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  • Writer's pictureClare Jerrom

Vulnerable prisoners supported on release in a bid to prevent reoffending

A new law designed to reduce re-offending will ensure that thousands of prisoners who may be vulnerable to addiction, mental health problems or homelessness will no longer be released on Fridays.

One in three prisoners are released from custody on a Friday, leaving them a limited opportunity time-wise to access essential support, such as housing, registering with a GP and signing up with the job centre, before services shut for the weekend.

According to research, an offender’s release day can make a difference to that person’s likelihood of reoffending. Those with stable accommodation arranged 50 per cent less likely to commit further offences.

The Offenders (Day of Release from Detention) Bill has received Royal Assent today and provides prison governors with the power to release prisoners with mental health issues, substance misuse problems or who have far to travel home, on a Wednesday or Thursday instead.

The move is designed to prevent the damaging race against the clock for prison leavers to get the help they need before many support services close for the weekend - which in turn increases their risk of reoffending and puts the public at risk.

Prisons Minister Damian Hinds said: "By maximising the time people have when they leave prison to get a job, a home and access drug treatment we can continue to drive down reoffending rates."

Only prisoners who pass security checks will be considered eligible for release, with the final decision taken by prison governors when the Act comes into force.

Simon Fell MP, sponsor of the Offenders (Day of Release from Detention) Act, said: "This Bill makes a small change in the law that will deliver a huge difference to the lives of those released from prison, cut reoffending rates, reduce the pressure on prisons, and cut levels of crime."

Kevin Campbell, Deputy Manager at Wipers Youth, said: "It is vital for offenders with a history of substance misuse or mental health problems to have access to health support in the community. Without a continuation of care, any work carried out in prison to address substance misuse or mental ill health is futile, with offenders being set up to fail."

"Changing the release day is a common sense approach to enable offenders to register with a GP, arrange housing and any support they may need while services are open, rather than leaving them stranded on a Friday waiting two days for many support services to re-open."

"Prison governors should also consider the use of mentors for people leaving prison so that they have someone to support and empower then during a critical time and to ensure they take the right path going forwards, rather than succumbing to any temptation to reoffend," concluded Campbell.


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