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Together I believe we can break the cycle of drug related criminal activity

Posted: Monday 17th April 2017
Blog: 2017
This week began on a more sombre note as I joined people across the country, and even the world to pay my respects to PC Keith Palmer.  On March 22, PC Palmer like all our police officers and staff said goodbye to his family and went to work unware that that day he would pay the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty.  The Westminster attack sent shockwaves across the world and Keith’s heroic actions will never be forgotten.  He gave his life to protect our freedom and democracy.

On Wednesday, April 18 I will be joining Chief Constable Andy Marsh for our first annual lecture series as part of the Bristol Festival of Ideas; exploring the subject of breaking the cycle of crime and punishment. Over 80,000 people are in prison in the UK and almost half of all prisoners re-offend within a year of leaving.  I believe the purpose of every prison should be that each prisoner released is less likely to commit offences when they come out.  I believe we should be doing all we can to ensure that people do not go back to prison.

As a magistrate for 15 years and on the board of Bristol Prison, all too often I have heard and seen things I feel we must be able to influence and change for the better.  How can it be crime levels are falling, yet more crime is being committed by the same people?  What more could we be doing to support people with mental health issues, substance addictions and homelessness, ensuring there is a choice away from a life of crime?  How do we stop individuals being recycled through the criminal justice system, the courts, the prisons?

These are just some of the questions we’ll be discussing and if you would like to come along to this free event and join in the conversation you can get tickets at www.ideasfestival.co.uk/events/can-break-cycle-crime-punishment/.  As part of the event I’m incredibly excited that we will also be joined by renowned poet Mr Gee and Second Step’s Chief Executive Aileen Edwards as guest panellists and Life Cycle Bristol who will be making a special appearance. I am truly grateful for their support.

Changing our perceptions and giving people the opportunity to take a different path is a big part of breaking the cycle of crime.  It’s also the idea behind an approach we have decided to take in Bristol, where people who have been caught in possession of drugs, including class A drugs, are being invited onto an education programme rather than immediately criminalising them.  The Bristol Education Programme pilot, run with Swanswell, is giving people the chance to change their behaviour.

The initiative was set up back in April 2016 and is the first programme of its kind in the country.  To date 400 people have taken part in the workshop, none of which have since been re-arrested for drug offences.  In addition to the scheme the Constabulary also work closely with partners such as Catch 22 who help and support young people at risk of and involved in street conflict and Bristol Drugs Project, helping drug users to access treatment and support.    Together I believe we can break the cycle of drug related criminal activity.

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