25/10/2011 02:47 BST | Updated 24/12/2011 05:12 GMT

Only Connect, Arts Scheme, Helps Cut Re-offending By Half

An arts scheme for prisoners has helped cut reoffending by half, figures have shown.

Only Connect, which works with prisoners and ex-offenders, saw the reoffending rate among more than 50 criminals fall from an estimated 57.5% to 25.9%, saving almost £150,000 for each offender that stopped committing crimes, a report into the arts and criminal justice showed.

Former Scotland Yard commissioner Lord Blair, who is also chairman of the Thames Valley Partnership, which aims to find long-term solutions to crime and social exclusion, said the arts can "have a transformative effect on a person's life, particularly for young people".

Such schemes "have the potential to tackle deep-rooted problems" and "this can help them turn away from crime and start to lead purposeful and positive lives", he said.

The Unlocking Value report, commissioned by the Arts Alliance and produced by the consultancy charity New Philanthropy Capital (NPC), showed that 72 offenders had been involved with Only Connect, producing and performing in arts projects including theatre, film and music, and had now been released from prison.

Of the 58 for whom details were known, 15 had gone on to commit more offences, a reoffending rate of 25.9%.

Estimates using Ministry of Justice reoffending data, considering age, gender and time since release from prison, showed the reoffending rate would have been 57.5% without the arts scheme, the report said.

It added the average Only Connect member who reoffends would have cost the criminal justice system £145,528, based on an average of seven re-offences leading to reconviction and 38% of convictions leading to a jail sentence.

Tim Robertson, chairman of the Arts Alliance, said: "With a spiralling prison population, shocking rates of reoffending and steeply declining budgets, we urgently need to find new ways of working.

"The criminal justice sector needs to open its doors to arts organisations and find new ways of working in partnership with them."