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Man who left prison and became homeless calls for more to be done to help ex-offenders

Jamie Jones went to jail for eight weeks earlier this year. He had been renting a flat but when he left prison, he had been evicted for not paying the rent and found himself homeless.

It's a familiar story to many people leaving institutions in Wales.

Homelessness charity The Wallich says people are increasingly leaving prison without sufficient support to stop them ending up on the streets upon release.

The charity says Wales has a growing problem of people leaving prison with no accommodation on the outside.

Jamie Jones left prison earlier this year. Credit: ITV News

Evidence given to a recent UK Government select-committee on Welsh prisons said some ex-offenders were being given tents to live in on release from HMP Swansea.

The St Giles Trust submitted evidence that housing was the most pressing issue facing prisoners on release as local authorities were unable to deal with the increased flow of applications to be processed within 56 days.

The Wales Governance Centre at Cardiff University say the percentage of people entering prison without a fixed abode - or homeless - increased from 24.3% in 2017, to 27.6% in 2018.

HMP Swansea Credit: ITV News

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) says it is not standard practice or policy to give out tents to offenders on release and added they work closely with local authorities to identify offenders who are at risk of sleeping rough.

They've also launched a £6 million scheme that will help prison leavers stay off the streets and away from crime.

Jamie Jones has now managed to get himself back on his feet, with a privately rented shared flat.

However, he says his time in prison has made it harder for him to secure accommodation.

I felt like I'd been chucked out of the door. The prison system should do more things for you before you come out.

By law, as you go into jail you should do an application form for you as you go into jail, not the day before you're released. Because that means that when people come out, they've got nowhere else to go.

– Jamie Jones

When we asked Graham Barrett, Governor of HMP Swansea, whether under the different arrangements in Wales some prisoners had been released with tents for accommodation, he replied that this had been “correct at times.”

Housing is one of the key elements needed to ensure successful resettlement and rehabilitation for prisoners. It is important that the UK and Welsh Governments collaborate fully to ensure that policy differences do not affect prisoners’ opportunities to secure housing upon release.

– House of Commons Welsh Affairs Committee Prison provision in Wales, 17/05/19

The Welsh Government says it is "working to ensure that people leaving prison are able to secure suitable and safe housing and recognise the need to intervene at the earliest opportunity when prison leavers are at risk of becoming homeless.”

Credit: Yui Mok/PA

The Wallich feels the length of sentences handed out do not allow for rehabilitation inside or outside of prison.

We've perhaps gone some way to getting them rehoused or working with drug and alcohol centres, and then they are recalled to prison or they receive a short sentence and all that work that we have done is essentially wiped out, meaning that they are again stuck in that cycle of prison, reoffending, often substance misuse.

– Mike George, The Wallich

Jamie is now determined to turn his negative experience into a positive.

Credit: ITV News

My aim is - now I've come so far now and now I'm back on my feet and I'm in my own place - I want to do something for the community - and help all the rough sleepers - to get to where I am.

– Jamie Jones