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10 September 2015, 07:21
Almost a third of inmates freed from prison have nowhere to go when they are released, a new report has revealed.
A total of 2,108 homeless applications were made by former prisoners last year, with the study by housing charity Shelter Scotland highlighting the "alarmingly evident'' link between re-offending and homelessness.
The charity is now calling for the provision of stable housing to be included in Scotland's community justice strategy.
Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, said: "Addressing the link between the lack of a stable, safe and affordable home on release and the increased likelihood of re-offending is known to be key to breaking the offending cycle.
"When in prison, people often lose their accommodation because of an inability to pay rent whilst serving their sentence or through a family break-up. Many don't have a job to go back to upon release, making finding and maintaining a home very difficult.
"It doesn't need to be this way and with the right advice and support, ex-offenders can go on to lead successful lives and contribute a great deal to our society.
"Having a secure home can play a vital role in breaking the cycle of re-offending, bringing both social and economic benefits.''
Shelter's report on the link between homelessness and re-offending found 6% of all homeless applications in Scotland were made by people leaving custody and 30% of those released from prison have nowhere to live when they are freed.
Approximately 20,000 inmates are freed from prison every year, with many released after spending time on remand or having served a short sentence.
Re-offending rates can be reduced by as much as 20% if those leaving jail have stable accommodation to go to, the report added.
Two-thirds of those who were homeless after their release from prison go on to reoffend and research has shown a reduction in recidivism of as much as 20% for those who had stable accommodation on their release compared to those who did not.
The report said: "Of those that are liberated, one third have served less than 12 months and 44% are released from remand.
"Due to the short period of these sentences giving less time to engage with support agencies, evidence has shown that these groups are even more prone to homelessness.''
Tom Halpin, chief executive of Sacro, which works to reduce reoffending, said: "Having stable accommodation on release from prison makes a huge difference to a person's prospects, including their ability to stop re-offending.
"What we know from our work with people leaving prison is that they face complex and multiple needs, often compounded by homelessness.''
Community Safety Minister Paul Wheelhouse said: "I welcome this report from Shelter Scotland which looks at the potential links between homelessness and re-offending. It highlights many important points and underlines a number of reasons why short-term prison sentences are ineffective.
"That is why we, in the Scottish Government, believe it is important to continue to invest in community alternatives to custody, as we do, to enable individuals to payback to their communities whilst maintaining established relationships and connections, like stable housing, which can help to reduce re-offending.
"The Scottish Government recognises that access to stable accommodation is the foundation to successful reintegration and we know a permanent address is crucial to gaining employment, access to healthcare, treatment for addiction and rebuilding family ties.
"That is why we are committed to working with partners and stakeholders, including Shelter Scotland, to continue to do all we can to support those leaving prison to become active and responsible contributors to their communities.''