Impact of the early prison release scheme
image of chelmsford prison

The impact of the early release scheme in our housing services


I work for Nacro helping people coming out of prison to get housing. I have seen the challenges prisons have at the moment, we see men coming out who have been locked in their cells for 22 hours a day, haven’t been able to do work or training and haven’t been able to see anyone about their mental health. Something has to give.

Letting people out early could work but it has to be done properly.

There has been some problems will the roll out of the early release scheme (End of Custody Supervised License).

People are released early with short notice and because prison staff are overstretched they don’t always let us know in advance of people coming out. Sometimes we simply don’t know who is being released until the actual day, at which point there is very little that we can do.

Without enough notice, housing is difficult, if not impossible, to arrange, also it removes the chance to line up mental health or substance misuse services for people. There have also been a number of times when people have been released under the scheme without us being given any warning at all. They just come out and we hear about it afterwards. It’s so frustrating because we’re the ones who are supposed to be giving them with support, helping them get back on their feet and start again. What chance to they have if we haven’t even been able to see them when they are getting out.

Getting released from prison is a very stressful moment for people. Its even worse if they don’t have the basics in place, like housing, which is becoming increasingly difficult in the current climate.

I have seen people so distressed when they are about to be released with nowhere to live and no support in place that they have hurt themselves and threatened to take their own life. This is horrible to see. I’ve seen people ask to be able to stay in prison rather than face the uncertainty and danger of life on the streets.

This fear is made worse if people don’t get enough time to prepare. Some people tell us that they only realised that they were going to be released from prison when they found that their discharge grant, the money they get on release to pay for travel etc, was in their prison bank account. Some have said they were only told on the morning that they were going to be released that day. It is clear that this isn’t good enough. We need to ensure that all prison releases are planned and prepared for. Otherwise, we are simply setting people up to fail.

Releasing someone homeless or without any support makes it much more likely they will get drawn back into committing crime. There are examples of people being recalled to prison very soon after their release, and sometimes even before what would have been their original release date.

Then everything has to start all over again. Its more work on an already overburdened staff. I also know from my experience of working within prisons that a failed attempt to turn your life around on release and a fast return to prison can take away someone’s hope and determination to turn their back on crime. Surely this is the opposite of what we all want.