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Bank accounts help to reduce prisoner re-offending rates

3rd December 2009 Print

The Co-operative Bank's pioneering accounts for prisoners scheme has helped reduce re-offending rates by around a third, according to new research.

The study by Liverpool John Moores University (JMU) analysed the behaviour of a group of prisoners who opened an account with The Co-operative Bank in October 2007 and highlights the positive impact the scheme has had on promoting social and financial inclusion.

The findings show that those participating in the scheme, which was introduced in 2006 in conjunction with Kalyx, who manage HMP Forest Bank prison, Salford, and now extends to 30 prisons across the country, were far less likely to reoffend.

The detailed research amongst 107 specific ex-offenders, who opened a bank account before being released from Forest Bank prison, shows that the re-offending rate was well below the national average.

In the key category of prisoners serving sentences of less than 12 months the national re-offending rate is 59.9 per cent but amongst those with a bank account only 39 per cent re-offended - a reduction of 34.8 per cent.

Paul Jones, from the research unit for financial inclusion at Liverpool JMU, said: "Bank accounts are not the panacea for reducing re-offending rates but as this research shows it can have a positive impact.

"It is clear that bank accounts are an important element in enabling ex-prisoners to become valuable members of society and other banks should consider following the pioneering work carried out by The Co-operative Bank."

The bank works closely with the prison authorities in order to ensure prisoners on the scheme have accounts and a cash card before release.

The research found re-offending rates lower than the national average across all prisoner categories and, highlighted the important role access to bank accounts can play - not only in the effective resettlement and rehabilitation of prisoners, but also with longer-term social and financial inclusion.

27 of the prisoners in the sample were aged 21-24 and of those, 25.9 per cent re-offended within twelve months of release - a reduction of more than 37 per cent on the national re-offending rate for this group.

Working closely with the British Bankers' Association (BBA) The Co-operative Bank is encouraging others banks to adopt the scheme.

Neville Richardson, Chief Executive of The Co-operative Financial Services, said: "The report confirms the importance of basic bank accounts to prisoner rehabilitation by making a positive contribution to reducing re-offending rates.

"Since the scheme began three years ago, The Co-operative Bank has opened more than 3,500 basic bank accounts for prisoners and we have a relationship with 30 prisons, which represents nearly 20 per cent of all UK prisons.

"However, we cannot tackle this important issue alone. Therefore, I would encourage other banks to play their part in providing accounts for prisoners so all inmates can have this opportunity."

Justice Minister Maria Eagle MP said: "Prisoners' ability to open and run an account to manage their finances can prove key to their resettlement in society once they are released, and access to a bank account is a core component of this.

"Without access to an account, finding a job or accommodation is often much harder for prisoners. In offering bank accounts to prisoners in nearly 30 prisons, the scheme is helping the National Offender Management Service make a significant contribution to prisoner resettlement and to reduce re-offending rates."

Steve Taylor, Kaylx's deputy director at HMP Forest Bank, said: "These bank accounts play a huge part in helping to reduce reoffending. By aiding social inclusion, prisoners are enabled to feel part of the wider community, therefore minimising the chance of them returning to crime."