Don’t release prisoners on a Friday, urges ACMD

The UK’s prison services should take steps to avoid releasing prisoners with complex needs on Friday afternoons, says a new report from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD).

More than a third of prisoners are released on Fridays, which makes it more difficult for them to access drug treatment or stable housing, or make connections with probation services or job centres, says Custody-community transitions. It also increases the risk of relapse or overdose, which is particularly high in the first weeks after release.

More than 11,000 people were released on a Friday from prisons in England and Wales in the first six months of 2018, as this includes prisoners whose release dates fall on a Saturday, Sunday or bank holiday Monday. ‘People often have to attend several appointments on their first day of release,’ the document says. ‘If these appointments are missed on a Friday, then the person may be left for the weekend with no housing, no money and no drug treatment. These are circumstances in which relapse to drug use and offending are highly likely to occur.’

In 2017-18, just 12 per cent of prisoners with an opioid problem left prison with naloxone, the report adds, while more than a third of prisoners were released without settled accommodation. Less than a third of those with substance issues entered community treatment on release.

The prison and probation service should improve levels of individual, face-to-face support available to those prisoners preparing for release, the ACMD urges, while government should also take steps to reduce the number of transitions from prison, including by cutting short sentences.

Owen Bowden-Jones: ‘Substantial harms’ occur between custody and community

Adults serving sentences of less than a year in England and Wales had a reoffending rate of more than 64 per cent between April and June 2017, with rates likely to be ‘even higher among those with a drug problem’. The opportunity of custody to ‘reduce drug problems and offending’ was often being ‘squandered’ by failure to provide support on release, the council adds.

‘This report identified the substantial harms suffered by those with drug dependency as they transition between custody and the community,’ said ACMD chair Dr Owen Bowden-Jones. ‘It is paramount that the government makes sure more is done to help prevent vulnerable people from relapsing after their release from prison.’

Read the report here at

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