Prisoners to be released mid-week instead of Friday to lower reoffending

·2-min read
Prisoners at HMYOI Werrington (PA Archive)
Prisoners at HMYOI Werrington (PA Archive)

Prisoners facing mental health, addiction or mobility issues will be released mid-week so they can find a bed and a doctor before services close for the weekend, the government vows.

People with additional needs will be released from prison on Wednesday or Thursday, instead of Friday, in a bid to reduce their risk of reoffending and to make UK streets safer.

The planned law change is designed to stop prisoners from having a “race against the clock” before GPs, job support services and other organisations close for the weekend.

It’s hoped an earlier release will lead to fewer prisoners spending their first days on the streets, and ultimately a reduction in crime.

The initiative is part of a suite of prison reforms announced by Prisons Minister Victoria Atkins on Tuesday, including a £25 million boost to prison security.

“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,” she said.

Prisons Minister Victoria Atkins (PA Archive)
Prisons Minister Victoria Atkins (PA Archive)

Figures reveal that around 1 in 3 offenders are currently leaving prison on a Friday, but that only gives them a few short hours to arrange a place to sleep, register with a GP and sign-up for job support before services close for the weekend.

Nacro chief executive Campbell Robb, who has campagined to end Friday releases, said they 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.”

Nacro figures show that almost 1,000 people released from prison are homeless or rough sleeping every month, and around half of people who are released from prison reoffend within a year.

Reoffending rates increase to two thirds for people who are released homeless.

Nacro said around 90 percent of the prison population have mental health or substance misue problems.

The decision to release a prisoner earlier than Friday will be made by Governors.

The Ministry of Justice has also promised a major cash injection to give front-line prison staff upgraded phone detectors, and to increase technology that detects illegal drugs.

Shadow Justice Minister Ellie Reeves said the government “have finally seen sense”.

“When Labour called for an end to Friday release in the PCSC Bill the government refused to support it,” Ms Reeves told the Evening Standard.

“One year on, they have finally seen sense, but this is only an end to Friday release for some offenders: without a blanket end to Friday release, other offenders will still be at risk of relapsing into crime to get by if they cannot access services that help them re-enter society.

“Labour will make prisons work and break the cycle of reoffending that creates more victims.”

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