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Howard League’s blog · 28 May 2019

Extending release on temporary licence is a decision based on evidence

Frances Crook in front of office bookshelves

More prisoners will be given the opportunity for early release on temporary licence. This is another undoing of a Chris Grayling decision, which was taken six years ago and meant that thousands of men and women spent longer in prison and were denied the opportunity to find work, spend time with families prior to release and acclimatise themselves to the real world.

To reverse the cliché, rocket science is straightforward as it is based on mathematics; it is humans who are complicated and unpredictable. There is no science that will predict with absolute certainty what is going to happen and how people will behave. There is robust evidence that most people, in most circumstances, will comply with the restrictions placed on early release and that most people, in most circumstances, have better outcomes if they are eased back into the community from prison with opportunities to get work experience and reunite with families.

The evidence is pretty clear that having somewhere to live, something to do all day, and someone to care for you is the best chance you have of going straight and leading a good and useful life on release. Release on temporary licence provides that transition from prison where you make no decisions, where your every move is controlled and constrained, to life outside where decisions and choices and relationships are totally different.

The evidence is pretty clear that having somewhere to live, something to do all day, and someone to care for you is the best chance you have of going straight

The justice secretary, David Gauke, has looked at the evidence and made a sensible decision. The evidence shows that 99 per cent of the time people comply. There will be mistakes, when someone goes out and gets rotten drunk or, sadly, commits a further crime. The victim of that crime will justifiably feel anguish and resentment. But, there would be many hundreds more victims of the crimes committed by the thousands of people released without early release who are just dumped back in the community if we deny them the opportunity to be eased back with support and hope.

Families also deserve a chance to ease their partner back into their midst. Women who have survived without their man in their home and their bed, children who have not had a father, need to repair and recreate that relationship slowly and carefully if it is to work.

Everyone needs hope, something better on the horizon, and giving people in prison a chance to see a new life by learning skills and earning some money will provide that hope. Being a prisoner becomes an identity; people need to create a new identity as a citizen and an employee and a family man.

This is not a dramatic reform, but it will make a difference to a few hundred longer-term prisoners, their families and even some local businesses who can employ them.

I applaud a politician who makes decisions based on evidence.


  • Claire Durtnall says:

    Not only a rational decision based on the evidence, but a humane decision, particularly for the families supporting their relative in prison.

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