CRIMINALS from Somerset and the rest of the region coming out of prison are being helped to find homes and jobs to put them on the straight and narrow.

Criminal justice partners across the South West are joining together to help ex-offenders leave their past behind.

The South West Reducing Reoffending Board, chaired by Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens, has agreed a strategy for working together to support people with criminal convictions to find pathways out of offending.

That might include finding secure affordable housing, finding employment, education and training or ensuring support to health through treatment for addiction.

The board consists of representatives from probation, health and employment organisations, youth justice and rehabilitation agencies, police and voluntary services.

The board will focus on priorities including providing pathways for women, veterans, offenders given short-term sentences and offenders going from youth to adult transitions within the criminal justice system.

Sophie Baker, regional senior responsible officer for reducing reoffending, said: "The mechanisms for reducing reoffending will be the same regardless of geography, so taking a regional approach in this role will give me the opportunity to put things in place that enable us to deliver something together, using all of that knowledge and experience across the region to effect some real changes.”

Ms Mountstevens said: “This is a huge step forward in our collaboration to stop people who have served their sentences from slipping through the cracks and re-offending once again, which ultimately means they will cause more harm in our communities, create more victims and cost taxpayers more money in criminal justice proceedings.

“Statistics show that 60 per cent of people leaving prison will re-offend if they have not been able to secure employment within the first year of release.

“I am absolutely passionate about the benefits that rehabilitation and re-integration of ex-offenders into society can have for our communities in the long run as well as for those individuals.”