Campaign Aim:
That by 2020, people who have complex needs are dealt with using more cost effective alternatives to prison; and those released from prison to the Canterbury District are released to suitable accommodation with support or to drug/alcohol rehabilitation services – resulting in improved health and opportunities to contribute within their community.

Catching Lives is an independent charity aimed at supporting the rough sleepers, homeless and vulnerably housed in Canterbury and East Kent; those who have, for many reasons, fallen through the gaps in society and feel they have nowhere else to turn.


Their vision is of a society where all are included and all, no matter how disadvantaged, can make a contribution. Catching Lives works towards ending the harm caused to individuals, families and the community, by homelessness, rough sleeping and insecure housing.  They do this by offering immediate respite at our project in Canterbury: the Canterbury Open Centre. In addition to this, they work with their clients to help them to tackle any issues that they may have, get access to suitable accommodation and find the motivation to take steps towards personal recovery and independent living.


Within in their client base, there are a recurring number of people requiring support who are released from prison directly into street homelessness. We know that when prisoners are released into homelessness they are much more likely to re-offend than when released into supported or stable housing.


This means that releasing ex-offenders into homelessness causes harm to them as individuals and to the wider community.


In terms of Integrated Offender Management in the context of Transforming Rehabilitation, Nathan Dick (Head of Policy and Communications at Clinks) noted that the new probation providers were unlikely to have all the answers about how to work with the most chaotic and vulnerable offenders, and the voluntary sector would have much to offer here in terms of supporting the rehabilitation of these offenders and bring a focus on prevention.  (1)He stated that the sector brought greater flexibility, specialist expertise, and a range of different approaches.  He added that many organisations will not be commissioned, but provide valuable and effective services that can reduce crime and reoffending.  The voluntary sector needs to be recognised as more than just a provider of services, it can contribute to service redesign and complement commissioned services.


Kieran Lynch, from Public Health England, spoke about the impact of drug and alcohol treatment on crime at the same conference.  He stated that drug treatment benefitted communities.  There is hard evidence that drug treatment was one of the most cost effective ways to reduce drug related crime, with £2.50 saved for every £1 invested.  In terms of alcohol, misuse was said to cost the NHS around £3.5 billion a year.  Public Health England were testing out treatments, including brief interventions in custody.  Kieran Lynch is of the opinion that if NHS England, Public Health England, Criminal Justice Agencies and local authorities did not work together then there would be a gap in provision of drug and alcohol services which would lead to a rise in crime.

It costs approximately £36,000 to imprison a person in this country for a year, not taking into account police, court costs and all the other steps before sentencing.

This works out at approximately £98 for each day served in prison per person.  This amounts to £686 per week per person.  Imagine if our community had these funds to house an support an individual - and the positive outcomes that could enable?

Where the individual has an addiction issue, our research tells us that drug or alcohol detoxification and residential rehabilitation are expensive options because of the need to have medical, therapeutic and support staff present 24 hours a day.The period of time for a detox will vary but in most cases an individual would be looking at between 7-10 days and although it is possible to reduce the price of residential rehab, it is thought that it would cost between £500 and £800 per week.

Detox/rehab is an expensive treatment option and owing to a lack of government funding. it is generally that those who have a serious medical need are considered or where an individual has demonstrated a lot of motivation but a lack of success in a community project.

We feel that if more government funding  were put into these options, the criteria for treatment could be relaxed and this would be seen as a viable alternative to prison, for those who are failing in community based programmes.  This support could be continued on completion of the programmes to give people the support they need to change their lives.

If the growth in the prison population is not reversed then more prisons will have to be built, at huge expense.  This is without taking into account the benefits to all of getting people back into the working population, contributing to taxes rather than being a drain on them and it is our case that proper supported rehabilitation for offenders makes financial and economic sense.


CampaignKent has launched a focused campaign over a five year period in order to start a discussion with decision makers with regard to more cost effective alternatives to prison, and reduce the number of ex-offenders being released into homelessness in Canterbury and East Kent and increase the number being released into rehabilitation, supported and stable housing.


