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8 Jul 2020

Howard League responds to report on prisoners released to homelessness

The Howard League for Penal Reform has responded to a report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation, published today (Wednesday 8 July), about the lack of suitable accommodation for people released from prison and in the community.

Inspectors found that people who were released into unstable accommodation were significantly more likely to return to prison.

The report cites Ministry of Justice figures showing that, between April 2018 and March 2019, 11,453 people were released into homelessness and 4,742 homeless people began community sentences. Almost one in six men and almost one in five women released from prison had nowhere to live.

Problems have grown since the coronavirus pandemic began. Young adults in contact with the Howard League have experienced huge difficulties in obtaining packages of accommodation and support. In response to a parliamentary question last month, the government revealed that 273 young adults were released to homelessness or to unknown accommodation between 23 March and 30 April 2020.

The Howard League legal team runs a free and confidential legal advice line for children and young adults in custody. One young adult told the charity that his probation officer had said she recalled him to custody because she could not find alternative accommodation during the pandemic. Another young adult encountered a lack of support from probation and social services when it came to finding and approving accommodation; he remained in custody even after his approved early release date until the Howard League threatened legal action.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “The best way to help someone move away from crime and build a brighter future is to ensure that they have a home. Common sense tells us that any system that sweeps up the homeless and makes matters worse is in urgent need of change.

“The government has promised to eliminate homelessness. Now, as the country emerges from lockdown and rough sleepers start to return to the streets, ministers must rise to that challenge to help the fragile and the poor. The Howard League’s own legal work reveals the scale and seriousness of the problem.

“Reducing the prison population, funding local government properly and delivering an effective probation service with strong links to housing and women’s centres are key measures that would cut crime and make everyone safer.”

The release of prisoners to homelessness is a longstanding problem that has been highlighted in a series of prison inspection reports over several years.

As long ago as 2016, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons reported that women leaving Bronzefield prison had been given tents and sleeping bags. Last year, an independent monitoring board report revealed that men leaving Norwich prison could apply for rucksacks containing a sleeping bag and clothes.

Notes to editors

1.     The Howard League for Penal Reform is the oldest penal reform charity in the world. It is a national charity working for less crime, safer communities and fewer people in prison.

2.     The challenges faced by young adults seeking accommodation and support during the coronavirus pandemic are revealed in a Howard League briefing, Young Adults in prison during the Covid-19 pandemic, which can be downloaded from the Howard League website.

3.     In response to a parliamentary question from shadow justice minister Lyn Brown MP on 12 June 2020, Justice Minister Lucy Frazer revealed that 273 young adults were released from prison to homelessness or unknown accommodation between 23 March 2020 and 30 April 2020. The parliamentary question and response can be viewed online.

4.     Frances Crook blogged about homelessness and the penal system in June 2019.

5.     In 2018 the Howard League worked with children in custody to find out their views of what home meant to them. The briefing, More than a roof overhead, can be downloaded from the Howard League website.

6.     Accommodation and support for adult offenders in the community and on release from prison in England will be available from Wednesday 8 July on the Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation website.


Rob Preece
Campaigns and Communications Manager
Mobile: +44 (0)7714 604955

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