Seventy per cent of adults in the UK support social justice charity Nacro’s campaign to stop prison releases on Fridays and before public holidays, including Christmas, according to a recent poll. The public support comes as further figures reveal that there was a 20% increase in recall to custody among people released from prison on the Friday before last Christmas compared to those released between Monday and Thursday the same week.
Nacro highlights that people released on Fridays and just before public holidays face extra pressure in accessing essential support before services close for the weekend or holidays, which can lead to rough sleeping and surviving on very limited money until services reopen.
Currently a third of people are released from prison on a Friday. And newly available data shows that, for the week before Christmas 2017, this figure rose significantly, with almost half of people released on the Friday.
With the first day of release already being a ‘race against the clock’ to access services before they close, the additional challenge of an upcoming weekend or period of public holiday can result in ex-prisoners not being able to get vital medication, and having to sleep rough and survive on a £46 discharge grant (which has remained the same for more than 15 years) until services reopen.
Nacro suggests that being unable to access such services immediately can increase the likelihood of an ex-prisoner reoffending, including to avoid homelessness, which has increased by 169% since 2010, according to Homeless Link. Nacro believes Friday releases should be spread across the earlier part of the week.
Facing homelessness is a harsh reality for many ex-prisoners. New figures from charity Crisis have found that more than 24,000 people in the UK will spend the festive period sleeping rough or in makeshift accommodation, throwing light on the country’s hidden homelessness problem.
Further data obtained by Revolving Doors Agency from the Ministry of Justice shows huge risk of being homeless on release from prison. One thousand prisoners a month are released homeless and rough sleeping, according to the charity.
While the rates of homelessness is high for the entire prison population, it is most pronounced for people serving short sentences, with the same data revealing the known rates of rough sleeping on release from prison sentenced to less than six months has increased by 20 times in the last 18 months.
Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive of Crisis, said: “We know that people leaving prisons are some of the most likely individuals to end up homeless because of the limited support available when they leave. Releasing people from prison on a Friday when services are closing can make matters even worse, and is simply setting them up to fail."
"To ensure people can move forward and play a positive role in society it’s vital that, on the day of release, they can access the help they need, and that must include help with finding a home.”
In August 2018, Nacro launched a new campaign to overcome the practical barriers to effective resettlement for prison leavers. Its first policy briefing recommended reforms to stop prisons from releasing people on a Friday, giving them the best possible chance of moving forwards in their lives and away from crime.
Jacob Tas, Chief Executive Officer at Nacro, said: “There is widespread support for ending prison releases on Fridays and before public holidays. There is a window of opportunity on release when people are eager to move on in their lives.
“This simple change would not only reduce the likelihood of people having to sleep rough, or go without medication or other critical support when they leave custody, but also reduce the risk of reoffending.”
Since the launch of this campaign, Nacro has been collating examples of the impact of Friday releases to help build its case and influence the Government. Such strong support from the public helps to bolster its efforts.
In order to reduce the risk of reoffending, which reportedly costs some £15 billion annually, the Government and prison governors should, wherever possible, stop releasing people on Fridays and the day before public holidays and spread these releases throughout the earlier part of the week.