A CELL TO CALL
NEW FIGURES SHOW THE ALARMING NUMBER OF HOMELESS PEOPLE IN THE PRISON POPULATION
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.”
Experts warn that the true scale of homelessness among prisoners is not known