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Social Justice

End Friday releases for prisoners so they can access housing and health services, Big Issue founder tells Lords

With reoffending rates for adults released on a Friday higher than for any other day of the week, an unlucky release date puts some ex-convicts at a disadvantage

Prisoners released on a Friday have just a few hours to secure a bed for the night, but a new law could see them free to go up to two days early, giving them precious time to get set up for a life on the outside. 

With many essential support services, such as local authority housing, substance misuse support or mental health services closed at weekends and bank holidays, those released on a Friday face an extra set back that could leave them homeless their first night out of prison. 

Those released on a Friday “struggle to get the essential support they need on release to keep them away from crime in those first few delicate and crucial days out of custody,” Lord Bird told the House of Lords as the bill reaches its second reading.

If passed, the Offenders (Day of Release from Detention) Bill would allow an ex-convicts’s release date would be brought forward up to two days if falls on a Friday or the day before a bank or public holiday.

“By removing the barriers that a Friday release can bring, we can ensure that custody-leavers have a better chance to access the support they need to reintegrate into the community so that victims and the public are protected,” Lord Bird continued. 

Around a third of all prisoners are released on a Friday, with the reoffending rate for adults released on a Friday is higher than for any other day of the week. Former prisoners living in safe accommodation are around 50 per cent less re-offend.

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“Too many women are being released from prison into homelessness, running the risk of reoffending to get through the weekend,” said Lizzy Jewell, head of communications at Working Chance. “[This] bill will ensure that people leaving prison can get the support they need promptly, giving them the best chance to restart their lives and move away from the criminal justice system,” she continued.

Brought to parliament by Tory MP Simon Fell, the government has backed the bill, saying it will lead to “hundreds of crimes [being] prevented in [a] boost to public safety”.

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Commenting on the bill, Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab said: “Protecting the public is my top priority and we know access to housing, job support and substance misuse services are crucial in helping ex-offenders stay on the straight and narrow. By ending Friday releases for certain prisoners we will reduce reoffending and cut crime, making our communities safer.”

People with convictions already face a host of barriers when seeking to rejoin society after time in prison, including prejudice from potential employers who can withdraw a job offer if the application has a criminal record. However, many companies are starting to become more aware of the benefits of hiring a diverse workforce with a range of experiences and backgrounds.

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