1: Introduction: prisoner resettlement and the Pathfinders

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The Pathfinder programme was set up by the probation service in the latter part of 1999 to pilot and evaluate new models of working with offenders. It formed an integral part of the Service’s ‘What Works’ initiative and was originally funded under the Home Office Crime Reduction Programme.

The Resettlement Pathfinders were originally designed to test new approaches to the resettlement of adult prisoners sentenced to less than 12 months, who currently leave custody without supervision under the system of Automatic Unconditional Release (AUR). They were later extended to include young prisoners and some adults already subject to post-release supervision on licence, but the focus remained primarily on adult short-termers. This report presents an evaluation of the second (and final) phase of the Resettlement Pathfinders, based in three local prisons, in which 278 offenders voluntarily completed an innovative cognitive-motivational programme (‘FOR – A Change’), obtained direct access to services to address their needs and were offered continued contact with project staff, a probation officer or a volunteer ‘mentor’ after release.

The report is structured as follows. The remainder of this chapter briefly introduces the problems faced by short-termers on leaving custody and shows how this group of prisoners has been neglected in comparison with others, despite its exceptionally high reconviction rates. It also outlines the main elements of the Pathfinders, summarises the findings from Phase 1 and sets out the methodology used to evaluate Phase 2. Finally, it provides a brief description of each of the three sites, the structure of the project teams and the characteristics of prisoners joining the FOR programme.

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