Women caught up in cycle of offending due to chronic lack of housing support

A chronic shortage of housing support for women released from custody is driving them back to prison, a report claims.

Arrangements are often made at the last-minute, with some women unsure on the morning of their release if they will have accommodation that night, according to the Prison Reform Trust and Women in Prison.

The paper, jointly published by the two charities, quotes one support worker as saying: “We are aware of a woman who had been imprisoned for theft, subsequently released homeless, was recalled for breach of Anti-Social Behaviour Order for sleeping in a park and then later released homeless again.

“Our prisons are being used in place of social housing, it can’t go on.”

While there are some positive housing services in place, there is patchy and inconsistent provision across the UK, the report concluded. It called for a more joined up, adequately funded approach.

Jenny Earle (pictured), director of the Prison Reform Trust’s programme to reduce women’s imprisonment, said: “Unless women’s housing needs are met the system is setting them up to fail.

“With no home and limited access to money, it’s unsurprising that so many women struggle to turn their lives around. Without practical help with the basics, even a short prison sentence can have profound long-term consequences for women.”

Population figures for jails in England and Wales showed that there were 3,886 female prisoners as of Friday.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “We work with local housing partners to help women find accommodation upon release, but are aware that more needs to be done to house these offenders and reduce re-offending.

“Our female offenders strategy will outline how we will address female offenders’ housing needs on release and will be published shortly.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Prison Reform Trust.