Prisoners given £40, a rucksack and a sleeping bag on release from jail
PUBLISHED: 16:46 29 March 2019 | UPDATED: 17:23 29 March 2019
Copyright Archant Norfolk 2015
The lack of support offered to prisoners leaving Suffolk’s jails has been criticised by the county’s high sheriff, who describes the situation as tragic.
Revealing that some prisoners are given nothing more than a rucksack, £40 and a sleeping bag when they are released from jail, High Sheriff of Suffolk George Vestey DL said it was a “personal tragedy on a multiple scale”.
He has acknowledged that jails like HMP Warren Hill have had huge successes in rehabilitating prisoners, but said there are still areas in which the resettlement system is failing.
The government has been trying to support ex-offenders reintegrate into society nationally, for example by investing £6million as part of the government’s Rough Sleeping Strategy into pilot schemes to help offenders find accommodation on release.
But speaking last night at the High Sheriff’s Awards, Mr Vestey said: “HMP Norwich houses the largest population of Suffolk residents and on release they receive a rucksack, £40 and a sleeping bag – what an abject admission the resettlement system is failing.
“This is resulting in personal tragedy on a multiple scale, continued disruption in the community and a complete waste of taxpayers’ money.”
A Ministry of Justice (MoJ) spokesman said: “We want to ensure that everyone leaving prison has access to a secure job and stable accommodation which is why we are working closely with local authorities and investing £22m a year in services to help offenders released stay off the streets and away from crime.”
During his year-long term as Suffolk High Sheriff, Mr Vestey has started a new project at Warren Hill, near Woodbridge, where mentors recruited from the surrounding area help prisoners prepare for their release - and continue to support them for six months when they are free.
He said the project, along with others he has started to help cut reoffending, are “small steps” - but with the potential to make huge gain.
“If anyone is interested in supporting, particularly with mentoring, please do let me know, as we need to recruit more,” he said.
In his speech, Mr Vestey said: “In HMP Warren Hill we have the best performing prison in the country, operating a progressive regime and creating a culture of hope and respect.
“Some prisoners need very little support to reintegrate - others will always struggle to resettle, forever living life on the edge.
“The vast majority of prisoners, however, could go either way which means that with careful support both inside and through the gate, the undoubted talent that exists could be harnessed to make a valuable and lasting contribution to their family and community.
“And yet despite the good work in our Suffolk prisons, it is sadly no great surprise that reoffending rates remain at over 60%, because once out there is virtually no support nor safeguarding, no proper signposting towards solutions for sustainable reintegration into society.”