368. The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) stated in
2002 that "the three key factors to reducing re-offending
are work, accommodation and family support".
Research conducted by Nacro suggests that ex-prisoners with accommodation
are between 20% and 50% less likely to re-offend than homeless
a Home Office evaluation of prison work and training in found
that employment on release reduces the risk of re-offending between
a third and a half.
Yet the PAC reported that four out of ten prisoners were homeless
on release, and that over 40% of prisoners lose contact with families
or friends in the course of a prison sentence.
The Government's National Action Plan states that "only a
third of prisoners return to some form of settled accommodation
Statistics from our 'Prison Diary Project' completed in June 2004
paint the same negative picture, with 66.6% of prisoners having
no job on release and only 19% of prisoners receiving advice or
guidance about accommodation and even less (16%) receiving advice
or guidance about finding a job. As the General Secretary of the
Prison Officers' Association pointed out to us in oral evidence,
"if you approach the rehabilitation of offenders
purely from a prison perspective,
then I think it is a
when people leave prison they need to
be looked after, and need to continue the rehabilitative process.
If that process ends, for whatever reason, if you go back into
the same kind of social climate you have come out of which contributed
or caused your criminal behaviour, if your mental health problems
cease to be adjusted or corrected at the prison gate, if you cease
to take medication for mental health problems, if you cease to
get intervention with regard to your personality disorder, or
if you go back into a community where hard drugs are normal then
one should not be surprised, when you compare those people coming
out of prison, that the re-offending rate is not as good as anyone
369. The statistics underline the importance of a
resettlement planning as an integrated element of the prison rehabilitation
strategy. The result of failure to provide an adequate level of
support for prisoners preparing for release is the continuation
of the cycle of re-offending.
370. Rule 5 of the Prison Rules 1999 requires that
"from the beginning of a prisoner's sentence, consideration
shall be given, in consultation with the appropriate after-care
organisation, to the prisoner's future and the assistance to be
given him on and after his release".
The Prison Service informed us that about 50 prisons now operate
some form of housing advice and support service, and that it is
developing a prison-based housing advice and support service,
drawing on the experience of prison projects originally developed
with the Rough Sleepers Unit.
371. In her Annual Report for 2001-02, HM Chief Inspector
of Prisons, Anne Owers, commented that, more often than not, her
inspectors noted the absence of a coherent and effective resettlement
strategy. The Prison Service's "Measuring the Quality of
Prison Life" audit in 2002 found that the area of resettlement
produced the most wide ranging prisoner responses across establishments,
with levels of facilities, help and support varying substantially
from prison to prison. During our prison visits, we saw had experience
of a number of models of good practice in relation to settlement
programmes, with some prisons running small-scale advice and job
centres. However, in the main such schemes are in their infancy.
372. The Resettlement Key Performance Indicator target
for 2002-03 was for 28,200 prisoners to find employment, training
or education places after release. The Home Office Annual Report
2004 states that 21,919 prisoners entered employment in 2003.
However, this statistic is based upon employment, training or
education outcomes which are defined as a full or part-time paid
job, part-time training or education place on release (each scoring
one point towards the target) or attendance at a booked interview
at the prisoner's local JobCentre after release (scoring a ½
-point towards the target). This statistic included 14,173 unemployed
prisoners who attended a FRESHSTART interview at their local Jobcentre
on release. The
Prison Service has given no indication of the outcomes of these
initial interviews. We do not find the Home Office's Resettlement
Key Performance Indicator helpful. We suggest the adoption of
an indicator which is a more accurate gauge of the employment
levels of ex-prisoners.
373. The Prison Service's efforts to date regarding
resettlement of prisoners have been very much ad hoc. The
extent and nature of assistance provided to prisoners prior to
release is uneven across the prison estate, reflecting the priorities
of individual prison governors.
374. We regret that the Government's National
Action Plan limits resettlement activities to the provision of
housing advice and improving "accommodation outcomes".
We recommend that the Government develops a more comprehensive
resettlement model to be incorporated into its National Action
Plan, with the aim of providing prisoners close to release with
practical advice and support to address accommodation, employment
and family matters.
375. Historically, when prisoners are released, social
services and community support agencies are far from pro-active
in identifying them, and indeed there is evidence that prisoners
are actively deprioritised. Many ex-prisoners experience real
obstacles to re-engaging in learning or drug programmes on release;
but these pale into insignificance compared with the difficulties
they encounter when trying to access housing and benefits.
376. We welcome the Government's initial attempts
in its National Action Plan to address the issue of accommodation
for ex-prisoners. We recommend that the resettlement of offenders
become a cornerstone in the new approach to offender management
envisaged by NOMS, with the development of comprehensive resettlement
strategies as integrated parts of the Regional Rehabilitation
377. We also recommend that Crime Reduction Partnerships
should be actively involved in the resettlement of ex-prisoners.
Resettlement strategies should be integrated into local crime
reduction strategies so that health, education and housing agencies,
together with social services, are committed to dealing with the
resettlement of offenders.
378. We note the difficulties created by the current
levels of overcrowding with regard to implementing the resettlement
programme we have advocated. At present, and for some time to
come, significant numbers of prisoners will not be released from
a prison close to their home locality. Basic logistical problems
can impact detrimentally on out-reach work attempting to link
prisoners with local services, employers and accommodation agencies.
We recommend that in the short-term, co-ordinated communication
systems be established to enable prison staff (and prisoners)
to make contact with key agencies in the local areas to which
prisoners are returning. In the medium term, resettlement teams
should be established in each of the ten NOMS regions with responsibility
for the practical resettlement of prisoners to that region, identifying
housing and training or employment opportunities within the region,
as well as liaising with housing agencies, training providers
and employers and arranging support for offenders from mentors.
379. In his report on Prison Disturbances in April
1990, Lord Woolf recommended the establishment of local community
prisons on the grounds that (i) prisoners would maintain better
links with their families if they were imprisoned locally; (ii)
better links with families would in turn assist with ex-prisoners
return to the community; (iii) local custody would also help with
obtaining employment and accommodation on release as well as facilitating
continuity in links with the probation service both before and
The current Director General of HM Prison Service, Mr Phil Wheatley,
has acknowledged that "the reason why we do not have community
prisons is not because they are not a good idea, it is because
the prison estate is where it is and it does not actually line
up with where prisoners come from".
380. In our view, to achieve the objective of
reducing re-offending there are sound reasons in the long term
to move from the regional to the local model of offender management,
particularly in light in the shift towards community sentencing
introduced by the Criminal Justice Act 2003. We recommend that
the Government develop a long-term local community strategy in
tandem with its implementation of regional offender management.
300 Committee of Public Accounts, Fifty-third Report
of Session 2001-02, Reducing Prisoner Re-offending (HC
619), para 2 Back
Ev 197 (para 3) Back
Home Office, An evaluation of prison work and training (1996) Back
HC (2001-02) 619, para 31 Back
National Action Plan, p 9 Back
S.I., 1999, No. 728 Back
Ev 141 (para 3.4.5) Back
Prison Disturbances, April 1990. Report of an Inquiry by
the Rt Hon Lord Justice Woolf (Parts I and II) and His Honour
Judge Tumim (Part II) Back
Q 273 Back