More than 100 former inmates registered with emergency homeless services ‘on day of prison release’

More than 100 people presented to emergency homeless services on the day of their release from prison in the first five months of this year, according to official figures, raising concerns among experts and advocacy groups about the potential for recidivism.

A total of 113 people presented to emergency homeless services on the day of their release from prison between January 1st and June 8th, according to figures provided in response to a parliamentary question from Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin. The figure for all of last year was 249, up from 224 in the previous year.

Dublin city, at 64, has this year seen the highest number of former prisoners presenting to emergency homeless services, followed by Cork city at 20 and Cork county at 14. Monaghan was the only county where no former inmates presented to homeless services upon release, with one such case recorded in Mayo, Kildare and Roscommon.

Vivian Geiran, a former director of the Probation Service, said homelessness can create a cycle in which people move from prison to the streets or homeless hostels and then back again.

“If you take the picture of a young homeless man who’s released from prison, and if he’s lucky enough that he’s in homeless accommodation because he could end up on the street, he’s going to be put with other single males,” he said.

“A whole lot of them, if not all of them, are probably people he has met in prison, or people he has met in the homeless hostel. So it’s basically the same community that he’s back into mixing with, and that in itself is another massive risk factor for reoffending.”

Ministerial response

The number of people who cited no fixed abode or stated no address upon committal to prison was 213 between January and May 31st, of whom 94 were remanded in custody and 113 were sentenced. The total for all of last year was 447 people, down from 459 in 2020.

Sources working within the sector, however, said the true number of inmates affected by homelessness is much higher than official statistics suggest, as some people give addresses at which they are not staying or those of homeless shelters. Mike Allen of Focus Ireland said homeless hostels are a “really bad outcome” for individuals released from prison, which he said prevents their reintegration into society

In response to Mr Ó Broin, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said the Irish Prison Service maintains regular contact with the Department of Housing regarding the release of prisoners. She said prisoners are referred to a prison-based resettlement service when they inform authorities they are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

The number of sentenced prisoners who had a bed placement identified by a local authority in advance of release was 332 between March 18th, 2020, and June 3rd, 2022, according to figures cited by the Minister. A spokesman for the Department of Housing said it has “engaged extensively” with stakeholders in the area, adding that its Home First approach helps those released from prison to secure permanent housing.