The Ministerial Group on Offender Reintegration (MGOR) was established in October 2013 to facilitate better co-ordination between the justice system and non-justice services, and to focus attention on the role these services have in aiding the reintegration into communities of people leaving custody. Housing was a theme for the group who recognised that many professionals working in housing and criminal justice believed there to be links between finding and keeping stable accommodation and reducing reoffending among people who served short-term prison sentences in Scotland. It recommended that the Scottish Government commission research into the housing experiences of people who serve short sentences (less than four years) in Scotland.
The research was undertaken in 2015, and focused on the problems that people who serve short sentences in Scotland have finding and keeping stable housing and the services that can help improve housing outcomes. The findings describe a complex cycle of housing problems faced by people serving short sentences, their interlinked causes and impacts and the difficulties these problems pose in desistance from offending.
This is a 13 page analytical summary of the findings the full report can be found here.
Housing problems can contribute to difficulties in desistance from offending in people who serve short sentences in Scotland
People who serve short sentences in Scotland can have housing problems before they go to prison and housing problems can be caused by serving a short sentence in prison
This sets up a complex cycle of offending, custody, housing problems and difficulties in desistance
Multiple and wide ranging services (with a housing element) are being delivered to people who serve short sentences in Scotland.
They are delivered both in prison and after release by public and third sector organisations, and by services specialising in housing and services specialising in desistance (reintegration services).
The services provided are not comprehensive (different coverage in prisons and depending on home local authority) and were found to be inconsistent in the level of service they provide or the approaches they use
The key housing problems found were the loss of housing whilst in custody, loss of possessions, difficulties with some forms of temporary housing on release, securing and keeping housing on release and living in poor quality housing
The impacts of housing problems can include: mental and physical health difficulties; poor overall wellbeing; insecurity or not feeling safe and difficulties accessing employment, all of which can have a negative impact on desistance behaviour
These housing problems can be caused and exacerbated by a range of factors including: day to day practical difficulties in delivering housing services to this group including information sharing; individual’s inability to recognise they have a housing problem and gaps in services to identify individuals’ problems; the size and complexity of the service needs; factors that are out-with scope of the Scottish Government, local government and the Scottish Prison Service (SPS)(for example welfare policy and sentencing practice).
Suggestions for potential next steps include: action to improve comprehensiveness of housing services and consistency in approach, increased information sharing between services, delivery of training to staff on the Housing Options approach and suggestions for engaging with other policy areas and the UK government to address issues such as benefits eligibility.
Email: Julie Guy