Convicts freed from Thameside prison deliberately reoffend to avoid homelessness, experts warn

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Convicts freed from a London prison are deliberately reoffending because they have no homes to go to and would prefer to return behind bars, an official watchdog warned today.

The Independent Monitoring Board for Thameside prison in Woolwich found that nearly half of the inmates facing imminent release had nowhere to live because of a lack of “good hostel accommodation” in the capital.

It says that many were worried or “fearful” about the future and that some were planning and committing new crimes so that they could return to the “relative security” of prison.

The findings will raise further concerns about prisons, following official reports warning of rising violence, staff shortages, overcrowding and dire conditions.

In its assessment, the monitoring board says the prison, run by Serco, has bucked some trends with a recruitment drive which has kept up staff numbers. 

Levels of violence, while “stubbornly high”, remained static during the last year, while the overall regime is described as “humane”, with most inmates feeling safe. 

However, the board warns that “too many prisoners” are “not able to thrive on their release” because “of factors outside the prison’s control, especially the poor availability of suitable accommodation in the community”.

“There was a stark contrast between those with a home, who were generally looking forward to their release, and those who felt they would be homeless and were not confident (and in some cases actually fearful) about their future.” the board says in its annual report on the prison. 

“A number told the board that they would soon reoffend in order to be returned to the relative security of prison: and they do.” 

Dr Barbara Judge, the monitoring board’s chairwoman, said: “Too many prisoners indicate that they will probably reoffend in order to be returned to the security of prison. 

“We are therefore calling on central and local government, charities and the London Mayor to increase the availability of good hostel accommodation as a vital factor in reducing reoffending.”

Thameside, which opened in 2012, has an official capacity of 900 but housed more than 1,200 prisoners during the past year.

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