Report into Wales’ prisons a ‘damning indictment’ of the justice system

Barbed wire picture by ErikaWittlieb (no copyright) and dragon and sky by David Jones (CC BY-NC 2.0).

A report has been condemned as “damning” after it revealed than half of prisoners in Wales are made homeless on release.

Cardiff University report into Wales’ prisons shows that fewer than half – 44% – of all prisoners managed by Welsh probation services released from custody went into settled accommodation.

Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Minister for Justice and Equalities, Leanne Wood, said that the “comprehensive report” was a “damning indictment on how poorly served Wales is by the Westminster-run justice system”.

The report shows 543 people were released from Welsh prisons without a fixed address to return to in 2018/19, including:

  • 327 at HMP Cardiff
  • 105 at HMP Swansea
  • 85 at HMP Parc in Bridgend
  • 19 at HMP Berwyn near Wrexham
  • 7 at HMP Prescoed in Monmouthshire

A Liberal Democrat spokesperson said that it was “hardly surprising that some turn to stealing or even choose to go back to prison for the sake of a warm, dry bed”.

“The criminal justice system is fundamentally failing when people are reoffending just to get a meal or a place to sleep,” they said.

 

‘Concerns’

The report’s author Dr Robert Jones said: “The Housing (Wales) Act 2014 removed prisoners from the list of people given automatic priority need status for temporary accommodation in Wales.

“Since then, there have been numerous calls to re-introduce priority need for prisoners amidst growing concerns, including from prison inspections over rising levels of rough sleeping and homelessness upon release.

“The data included in our latest report add further weight to these concerns as well as those that have emerged in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

The report found that 20% of all confirmed Covid-19 cases among prisoners in England and Wales had been reported at Welsh prisons as of 19 June 2020. That was despite the fact that Welsh prisons held only 6% of the prison population of England and Wales at the end of June 2020.

It also showed that black people in Wales were almost six times overrepresented in prisons in 2019. Asian prisoners were 1.9 times overrepresented and individuals from Mixed ethnic groups were 2.7 times overrepresented.

‘Crucial’

Leanne Wood MS said that the statistics showed the need to devolved justice to Wales.

“It shows that we have higher incarceration rates and longer sentences than in England,” she said. “Our BAME population is also proven to be significantly worse off in the justice system on a number of statistics.

“If we are to end racism and discrimination, it must happen across the board. The hard evidence in this report showing that someone is more likely to end up in prison if they are from a black or minority ethnic group suggests there is much work to be done in the justice system to bring about the equality our society needs.”

Leanne added: “As this report indicates, the justice system is run by Westminster. We must hold this Tory Government accountable for the mess they have made but we cannot let Labour in Wales off the hook either.

“They could – and should – do more with the devolved areas that stray into the fringes of the justice system. The significant number of ex-prisoners ending up living on the streets after being released from prison is something that this Labour Government should be doing more about.”

The Liberal Democrat spokesperson said that suitable housing was crucial to stop people reoffending and help them to build a life free from crime.

“To cut crime and make our communities safer, prisons must be places of rehabilitation and recovery, and that work must continue when people leave the prison gates,” they said.

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