Not only would this help reduce the number of ex-offenders requiring our support as a homeless charity, it would also mean that we take steps to achieving our wider goal with Catching Lives of ending harm to individuals, families and the community caused by homelessness.


It is important that this campaign does not point the finger of blame at any one organisation.   The campaign driver is to acknowledge all the difficult work that our partner agencies are doing and championing that.  We aim do this by working together towards the same aim, offering real rehabilitation to those with multiple complex needs; which in turn makes our community safer, makes our services more streamlined and most importantly makes our combined services more cost effective.


There is a well evidenced and complex relationship between homelessness and offending. Spending time in prison increases the risk of homelessness, and a lack of stable accommodation on release from prison in turn increases the risks of re-offending. This leads to a self-perpetuating negative cycle, commonly termed ‘the revolving door’. 


The last large scale research on homelessness revealed that 30% of people released from prison will have no-where to live (Home Office, 2005), however in reality this figure is significantly higher. In the run up to our campaign, we have carried out preliminary research into prisoners being released to street homelessness in the Canterbury District, and found that between April and September 2015, of those prisoners released 47% were released to street homelessness. National data estimates that, should a prisoner find themselves homeless on release from prison, they will be 80% more likely to re-offend than prisoners released to a home.


On talking with Canterbury Police, it is clear that those who are given repeat suspended sentences continue offending as it is not seen as an effective deterrent. One suggestion made was that these particular repeat offenders are given community payback orders, not in any way to shame the offender, but to give them a sense of responsibility with regards their community, and also to offer a skill set.  Research will take place with regards services that are being carried out by the local authority in the community, then looking at cost effective ways to get the services carried out as part of the said community service orders.


The government must consider how those issuing sentences can address the full range of an offender’s underlying needs. This should of course take place alongside the imperatives to punish the offender and protect the public, but the importance of a rehabilitative element to sentencing should be established as a priority. Restorative justice also has an important role to play in rehabilitation and reducing re-offending.


Between a third and a half of new receptions into prison are estimated to be problem drug users (equivalent to between 45,000 and 65,000 prisoners in England and Wales).(2) Nearly two-thirds of sentenced male prisoners (63%) and two-fifths of female sentenced prisoners (39%) admit to hazardous drinking which carries the risk of physical or mental harm. Of these, about half have a severe alcohol dependency.4 75% of all prisoners have a dual diagnosis (mental health problems combined with alcohol or drug misuse).(4) Yet HM Prisons Inspectorate found that dual diagnosis services remain patchy.(5) 75% of “prolific and other priority offenders‟ were found to have a housing need compared to 30% for the general offender population. (6) People serving short prison sentences are two to three times more likely to reoffend if they do not have suitable housing.(7)


There is a wealth of research demonstrating the important role rehabilitation services play, and a clear evidence base around the reduction or re-offending when rehabilitation forms part of an offenders exit strategy from prison.


We are currently in the process of setting up a multi-agency forum to discuss what roles each agency plays in rehabilitation, what challenges they meet when carrying out this role, and what we as a forum think Real Rehabilitation looks like for our community.  Updates are available on this campaign, please sign up above in order to receive these.


We are always looking for volunteers to be trained and get involved, please get in touch if you're interested.


1 Integrated Offender Management: Meeting the Future Challenges – National Conference 2015

2 UK Drug Policy Commission (2008) Reducing drug use, reducing reoffending, London: UKDPC

3 Prison Reform Trust (2004) Alcohol and reoffending: who cares? London: PRT

4 Cabinet Office Social Exclusion Task Force (2009) Short Study on Women Offenders, London: Cabinet Office

5 HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for England and Wales (2010) Annual Report 2008-09, London: HMIP

6 Homeless Link (2009) Criminal justice policy briefing, London: Homeless Link

7 Ibid.
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