A CELL TO CALL HOME Ex­perts warn that the true scale of home­less­ness among pris­on­ers is not known

NEW FIG­URES SHOW THE ALARM­ING NUM­BER OF HOME­LESS PEO­PLE IN THE PRISON POP­U­LA­TION

Derby Telegraph - - NEWS GRAPHIC - By AL­ICE CACHIA

MORE than a quar­ter of all pris­on­ers were home­less at the time they en­tered jail. New fig­ures from the Min­istry of Jus­tice show that 103,225 pris­on­ers were taken into cus­tody in 2017.

Of these, 26,700 de­clared them­selves as hav­ing “no fixed abode” - the for­mal term used to iden­tify a pris­oner that is home­less.

That works out as 25.9% of the 103,225 peo­ple taken into cus­tody and is up from 23.6% the pre­vi­ous year.

A fur­ther 5,543 pris­on­ers said they were liv­ing in tem­po­rary or in­se­cure ac­com­mo­da­tion in 2017.

The data re­flects all pris­on­ers taken into cus­tody and in­cludes both peo­ple on re­mand and those sen­tenced by a court.

The data does not show the num­ber of pris­on­ers who were later re­leased with­out a con­vic­tion.

It is up to pris­on­ers to de­clare their hous­ing sit­u­a­tion when they en­ter cus­tody, so it could be that the ac­tual num­ber of home­less pris­on­ers is higher than the num­ber who de­clared them­selves as hav­ing no fixed abode.

Fig­ures for the first quar­ter (Jan­uary to March) of 2018 re­veal that 6,825 of the 25,033 pris­on­ers taken into cus­tody were home­less.

That is a rate of 27.3%.

There are many rea­sons why pris­on­ers make up such a large pro­por­tion of the prison pop­u­la­tion.

They could, for ex­am­ple, com­mit petty theft in or­der to stay warm or to feed them­selves.

A 2016 re­port from prison watch­dog the Howard League for Pe­nal Re­form found that a third of peo­ple leav­ing prison say they have nowhere to go.

The all party par­lia­men­tary group for end­ing home­less­ness held a meet­ing last year on prison leavers who are home­less upon re­lease.

The min­utes of the meet­ing re­vealed that “Lo­cal au­thor­i­ties do not record peo­ple who be­come home­less im­me­di­ately after leav­ing prison and we do not know the scale of prison leavers who are hid­den home­less.”

At the time the new fig­ures were re­leased, Rory Ste­wart, min­is­ter of state, said: “Ev­ery­one should have a safe and suitable home to live; hav­ing some­where to live gives peo­ple a stable plat­form from which to ac­cess health ser­vices, hold down a job and re­duces the like­li­hood of them re­of­fend­ing.

“Staff in both Com­mu­nity Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Com­pa­nies and the Na­tional Pro­ba­tion Ser­vice work to­gether with lo­cal au­thor­i­ties and other providers of ac­com­mo­da­tion with the aim of en­sur­ing all of­fend­ers un­der our su­per­vi­sion have ac­com­mo­da­tion es­pe­cially when they are re­leased from prison.”

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