33.Almost half of those who spend time in prison will go on to reoffend within a year of their release. Reoffending costs society and the economy £18.1 billion each year. Over half of this (£10 billion) is the direct costs to individuals and services due to a crime taking place. Reoffending can also have a considerable impact on the emotional wellbeing of victims and on wider society. The Ministry recognised that the best way to tackle crime was to reduce reoffending. HMPPS similarly told us that it was working hard to ensure that when people leave prison, they have the right support in place and do not reoffend. It told us that it had recruited a new director for reducing reoffending, specifically to help it look more widely at how it could reduce reoffending, as well as having established resettlement and training prisons to help prisoners address the behaviour that led to them to reoffend. HMPPS also told us that it was working closely with the Department for Work and Pensions and the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government to identify how they could provide the proper support for people leaving prison through initiatives such as the Prison Leavers Project. It explained that this was aligned with its Through the Gate programme, which looked at the needs of people leaving prison and started working with them several weeks before they leave prison to try to address their needs. Witnesses explained that reoffending was not just an issue for HMPPS or the Ministry and that addressing it would require a cross-government effort.
34.In our 2019 review of the Ministry’s progress in transforming rehabilitation, we concluded that the Ministry would not make sustained progress with reducing reoffending until it could provide the support offenders desperately needed on leaving prison, including securing stable accommodation. We recommended that the Ministry, working with the Reducing Reoffending Board should report back to us, setting out a cross-government strategy to reduce reoffending, by the end of June 2019. The Government accepted our recommendation in July 2019. In its response to our report, it agreed that an overarching strategy focused on reducing reoffending was required and committed to implementing our recommendation by the summer of 2020. Despite this, a cross-government strategy has not yet been published. We therefore asked the Ministry when this was likely to take place. It said that it was “not sure if there is an imminent publication”. It committed to taking advice and coming back to us on this issue.
35.The way offenders were treated on their release from prison has a significant impact on how they re-integrate into society. We received written evidence from Middlesex University, which told us that poor or inadequate resettlement pathways had resulted in lack of adequate housing options for prisoners on their release. On 4th April 2020, the Government announced that up to 4,000 prisoners could be released to prevent the spread of the disease. Eighty-one prisoners had been released by 8th June 2020. We asked the Ministry how many of those who had been released did not have settled accommodation to go to on their release. The Ministry told us that it had set clear conditions that people would not be released unless there was a housing solution available to them on their release. Both the Ministry and HMPPS told us that accommodation had been available in 100% of cases. HMPPS explained that this was often accommodation that the prisoner had arranged for themselves, and that it had worked with local authorities and the voluntary sector to make sure people had secure accommodation to go to on their release. We asked what proportion of this accommodation had been provided by local authorities and by the private sector, and whether any of this accommodation had been temporary accommodation hostels or hotels. HMPPS was unable to provide this breakdown but committed to getting back to us.
36.In April 2020, the Chief Inspector of Prisons similarly found that, within local prisons, resettlement assessments and planning for release had been limited as a result of COVID-19. It found that good efforts had been made to address accommodation needs at several prisons and few prisoners were released homeless. However, it was clear that for many prisoners the only provision was short-term, emergency accommodation that was often found only on the day of release. It also heard of one instance where proactive work by the health care department in liaison with a community housing provider had ensured that temporary accommodation was found for a man who had recently recovered from COVID-19 who would otherwise have been released homeless.
75 Q 43, Ministry of Justice, , Alexander Newton, Xennor May, Steven Eames & Maryam Ahmad, 2019
76 Qq 43–44
77 Committee of Public Accounts, , Ninety-Fourth Report of Session 2017–19, HC 1747, 3 May 2019
78 HM Treasury, , CP 151, July 2019
79 Q 45
80 IPE0007 - , Professor Loraine Gelsthorpe (Professor of Criminology & Criminal Justice, Director of the Institute of Criminology at Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge) 1 July 2020; Committee of Public Accounts, , Ninety-Fourth Report of Session 2017–19, HC 1747, 3 May 2019
81 IPE0005 - , Dr Matthew Cracknell, Middlesex University, London, 1 July 2020
82 IPE0007 - , Professor Loraine Gelsthorpe (Professor of Criminology & Criminal Justice, Director of the Institute of Criminology at Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge) 1 July 2020
83 Qq 22–26
84 HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, , 28 April 2020
Published: 11 September 2020