FEATURE: Former Detective Inspector says prison isn’t always the best route for criminals who may have been dealt a bad hand in life
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“I’ve spent my entire policing career thinking the best thing for anyone who commits crime is prison. Now, I understand that some people make bad choices and are dealt a bad hand in life, but they aren’t bad people and they can turn their life around with the right help.”
Former Detective Inspector Mark Wilkinson, who retired from policing two years ago before returning to the Force within the Integrated Offender Management (IOM) programme, is determined to change the mindset of his colleagues and the wider public now he has seen first-hand the impact the programme has had on offenders.
The IOM is a national scheme adopted by Wiltshire Police and the probation service, targeting persistent and prolific offenders who are responsible for a disproportionate amount of burglary, theft and other acquisitive crime. The scheme has been in existence, in slightly different formats, for the past decade but in Wiltshire there have recently been a number of success stories.
One example is Adam, who first came onto the programme in December 2021, having been released from prison for serving a lengthy sentence for multiple burglaries.
Through the programme, it was established that Adam required help with training, employment and social activities. The IOM programme enabled Adam to establish a bond with his Integrated Offender Manager through a shared love of the gym. Having previously been a regular cannabis user, Adam quickly began to see the benefits of a healthier lifestyle and his outlook on life changed. He began to seek employment to provide for his new family and he has now secured himself his first job in years and is earning money lawfully. During this time, he has had no negative police contact.
Another success story is James, who has been working through the programme with the help of Jessica Sowden, Integrated Offender Manager for the North of Wiltshire.
“We deal with people who are volatile and chaotic by nature and James is an example of someone who has had trouble his whole life with trust and authority and building relationships with people,” said Jessica.
“It has taken some patience, understanding and perseverance to really understand the type of person that James is and how undiagnosed conditions have had a detrimental effect on his life from a young age to adulthood.
“He is now volunteering with a local charity working with people with Alzheimer’s in a controlled setting. This has brought him a lot of joy and purpose and I hope he continues on this positive path.”
Mark said: “These are just two examples of people we have helped through the programme. These people have to want a second chance to come out the other side.
“If we can stop people being repeat offenders by actually understanding why they are committing crime in the first place, then it will stop us being repeatedly called out to the same addresses for the same issues time and time again, and in turn this will free up resources, reduce costs to the criminal justice system and prevent people falling victim to crime.”