Plans to house prisoners after they serve their jail term

Crime / Tue 10th Oct 2023 at 08:50am

A VITAL agreement to prevent ex-offenders from facing homelessness when they leave prison has been announced by Essex County Council and its partners today.

The aim of the Essex Prison Release Housing Protocol is to assure stable housing is in place at the time of release. This will, in turn, help ex-offenders transition back into society, reduce the risk of reoffending, and reduce the number of homeless people in Essex – which has been on the rise in 2023.

A lack of stable housing is linked to offending and reoffending. Research shows that individuals released from prison into unstable accommodation are significantly more likely to reoffend and sometimes return to prison.

To address this, partners in Essex have worked for several years on a protocol which guides joint working across the police, the probation service, HMP Chelmsford and all the local councils in Essex.

In that time, working practices and new initiatives have dramatically reduced the number of ex-offenders leaving prison without accommodation. For example, when an individual leaves prison, it is often unclear which local council they might be eligible to receive support from, since they have lost their ‘local connection’. A local connection is a criteria for getting help with housing.

Partners are now working closer together to find more suitable accommodation. This supports the goal that there should be no reason why anyone in Essex should sleep rough.

Launched today with Essex housing authorities and offender management services, the protocol names 17 commitments which together aim to:

  • reduce the number of ex-offenders on probation who leave custody without suitable accommodation
  • reduce the number of ex-offenders on probation forced to sleep rough or move into accommodation which is unsafe for themselves or others

The success of the protocol is highlighted in the case of Tony*, 39, who had a history of homelessness, substance misuse and mental health issues before going to prison for a six-month custodial sentence. While in hospital, an assessment by charity workers from Nacro highlighted that he would be homeless on release.

When Tony left prison, his local probation office referred him to the council where he had a local connection. He was then offered a place in a guest house while longer-term accommodation was investigated. Tony was later offered a viewing at a property near his doctor’s surgery.

At the time of moving into that new home, Tony said he was “feeling positive about things going forward”. He is still in his accommodation today.

Essex County Council has worked with many partners to redevelop the protocol, including the 12 borough, city and district councils across Essex. Other partners involved are:

  • Southend-on-Sea City Council
  • Thurrock Council
  • HMP Chelmsford
  • The Probation Service
  • Essex Police
  • Roger Hirst, the Police, Fire, and Crime Commissioner for Essex

Roger Hirst, Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex, said: “I’m pleased to support and sign the Essex Prison Release Housing Protocol, alongside many community partners, as my priorities to get crime down in Essex include protecting vulnerable people and reducing violence.”

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4 Comments for Plans to house prisoners after they serve their jail term:

2023-10-10 09:06:56

Seems it does pay after all.

gary roberts
2023-10-10 10:34:04

A protocol is a great idea, but when social housing is in very short supply will it work in practice? I applaud the aims but have concerns it will fail unless more homes become available. Unless of course they are moved into a HMO or hostel.

2023-10-10 23:27:44

What about the people who are already homeless like the ex servicemen who have actually given something to society rather than taken, think they deserve it rather than someone who's given nothing!!!

2023-10-11 05:41:18

Come on give the offenders a chance in life a start in life

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