Domic Raab is to end the practice of releasing prisoners on Fridays without any support in an effort to cut reoffending and cut crime. The charity NACRO last year highlighted the problems of people being released from custody at the end of the week who are left without vital support over the weekend ‘leading to homelessness, lost contact with services, relapse, and reoffending‘.
It has been reported that the Justice Secretary is to change the law to allow governors to release prisoners earlier in the week. ‘Around one in three offenders leave jail on a Friday, but can struggle to sort out accommodation, register with a GP and sign up for job support before services shut down for the weekend,’ reported the Daily Telegraph. ‘This race against the clock can result in ex-offenders failing to get the support they need, so they end up homeless on the streets, where they can be easily drawn back into crime.’
According to Ministry of Justice (MoJ) research, the release day can make a five per cent difference in the likelihood of reoffending – with 35% of those freed on a Monday re-convicted within a year compared with 40% for a Friday.
The release date of a prisoner is calculated in days from the point when they are sentenced.
According to NACRO, more than a third of prison leavers are released on a Friday. ‘This can result in people being released later in the day, leaving limited time to present to services before the weekend,’ the group says. ‘People may also have to travel significant distances to reach the area they are being resettled to, arriving late in the day, which reduces the likelihood of them securing all the support they need. This issue is particularly relevant to women and young people due to the configuration of the prison estate and the distance they may be from their home area.’ The group; reckons that women are held, on average, 63 miles from their homes and 11% of children in custody are held over 100 miles from their homes. The Friday release also places ‘unnecessary stress’ on probation officers, housing authorities, other accommodation providers, Jobcentre Plus and other community services staff.
Last year Lord Atlee and Lord Hodgson tabled an amendment to the Police, Crime Sentencing and Courts Bill allowing governors discretion over when to let inmates out. It was backed by Lord Bird, founder of the Big Issue. ‘I know from when I was homeless the deep and interconnecting link between prison and the streets,’ he said. ‘We need to break that link to have any hope of stopping this endless cycle of releasing people homeless, and seeing them go back into prison. Ending Friday releases, with the linked increased risk of homelessness, is one positive move towards that.’