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More than 140 offenders were housed in hotels and B&Bs after being released from prison during lockdown in a “last resort” by the government.
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said the decision to move freed inmates into hotels was made in a bid to prevent offenders becoming homeless and to reduce the risk of spreading Covid-19.
Of the 304 prisoners who were due for release and provided with accommodation, 136 were housed in hotels or B&Bs after all other options were exhausted, the MoJ said.
Meanwhile, of the 172 offenders released under the End of Custody Temporary Release scheme – in which prisoners who are within two months of their release date are temporarily released from custody – six were housed in hotels.
An MoJ spokesman said: “All offenders due for release are thoroughly risk-assessed and hotels have only been used as a last resort to reduce any potential spread of coronavirus.
“These temporary measures are part of the unprecedented response to the pandemic which has helped protect the NHS and save lives.”
The MoJ has been using hotels as part of its Conditional Release Date accommodation (CRD) scheme which launched in May and will run until the end of this month.
The ministry said the scheme also helped former prisoners with their long-term resettlement and rehabilitation.
It comes after a survey by NHS England found that inmates at the closed category women’s jails HMP Send and HMP Downview in Surrey felt their physical and mental health had “deteriorated” due to lockdown restrictions.
Chief inspector of prisons Peter Clarke said: “The suspension of visits has had a particularly acute impact in the women’s estate; many prisoners in Send and Downview had not seen their children for over three months.
“Video calling provision had only recently been rolled out in both sites, which women appreciated.”