Irish Penal Reform Trust

UK: Increased temporary release of prisoners leads to reduced reoffending

31st May 2019

A number of successful changes have been made to promote rehabilitation and reintegration in England and Wales. Governors will now have greater autonomy to grant Release on Temporary Licence (ROTL) to offenders following risk assessments. This is to offer prisoners more opportunities to work and train with employers while serving their sentence and increase their chances of securing an immediate job on release.

Changes to probation will also ensure that community sentences focused on security and rehabilitation and will enable a move away from ineffective short prison sentences – after which two thirds of offenders go on to commit more crime – and allow more effective treatment for issues such as addiction and mental health problems.

Results of research published by the Ministry of Justice suggest that increased use of ROTL overall was associated with reduced reoffending for those to whom it was given prior to release from prison. This was after controlling for offenders’ characteristics, offending history and ROTL failure.

The study found that after controlling for other variables, in the six-month period leading up to release, each additional Resettlement Day Release was associated with a 0.5% reduced odds of reoffending over a one-year follow-up period and each additional Resettlement Overnight Release was associated with a 5% reduced odds of reoffending over a one-year follow-up period. Aside from a very small number of compassionate releases, every incidence of ROTL is designed to further the prisoner’s rehabilitation.

The research compared those who had fewer instances of ROTL with those who had greater instances of ROTL, rather than comparing those with experience of those with ROTL and those without. This was designed to minimise substantial differences between the groups (high-risk offenders, who may be more likely to re-offended, will tend to be refused ROTL). Research also shows that ex-offenders in employment are up to nine percent less likely to reoffend.

This study represents the first time (to the authors’ knowledge) that the impact of ROTL in England and Wales has been thoroughly explored.

IPRT advocates for building an evidence base around the use of and impacts of temporary release in Ireland so that, if evidence demonstrated that it is as successful in Ireland as it has been internationally, it can be used in a structured way as part of a wider range of mechanisms to support prisoner reintegration and result in a range of benefits to both the offender and the community.

Read ‘The reoffending impact of increased release of prisoners on Temporary Licence’ in full on the Ministry of Justice website here.

For more on the measures introduced in England and Wales to encourage rehabilitation, see a detailed press release on the Ministry of Justice website here.

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