Government plans to reduce jail releases during times when support is unavailable

by Peter Blackburn

Doctors leaders have welcomed plans to ‘significantly reduce’ the release of people from jail at times when access to services such pharmacies and social support are reduced or unavailable. 

Location: UK
Last reviewed: 21 June 2022
Marcus bicknell

The Government has announced moves to decrease the number of Friday and bank holiday releases from jail as part of wider reforms which ministers say aim to ‘reduce reoffending and protect the public’.

A Government document said prison governors will have the ultimate discretion over release dates and Parliamentary legislation will be required to support the plans.

BMA forensic and secure environments committee chair Marcus Bicknell (pictured above) said: ‘The committee has actively lobbied the MoJ [Ministry of Justice] to ensure prisoners are released from custody as compassionately and expediently as is possible to avoid weekends and bank holidays when access to key services such as drug treatment agencies, pharmacies, the NHS, social support and accommodation is typically reduced.

‘We are delighted to learn that the MoJ has listened to our request and that of other key stakeholders and that Friday releases will be coming to an end.’

Out in the cold

Government figures show that around one in three offenders leave prison on a Friday – leaving them with only a few hours to try to arrange somewhere to sleep, register with a GP and sign up for job support before many services close during the weekend. For some this means sleeping on the streets and can lead to further crimes being committed.

Under new plans the Government has said offenders with severe mental health needs or addiction problems, or who have mobility problems, likely to end up homeless or who have far to travel home, will be released on the Wednesday or Thursday before their Friday release date, with ‘strict security screenings in place’.

Prisons minister Victoria Atkins said: ‘Making sure ex-offenders can get suitable housing and support ahead of the weekend means they are far more likely to stay on the straight and narrow – reducing reoffending and making our streets safer.’

Chief executive of social justice charity Nacro, Campbell Robb, added: ‘For too long Friday releases have been setting people up to fail. Our campaign to end Friday releases was driven by the experience of our staff and service users and we are pleased to see this change. It is vital this is there for everyone who needs it.’