End to Friday prison releases to cut crime
Prisoners vulnerable to addiction, mental health issues or homelessness will no longer be released on Fridays under new plans to cut reoffending.
As part of a package of prison reforms announced today (June 14) the release date of selected offenders will be brought forward by up to 48 hours to stop them lapsing immediately back towards a life of crime.
Figures show that around one in three offenders currently leave prison on a Friday – giving them just a few short hours to arrange a bed for the night, register with a GP and sign-up for job support to keep them on the straight and narrow before services shut down for the weekend.
This can end up with ex-offenders spending their first days on the streets with little in the way of support – increasing the likelihood they will commit further crimes.
Under plans announced today by Prisons Minister Victoria Atkins, offenders with severe mental health needs or addiction problems, or who have mobility problems, likely to end up homeless or who have far to travel home, will be released on the Wednesday or Thursday before their Friday release date, with strict security screenings in place.
Ms Atkins, said: “Changing the rules so that well-behaved offenders can be released a day or two ahead of the end of their sentence will ultimately result in fewer victims and less crime.
“Making sure ex-offenders can get suitable housing and support ahead of the weekend means they are far more likely to stay on the straight and narrow – reducing reoffending and making our streets safer.”
Campbell Robb, Nacro chief executive, said: “For too long Friday releases have been setting people up to fail. Our campaign to end Friday releases was driven by the experience of our staff and service users and we are pleased to see this change. It is vital this is there for everyone who needs it.
“Now people will have vital extra time during the working week to secure housing, register with probation and access health services. This will help people have the best chance at their second chance.”
David Lloyd and Emily Spurrell, Association of Police and Crime Commissioners leads for criminal justice, said: “We welcome the Government announcement which will see an end to vulnerable prisoners being released on a Friday.
“This is a simple and cost-effective step which could make a significant difference to the likeliness of prisoners reoffending.
“Those who suffer with mental ill health or homelessness, in particular, strongly rely on support agencies, many of which have less capacity, only operate during the week or close early on Fridays for the weekend.
“Although prisoners are supported prior to their release, those initial few hours and days are crucial in determining whether they reoffend or take steps to get their lives back on the right path.
“Leaving vulnerable newly released prisoners sleeping rough can only increase the risk of reoffending and if this can be avoided than it certainly should be.
“As PCCs we are committed to ensuring the whole criminal justice system works together and as part of this it is vital the Government explores all aspects if we are to effectively tackle and reduce reoffending.”
The announcement is part of a package of reforms outlined in the Government’s response to the public consultation on its Prisons Strategy White Paper, published in December last year.
Ministers have also detailed a new £25 million investment in prison security to tackle the use of mobile phones behind bars by equipping front-line staff with upgraded phone detectors.
Some of the investment will be used to increase the number of special machines that can detect microscopic smears of illegal substances such as spice on prisoners’ mail, stopping dangerous drugs from getting onto wings and wreaking havoc.
The £100 million invested in jail security in the past two years is said to have thwarted more than 20,000 plots to smuggle drugs, phones and weapons into prisons during that time.