Justice minister Rory Stewart has commended Recycling Lives’ “innovative approach to rehabilitation”, highlighting it as an example of the Government’s own ambitions.
The Minister of State for Justice is leading a Government strategy to support more offenders into education and employment in a bid to reduce reoffending rates.
He has written to the social enterprise’s chief executive, Alasdair Jackson, thanking him for the offender rehabilitation programme’s “impressive outcomes”as it records unprecedented low reoffending rates of less than 5%.
Its HMP Academies programme engages more than 250 men and women in prisons to undertake training and work in prison and to move into stable housing and skilled work on release from prison.
Mr Stewart said in his letter: “The HMP Academies programme is a great example of what the Government is trying to achieve, as outlined in the Education and Employment Strategy.
“I was pleased to learn that the support of Recycling Lives extends beyond the prison walls to help offenders through the gate. You work with men and women on their plans for release, supporting them to secure meaningful work and stable housing on release. This makes a huge difference to a person’s chance of rehabilitating.
“I look forward to seeing the outstanding work of your organisation go from strength to strength.”
Of 141 men and women supported by Recycling Lives and released from prison between 2015-18, just five reoffended. The remainder were successfully rehabilitated, while around 70% were also supported into employment. Nationally, around 67% of offenders reoffend within one year of release while only around 20% move into work.
The programme has grown rapidly in recent years, now operating 12 HMP Academies across 11 prisons. Each undertakes either recycling work, processing waste electrical and electronic equipment for businesses including BT and British Gas, or building skips for waste management.
Mr Jackson said: “At Recycling Lives we pride ourselves in giving people opportunities to turn their lives around and the success that those people have. It is humbling to be recognised by the Minister and we too look forward to growing our programmes so we can reach even more people.”
The social enterprise is complemented by Recycling Lives’ residential charity, which offers accommodation from which men facing homelessness undertake training and work placements and have bespoke support in order to move into full-time work and their own home.
It is also supported by the business activities of Recycling Lives Ltd, a nationwide recycling business which offers training and employment to programme participants. Around 40% of Recycling Lives’ workforce, working across 12 sites nationwide, have come through one of its programmes.