Background to the report

Prisons and probation services have two core purposes: to carry out the sentences given by the courts; and to rehabilitate people in their care and supervision to help them lead law-abiding and useful lives and to protect the public. In 2021-22, there were 58,915 releases from prison in total (including some people released more than once, see paragraph 1.2). Between April 2020 and March 2021, 38% of adults released from prison reoffended in the 12 months following their release (four percentage points lower than the previous year).

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Reoffending has significant costs to society. This includes direct financial losses to victims and the costs that the criminal justice system must meet, from running police investigations and court hearings, to holding offenders in prisons and ensuring their effective supervision in the community. In 2019 the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) estimated that reoffending across all adult offenders identified in 2016 had cost society £16.7 billion (in 2017-18 prices).

Prison leavers are more likely to reoffend if they are not resettled into the community, for example if they have nowhere to live, no job or other income, and have poor continuity of healthcare. HMPPS and its partners aim to minimise the risk of this through their resettlement work.

While in custody, staff should regularly assess prisoners to understand their needs and risks throughout their sentences. Before someone leaves prison, there should be handovers between prison- and community-based staff. During and following a prisoner’s release, support should be available to help them address known barriers to successful resettlement.

Scope of the report

This report examines:

  • government’s effectiveness in resettling prison leavers
  • the factors affecting service performance
  • what needs to be addressed to improve resettlement services in the future

Our report examines resettlement arrangements for adult prison leavers in England and Wales with a focus on services relating to prison leavers’ accommodation, employment and substance misuse treatment outcomes. We did not examine the resettlement of children and young people and did not review support for offenders sentenced in the community in detail.

While we examine how HMPPS managed the transition of resettlement services to its new arrangements, we did not audit its overall approach to unifying probation services in detail. This report refers to both prison leavers and offenders as some of government’s services and initiatives are available to all offenders, including those sentenced in the community. Where data are not captured for prison leavers specifically, we have used data across all offender types.


One of the core purposes of prisons and probation services is to prepare prisoners for release effectively and ensure their smooth resettlement into the community. However, HMPPS and its partners across government do not do so consistently.

Within prisons, HMPPS does not provide sufficient activities to prepare prison leavers and those it does provide are not at the required standard. The Inspectorates have reported a significant deterioration in the quality of release planning and rehabilitation services in recent years. Moreover, HMPPS does not have good enough data on its CRS contracts to know whether they are making a positive difference.

We observed a strong commitment among prison and probation staff to turning prison leavers’ lives around, but performance has been hampered by staff shortages and high workloads. Accountability arrangements and dependencies between departments’ work are unclear. In addition, data collection and information-sharing on prisoners’ needs and outcomes, particularly on substance misuse treatment, is fragmented.


Publication details

Press release

View press release (12 May 2023)

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