Criminal justice and people with complex needs.

A large number of people who are in frequent contact with the criminal justice system have complex needs. People may experience problems in multiple areas of their life at once, becoming trapped in a chaotic life that it is hard to change.

A revolving door

A small number of offenders repeatedly return to custody. In Avon and Somerset, around 20% of all offences involve repeat offenders:

  • 1.4% of offenders account for 60% of returns to custody.*
  • According to the Lankelly Chase Foundation, those with complex needs are at  much higher risk of reoffending. 
  • Many repeat offenders find it difficult to access appropriate services.
  • A report by the Revolving Doors Agency found that many repeat offenders have multiple unmet and interrelated needs, and are frequently victims as well as perpetrators of crimes. 

Release and resettlement

Leaving custody and returning to the community can be very challenging for people with complex needs. Without adequate support, people can face challenges with:

  • Homelessness
  • Physical health
  • Mental health
  • Relationships
  • Addictions
  • Educational needs
  • Institutionalisation

Housing, in particular, can have a huge impact on the transition between prison and reintegration. For example, if housing is arranged prior to release, someone who has problems with drug use is much less likely to start using after leaving prison. **

Providing the right support for people with complex needs as they leave prison can help them reintegrate into society, reduce the risk of re-offending and help them to maintain hope and motivation.

Minority groups

There are issues particular to minority groups who come into contact with the criminal justice system:

  • The Lammy Review found that, despite making up just 14% of the general population, people from BAME communities make up 25% of prisoners. 
  • According to the Prison Reform Trust, women in prison are highly likely to be victims as well as offenders. More than half (53%) report having experienced emotional, physical or sexual abuse as a child. 
  • The charity Women in Prison reports that women in custody are five times more likely to have a mental health concern than women in the general population. 

Golden Key clients

Golden Key clients experience a challenging mix of homelessness, long-term mental health problems, dependency on drugs / alcohol and offending behaviour. Our clients find that involvement with the criminal justice system can contribute to a cyclical situation from which it is difficult to emerge.

Risk of re-offending is much greater if we don’t look at all the circumstances making up somebody’s life.  At Golden Key, we are working with clients and services to find better ways of providing support so that people with complex needs have better outcomes.


*Applying Behavioural Insights to offender recall in Avon and Somerset: Behavioural Insight Team, October 2017. p5

**Resettlement Outcomes on Release from Prison: Niven and Stewart (2005, p.5)