It is a tale of two women breaking the law, and a sad reflection of the times in which we live.

One is an offender who wants to go back to prison because there she’s in a community where she feels most comfortable; where she has friends around her and where she can get the help and services she needs quicker than if she was on the outside.

The other is a younger woman who will offend within days of her release because she feels safer in prison than at home.

Police and Crime Commissioner Martin Surl says,

“A number of women I met during a recent visit to Eastwood Park women’s prison in South Gloucestershire had similar experiences.

“A common denominator in these stories is the lack of accommodation for people released from prison. Women, as well as men, are often freed with little or no money in their pocket; no place to go and no one to welcome and integrate them back into society. The result is a need to go straight back”.

In 2018, Gloucestershire’s Criminal Justice Board established three delivery groups with the goal of increasing partnership working and improving the criminal justice system in the county. One has the task of improving rehabilitation and reducing re-offending. The connection with accommodation was the focus of a multi-agency conference in Cheltenham on Wednesday June 12.

PCC Martin Surl opened the event with the aim of establishing a new approach to tackling homelessness and the lack of accommodation for offenders upon release. It focussed on developing a greater understanding of responsibilities under the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 and exploring practical solutions.

The event was opened by Gloucestershire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Martin Surl, and Isabel Jones from the charity Shelter, which provides advice and support for those struggling with homelessness or bad housing, provided training on areas such as the legal definition of homeless and housing legislation.

Attendees also heard from Mark Fisher about similar challenges that they have faced in Bournemouth and what they have done to overcome these issues.

The conference addressed challenges faced in Gloucestershire with the aim of developing an enhanced re-homing process for offenders upon release from prison.