On 14th June 2022, the Government anounced that it will end Friday prison releases to prevent the race against the clock that is faced by many prisoners released on a Friday.
We are delighted to hear about this announcement as many of our clients have struggled with this issue for years. They are released from prison, often only finding out this is happening on the day of release, on a Friday afternoon and are left to try and piece their lives back together. One client arrived with us on a Friday in 2021 with no more than the clothes he was wearing explaining he had been released that morning and asked to use our phone. He had a range of health issues yet he had no GP and had been left to try and register himself somewhere. He also had to try and call the council to see if any emergency accommodation could be provided and the DWP to see if an emergency payment could be given to him so he had food over the weekend. He told staff ‘I’m bored of this lifestyle. I just want some help to change’. He has been in and out of prison 22 times in 14 years.
Unfortunately this isn’t an isolated case and by the time such individuals arrive with us they often only have 3 or 4 hours left in the day to contact services before they shut for the weekend. It is saddening to see the huge effort these individuals go to to try and do all of this, as most simply want to put the past behind them and move on with their lives, yet still end up spending their first weekend after release on the streets with no support in place.
Many may think people end up in this situation as a choice and it must be because they are lazy or turn down help, but for most this simply isn’t the case. Whatever people feel about the fact that these individuals have committed a crime, the fact is that without support in place these individuals are far more likely to end up resorting to crimes to try and survive and end up back in prison. This revolving door prison system is not only detrimental to those who are stuck in it but also negatively affects the whole of society as it takes tax payer money to continue to put the same people through the court and prison system over and over again when sometimes the simplest forms of support could avoid this.
We have had clients who will return to drug use to cope with the fact they have moved from a highly structured prison environment where their whole routine is dictated by someone else, to fending for themselves on the street. Many have lost their tolerance to drugs whilst in prison and will overdose and die. This simple change gives people more time to contact the council before they close for the weekend to see if emergency housing can be given to ensure they have a safe place off the streets for the weekend away from old acquaintances who will try and tempt them back into old ways (and it is no wonder that many end up back in old habits if it feels that there is no hope of anything better around the corner).