Social Justice

Yes, some prisoners will be released early before Christmas – but it can actually make victims safer

Rules prevent prisoners being released on Christmas day. Experts say this helps everyone

Prison is no picnic - but for some rough sleepers, it at least provides a 'safe' place to stay. Image credit: Piqsels

Image credit: Piqsels

Letting prisoners out early might seem like a surprising idea. But thanks to the way Christmas falls this year, any inmates with release dates between Friday 22 December and Boxing Day on Tuesday 26 December will be released on Wednesday 20 December.

What you might not know is this reduces reoffending and the risk to victims – instead of putting prisoners out on the streets when support services are closed.

It’s something the Big Issue has campaigned on, with our founder John Bird using his seat in the House of Lords to change the law this year.

“It’s well established that making sure ex-offenders are set up with the support they need on release is critical when it comes to preventing re-offending – it’s why I sponsored legislation in parliament to end Friday releases,” said Bird.

The government is meeting a pre-existing legal requirement that means prisoners are let out early if their release date falls on a weekend or bank holiday, like Christmas Day – but that hasn’t stopped a tabloid frenzy.

“FIENDS’ EARLY RELEASE” raged The Sun, warning those serving sentences for violent and sexual offences will be freed up to six days early.

Last time this happened at Christmas it resulted in 505 prisoners being released early, The Sun reported.

But if somebody has served their time and is ready for release, then handling it well can help reduce risk and vulnerability, Bird added: “Mitigating that risk is the best way to protect victims – not putting prisoners in a situation that increases desperation and the chances of them making another bad decision.”

Early releases give people coming out of prison the building blocks to turn their lives around, said Helen Berresford, director of external engagement at criminal justice charity Nacro.

“For people released from prison on a Friday and the day before a public holiday the day of release can be a race against the clock as they try to find somewhere to stay, get health support, apply for benefits and see their probation officer before the weekend,” Berresford said. 

“This stress is compounded when services are shut for even longer. Too many are left sleeping rough, without medication or enough money. Without the right support in place, we are simply setting people up to fail.”

As well as helping with the rehabilitation process, it also means victims are safer, Berresford added: “Giving people the resources to start again when they come out of prison is the best way to reduce reoffending, meaning less crime, less cost to the public and most importantly less victims.” 

Support our vendors this winter and beyond

If you can't visit your local vendor on a regular basis, then the next best way to support them is with a subscription to the Big Issue. As a social enterprise, we invest every penny we make back into the organisation. That means that with every subscription, we are supporting people in poverty to get back on their own two feet.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
More than half of people on universal credit going hungry because they can't afford to eat
Trussell Trust food banks
Food banks

More than half of people on universal credit going hungry because they can't afford to eat

DWP benefit dates for March 2024 and other help as cost of living payments end
benefits/ money
Benefits

DWP benefit dates for March 2024 and other help as cost of living payments end

'Dysfunctional' mental health services failing to meet demand, doctors warn: 'It's broken'
Reception area in an NHS hospital
Mental health

'Dysfunctional' mental health services failing to meet demand, doctors warn: 'It's broken'

'We're running out of babies': Childcare costs driving parents into debt and to abortion, study finds
childcare costs/ baby
Childcare

'We're running out of babies': Childcare costs driving parents into debt and to abortion, study finds

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Here's when UK households to start receiving last cost of living payments
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Here's when UK households to start receiving last cost of living payments

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know