Prisoners Safety: Released Prisoners at Risk on our Streets

When it comes to community safety issues, public safety sells more newspapers than ex-prisoners safety. A headline reading 'Released Prisoners at Risk on our Streets' doesn't stir up as much emotion as a 'Public at Risk' headline.

Yet, when a prisoner is released they become a member of the public once more. They have served the time given to the crime they committed. However, the press continue to promote the view of ex-offenders being outside of society. They are separated from society by attention grabbing headlines which make the public fearful.

Newspaper headlines disregard ex-prisoners safety

On 08/09/2019 I was appalled to read an eye grabbing article on public safety in the news section of The Telegraph. You can read the article for yourself here.

This article describes a growing risk to public safety from record numbers of prisoners being released with nowhere to live.

prisoners safety at risk due to sleeping rough on our streets

In 2018/2019 alone, 1,287 prisoners were released on to the streets. Many of these have little to no prospect of finding accommodation. This leads to an increase in ex-offenders sleeping on the streets.

Justin Russell, Chief Inspector of Probation, shared his concerns about public safety. He says released prisoners are at greater risk of re-offending because of the homeless situation they find themselves in. Russell said, "It's the starting point for everything else to happen."

The Real Truth

Prisoners safety disregarded as more become homeless

The real truth lies with a clumsy prison release system and poor action within local authorities. Many prisoners are released on a Friday after social services have shut their doors. This leaves rough sleeping as the only option for ex-offenders before seeking shelter through their local authority.

People leaving prison are known to re-commit crime to avoid homelessness. And, considering their circumstances, it's not difficult to see why. It is upsetting to know our society is failing ex-offenders. Even more annoying to see how the press spin that failing into a 'public safety' issue. Prisoners safety is at risk. Especially when their only course of action to have a roof over their head and food in their belly is to re-offend.

Crisis, a charity aimed at ending homelessness, state "having stable accommodation can reduce the risk of re-offending by 20%." They are pushing the government to make preventing homelessness in prison leavers a priority.

Homelessness Reduction Act 2018

The Homelessness Reduction Act helps stop people leaving prison in England from becoming homeless. The Act puts a duty on prison and probation services to refer people to the local authority if they are at risk of homelessness. However, since the act came in, it has served as a reporting exercise rather than an active engagement service.

Picking up on Justin Russel's comment above, it's clear we see things very differently. His comment refers to ex-prisoners who find themselves homeless after serving their sentence. However, a lack of action by agencies before any release date, is the real starting point for everything else to happen.

Homelessness is an increasing problem in society. One which politicians are aware of but push to the bottom of their agenda in favour of more pressing policies. The present political system lets down the under valued, turning away from homeless issues. This echoes through the public, who also turn away when seeing rough sleepers on the streets.

Until we stand and face the problem of inequality with compassion, those who struggle will continue to lose their voice. Likewise, until we stop using over dramatic headlines in our media, people will continue to turn their heads away. These headlines encourage people to walk past the needy out of fear for their safety.

With public safety of utmost importance, it is crucial to understand, when prisoners are released, they too become members of the public.