Last Friday Simon Fell the Conservative MP for Barrow and Furness read his Private Members Bill for the second time and although all but one of the MPs who responded are Conservative MPs, one Labour MPs did speak several times. That was Yasmin Quershi who is the Bolton South East MP and her starting comment was
I congratulate Simon Fell on introducing this important Bill. I thank Nacro for its campaigning work on this issue and the vital support it provides to prison leavers. As the hon. Member outlined, the Bill will allow the earlier release, by up to two days, of people in prison with high resettlement needs who are due to be released from prison on a Friday or the day before a bank holiday.
It will be no surprise to the Government that Labour supports the Bill wholeheartedly, not least because we tried to legislate for this last year. My hon. Friend Alex Cunningham tabled an amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 that would have provided this much-needed flexibility for Friday releases, but the Government at the time refused to support it. I am glad that they have now seen sense and recognise the value in Labour’s proposals—because let’s us face it, these proposals are common sense.
Shortly after Yasmin spoke, a Sussex MP raised her comments who was Sally-Ann Hart who is the MP for Hastings and Rye. Her comment raised several elements, and she began with
Campaigners have said in support of the Bill that a move to end Friday prison releases would help to stop freed inmates walking straight back into the arms of criminal gangs. I welcome the Bill and congratulate my hon. Friend Simon Fell on introducing it.
As many Members have said, former prisoners who are let out of prison on a Friday face a race against the clock to access housing, benefits, healthcare and other services before the weekend, which leaves some of them temporarily homeless and increases the risk of reoffending. The Bill would give prison governors discretion to release those most at risk up to 48 hours earlier to ensure that they can receive assistance. The changes are expected to result in significantly fewer crimes each year, meaning fewer victims, less crime and safer streets.
And then a little bit later she stated
Fulfilling Lives South East was a project based across Brighton and Hove, Hastings and Eastbourne that aimed to improve the systems that support people with multiple and complex needs. It was led by BHT Sussex and its work from 2014 to 2022 was funded by the National Lottery Community Fund. Its work is not over; there is still much more to do. I expect that the Government’s Changing Futures programmes is picking that up: Sussex was one of 15 areas chosen for that Government initiative, after a joint bid across East Sussex, West Sussex and Brighton and Hove.
This is a very positive response and it indicates based on what Yasmin and Sally-Ann have said that this is a very positive private members bill. The focus on BHT is very positive, Andy Winter is one of my friends who until recently was the leader of BHT which means he would have helped set this out. The first paragraph from Simon Fell was as follows and the whole of the debate can be obtained from here.
You will know, perhaps more than many in this place, that I am a simple man, Mr Deputy Speaker. Prior to researching this Bill, I had not spent a great deal of time thinking about the criminal justice system or how it worked. I had laboured under the belief that if someone committed a crime, served their time and paid back their debt to society, they would be afforded every opportunity to succeed on their release from prison and make a fresh start. I was disappointed to find out that often that is not the case and many people released from prison, especially those released on Fridays, are almost set up to fail from the moment they set foot outside the prison estate. They face a race against time to access statutory and non-statutory services—to meet their probation officer; visit a pharmacy or a GP; sort out their accommodation—all on a Friday, with services closing early, and with some being a distance away or even impossible to reach by public transport. Many of them therefore end up homeless, with no hope of accessing services until Monday morning at the earliest. So they have nowhere to stay, they have little support and the world is on their shoulders. Is it any surprise that up to two thirds of people released without access to accommodation reoffend within a year.