The Offenders (Day of Release from Detention) Act, which should see an end to Friday prison releases for the most vulnerable, has become law.
After receiving Royal Assent on 29th June 2023 the Act will come into effect on by the end of the year, giving prison governors the right to release vulnerable prisoners up to 48 hours earlier during the working week.
This change will see people have access to vital extra time to get the support they need in place – such as accommodation, mental health or substance misuse support and financial support, as well as attending meetings with probation. Getting vital support in place in he first few days help to reduce reoffending and give people the best chance at a second chance.
Why was ending Friday releases important?
Nacro spearheaded the campaign to end Friday releases after hearing from the people we support and our frontline staff about the specific problems those being released from prison on a Friday were facing.
Stanley is a Nacro service user who was previously released on a Friday: “I came out of prison homeless, late on Friday. The housing office had gone, substance misuse couldn’t see me until Monday. I couldn’t get an advance Universal Credit payment because I didn’t have ID.
“I was faced with just the discharge grant for the weekend, but needed clothes and food, as well as money for a place to stay. No wonder people reoffend.”
1 in 3 people are released from prison on Friday, meaning that services also face a unique pressure in trying to help people before they close for the weekend.
What has happened?
Following consultation as part of the 2021 Prisons Strategy White Paper, in 2022 the Ministry of Justice committed to taking action to reduce Friday releases. Simon Fell MP introduced the Offenders (Day of Release from Detention) Private Members Bill into the House of Commons in December 2022, and the bill passed into law and became an Act in June 2023.
The Act introduces a new power for Prison Governors to release people with high resettlement needs up to 48 hours early to help their resettlement. This for example could be people facing homelessness and in need of accommodation, people who face mental health or substance misuse issues and need to get support in place; people who need to travel a significant distance on leaving prison. This change will allow people and the services who support them vital extra time before the weekend to get the support they need in place.
Following Royal Assent of the new Act, the Ministry of Justice will work with prisons to begin implementing the changes.
On the passing of the bill, chief executive Campbell Robb said: “Today is an important day for all our service users and staff who shared their experiences and highlighted the problems with Friday prison releases. For too long Friday releases have been setting people up to fail, but hopefully no more.
This legislation means people with the highest needs can get that vital extra time after they leave prison to get support in place, such as housing, GP and health services, and probation before the weekend. We must now work to ensure prison Governors make good use of this power to help people who are leaving prison. This will all serve to help give people the best chance at a second chance and reduce reoffending.”
Thank you to everyone who has contributed to making this campaign a success.
You can find out more about our campaign and why this change is important