UK: more than 140 freed inmates housed in hotels and B&Bs in lockdown

MoJ says hotels used as last resort to prevent homelessness and reduce coronavirus risk.

More than 140 released prisoners were housed in hotels and B&Bs during lockdown, in what the Ministry of Justice said was a “last resort” to prevent them from becoming homeless and reduce the risk of coronavirus spreading.

Of the 304 offenders who were due for release and provided with accommodation, 136 were housed in hotels or B&Bs after all other options were exhausted, the MoJ said. Additionally, of the 172 offenders released under the end-of-custody temporary release scheme – in which prisoners who are within two months of their release date are freed – six were housed in hotels.

“All offenders due for release are thoroughly risk-assessed and hotels have only been used as a last resort to reduce any potential spread of coronavirus,” an MoJ spokesman said. “These temporary measures are part of the unprecedented response to the pandemic which has helped protect the NHS and save lives.”

The MoJ has been using hotels as part of its conditional release date accommodation scheme, which launched in May and will run until the end of this month. It said the scheme also helped former prisoners with their long-term resettlement and rehabilitation. A hotel owner in the north of England told the BBC he had received a letter from the Prison and Probation Service asking whether he would have rooms available for offenders on the early-release scheme. The letter said accommodation in hotels, B&Bs and serviced apartments would be needed for up to 56 days.

“We will not share information with you regarding the offence(s) the individual has committed but would wish to reassure that they have been subject to strict vetting,” the letter stated, adding that monitoring equipment would have to be installed in an offender’s hotel room to ensure they abide by a curfew. It said staff would not be responsible for managing a prisoner’s licence conditions.

“All incidents of concern should be dealt with in the same way as you would deal with any other resident and if local measures don’t work (eg a phone call from reception to keep the noise down) be reported to police,” it said.

Separately, an NHS England survey found inmates at the closed-category women’s jails HMP Send and HMP Downview, both in Surrey, felt their physical and mental health had deteriorated due to lockdown restrictions.

The chief inspector of prisons, Peter Clarke, said: “The suspension of visits has had a particularly acute impact in the women’s estate; many prisoners in Send and Downview had not seen their children for over three months. Video-calling provision had only recently been rolled out in both sites, which women appreciated.”