Freed prisoners to sign 'going straight' pledge

A scheme that takes its name from Ronnie Barker's limp follow-up to his classic prison sitcom Porridge is to be the Government's latest weapon to combat crime.

Prisoners will be required to make a formal pledge of future good behaviour by signing "Going Straight Contracts", a government report to the Prime Minister will recommend next week. The Government's social exclusion unit believes written promises not to commit more crimes will help drive down chronic rates of reoffending.

The prisoners, who would sign the contract on the point of sentence, are also expected to make reparations payments to their victims. They will also be compelled to spend part of their prison wages on paying for help from a case manager.

In return, they are offered a "full programme of activities and support", which is "tailored to the individual and covers the entire sentence, in and out of custody".

The social exclusion unit, based in the Cabinet Office, was set up by Tony Blair to tackle the growth of an underclass. It recommends rewards for prisoners who fulfil parts of their contract programme and sanctions if they break the rules.

The report found released inmates committed a million crimes a year (18 per cent of recorded crimes) at a cost of £11bn. Reoffenders commit an average of 15 offences in the two years after release.

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