He will also, in the course of his lecture, introduce and interview Leroy Skeete, an ex-offender who he first met in Belmarsh when they were fellow prisoners and whom he subsequently mentored. Leroy has successfully rebuilt his life with a good employment record over the past six years.
Jonathan and Leroy will present the case that encouraging a process of rehabilitation both in prison and on release must be a crucial cog in the wheel for a programme of social reform in counties like Oxfordshire. This will be an opportunity for local business people, employers, academics, voluntary organisations and politicians to contribute their own thoughts and ideas as to how things might be improved.
The evening will take place on 7th April 2016 at the Said Business School beginning at 6.00pm, with the lecture starting at 6.15, and a drinks reception afterwards. There is no charge for attendance at the lecture but we will be inviting people to contribute to kick start a project to be run by the local employment, recovery and rehabilitation charity Aspire. The specific project is for Aspire to put in place a pick-up service from the prison gate to get young offenders into some form of training or employment on their release.
If you wish to attend this interesting evening and bring any colleagues, please complete the application for tickets.