Wednesday, 20 May 2020
Department of Justice and Equality
437. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the number of prisoners released from prison to emergency homeless accommodation or no pre-arranged accommodation over the past 12 months by prison and month in tabular form. [5796/20]
As the Deputy will appreciate, measures to address homelessness and provision of accommodation to persons vulnerable to homelessness are the responsibility of the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government. However, the Irish Prison Service maintains regular contact with the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government regarding the release of prisoners who have identified themselves to prison services as homeless or a risk of homelessness.
The objective of the Irish Prison Service is that all releases from Irish prisons and places of detention are planned releases, in order to support offenders in making informed and effective transitions from prison to the community in compliance with statutory, legal and sentencing provisions.
I am advised that, if a sentenced prisoner informs prison authorities that they were homeless prior to coming into custody, or that they are at risk of homelessness on release, they are referred to the prison-based resettlement service. The resettlement service works with the prisoner and the relevant local authority to identify possible accommodation solutions in preparation for their release and reintegration to the community.
I also understand that the Irish Prison Service provides funding to enable the Irish Association for Social Integration Opportunities to provide Resettlement Coordinators in each of our closed prisons and that the number of Resettlement Coordinators across the prison estate has increased from 3 to 12 in recent years. I am informed that as part of additional measures to assist prisoners prepare for release during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Irish Prison Service has assigned a further 6 staff to assist with the resettlement effort.
The Deputy requested specific information on the number of prisoners released from prison to emergency homeless accommodation or no pre-arranged accommodation over the last 12 months by prison and by month. I am advised that the Irish Prison Service that it does not record statistics in the specific format requested. However, I am informed by the Irish Prison Service that in 2019, the Resettlement Service assisted 363 sentenced prisoners who had declared a risk of homelessness to submit their social housing application in advance of their release. I am further informed that, in 2020 to date, the Resettlement Service has engaged with 457 sentenced prisoners in custody and has submitted 119 applications for social housing support on behalf of prisoners this year.
There is ongoing communication between the Irish Prison Service and the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government regarding the release of prisoners who have identified themselves to prison services as at risk of homelessness. I understand that this contact has further increased in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Deputy may also be interested to know that the Irish Prison Service, working in partnership with the Irish Red Cross, has developed a release information pack for prisoners who leaving custody during the current pandemic. The information pack includes information on changes to social norms since the introduction of restrictions including social distancing, new hygiene practices, details of reduced opening hours for public services and details of support and advocacy services available, including housing supports.