Probation houses COVID-19 ex-prisoner with just 14-hours’ notice

The Merseyside Community Rehabilitation Company pulled out all the stops yesterday evening after being contacted by a prison about the release of a man this morning suspected of having COVID-19.

The 53-year-old, from Liverpool, was released at 9am today after serving a sentence for shop theft. His release address was at his 80-year-old mother’s house and therefore became untenable because she was at risk of contracting the virus from him.

To further complicate the task, the man is on a methadone prescription to help his recovery from drug misuse. He has progressed well in prison but arranging the prescription on a Friday to see him through to Monday while also arranging food and toiletries made the case especially tough.

Carla Jones, Community Director at the Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC), worked with the CRC’s Integrated Through the Gate (ITTG) team through the night and this morning after being notified about the release at 7pm yesterday evening.

A partnership of agencies including the prison, CRC, National Probation Service, local drug and alcohol services and CRC volunteers all worked together to provide the necessary support.

During the evening the CRC secured the man emergency accommodation and arranged for his medication to be dropped off by a pharmacist. The prison gave him a mobile telephone and today has driven him to the destination to ensure he did not travel by public transport and risk infecting other people.

Rachel McCarthy, manager of the CRC’s ITTG team, said: “I am hugely proud of the work we have undertaken, together with our partner agencies, to secure this man safe temporary accommodation while he waits for his COVID-19 test results.

“It is unusual to have such a short space of time to arrange alternative measures for people being released from prison, but our team of highly skilled professionals did a tremendous job to make sure everything was in place to let him to hit the ground running.

“It could so easily have been the case that he’d have been homeless, with no food and without his medication. That’s just setting people up to fail. My team is here to support people, many of whom are vulnerable, and to help them stop re-offending.”

The man has 233 convictions for shop theft committed to fund an addiction, but he successfully quit drugs in prison.

Carla said: “He has done well in prison and we were all desperate to give him the best platform we could to continue that progress.

“The actions that my team, health professionals and the prison have done have made sure that the public is protected from someone who needs to be isolating because of COVID-19 and have supported the gentleman so that he has everything he needs.

“All the evidence shows, and this is confirmed by my own experience, that the first 24-hours post release are critically important. If you can get the support right as soon as people leave the prison gates, that gives them a fighting chance to make positive changes to their lives.”

The ITTG team successfully applied for funding from Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service’s Homeless Prevention Trust which was created when the pandemic started to provide money for people facing homelessness post custodial release. They also carried out a risk assessment of the accommodation to ensure the gentleman can isolate.

Carla added: “The fund’s aim is to reduce the number of homeless people we have on our streets during COVID-19. I am delighted the funds were made available at such short notice.

“While this is the first time that we’ve had to react to a case like this, I believe as the pandemic continues it won’t be the last. Assuring that we have the right processes and contingency plans in place is crucial, and our activity in a difficult situation shows that we are heading in the right direction.”