Leading homelessness charity St Mungo’s has called new Government legislation to end Friday releases for select prisoners a “positive step” towards prison reform.

The legislation, announced yesterday (14 June 2022) as part of a package of prison reforms, will see releases brought forward by up to 48 hours for offenders vulnerable to homelessness, substance dependency and poor mental health.

Government figures show that 1 in 3 offenders currently leave prison on a Friday, leaving them with a limited window to access accommodation, vital health support and employment services before the weekend when most are closed.

Many people are forced to sleep rough as a result, and can suffer poor health and return to substance use.

St Mungo’s statistics show that 45% of the charity’s clients are ex-offenders, many of whom have left prison without secure accommodation in place.

Dan Olney, St Mungo’s Services Director, Criminal Justice, said: “Ending Friday releases for particularly vulnerable offenders is a positive step.

“To some it may seem like a small change but it can have a huge effect.

“Leaving prison with only a short window to access services can mean large numbers of ex-offenders end up sleeping rough, and can be particularly challenging for those affected by substance use and mental health issues who benefit most from extra support during their recovery.

“The announcement has caveats and we would recommend it go a step further to include all offenders, not only the most vulnerable.

“Every ex-offender deserves access to the suitable accommodation, health services and community support that is needed for them to rebuild their lives.”

Ending Friday releases was a key recommendation in the Kerslake Commission on Homelessness and Rough Sleeping, convened by St Mungo’s and chaired by former head of the Civil Service Lord Bob Kerslake, which also called for further governance around connecting ex-offenders with support services and communities prior to leaving prison.

St Mungo’s also submitted written evidence to support the Government’s Prison Strategy White Paper in February this year, which included highlighting that accommodation with appropriate support – not simply housing – must be the focus of provision for people leaving prison.

The submission also emphasised that prisons must address individual’s reoffending risk factors – looking at mental and physical health, education and skills, and housing situation –to successfully prevent people from leaving prison into homelessness and reoffending.