Quarter Of Prisoners Released Last Christmas Were Left Homeless Or Sleeping Rough

"Yet more evidence of a broken system."
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A quarter of all prisoners released last Christmas were left homeless, sleeping rough or in unsettled accommodation, it has emerged.

Just under half of the 5,860 offenders let out in December 2017 were housed by the state, with a total of 243 people left to sleep on the streets.

A further 625 were classified as homeless and 683 were in other “unsettled accommodation”, a parliamentary question by Shadow Justice Secretary Richard Burgon has revealed.

The government has been branded “shameful” for failing to find offenders stable accommodation, and critics say the failings have heightened the risk of death in the cold winter months, and the risk of reoffending.

It comes amid mounting concern for the safety of rough sleepers after the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that nearly 600 homeless people died in 2017 – a rise of 24% over five years.

Christina Marriott, chief executive of the charity the Revolving Doors Agency, which aims to reduce homelessness and reoffending, said the winter temperatures have left people at risk of serious illness and even death.

Marriott said: “It is shameful that the rates of homelessness on release from prison are continuing to rise

“The government needs to take action so that people leaving prison have a secure place to live. We know the risks of dying whilst living on the streets are higher at this time of year.”

There was renewed focus on the plight of the homeless after 43-year-old Gyula Remes collapsed close to the entrance to the Houses of Parliament this week. He was taken to a central London hospital and later died.

Burgon said the prisoners attempting to rebuild their lives needed a settled home. He said: “This is yet more evidence of a broken system. In a country as wealthy as ours, nobody should be homeless.”

“But too many people leave prison without even the certainty that they’ll have a roof over their head the next day, with reports of some prisons even being handed tents and sleeping bags on release.

“It makes it much more difficult for people to find work and turn their lives around if they don’t even have settled accommodation on release.”

<strong>Shadow Justice Secretary Richard Burgon</strong>
Shadow Justice Secretary Richard Burgon
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The Ministry of Justice said it had pumped £22million into targeted housing services for offenders to ensure there was not a repeat of the figures this festive season.

The department added that it was investing £6m into the Rough Sleeping Strategy, which had pilot schemes bringing together prisons, local authorities, probation.

A spokesman said: “Everyone leaving prison should have a stable place to live – something we know is crucial in preventing reoffending.”