Exploring Paths between Homelessness and Imprisonment in Liverpool
08 August 2011
A study, carried out by LJMU Criminology Lecturer Dr Vickie Cooper, in collaboration with The Howard League for Penal Reform*, which looked at exploring paths between homelessness and imprisonment in Liverpool, has uncovered ways in which prisons and probation actually generate homelessness.
The research discovered that this is due to the frequent upheaval of homeless people being remanded to custody, losing housing, being released as homeless or released on license and being recalled back to custody. It also explored the ways in which the homeless are discriminated within the criminal justice system. Due to having No Fixed Abode (NFA), the homeless are remanded to custody, rather being granted bail. As a result, people in court do not state their homelessness, making it increasingly difficult to know the true figures of homelessness within the criminal justice system.
Dr. Vickie Cooper commented:
"The research looks at the common experience of a revolving door between homelessness and imprisonment and also how to break the cycle. There were significant differences in experiences between male and female offenders, despite there being less probation accommodation for female offenders in the country, which therefore meant them being relocated far away from their home town. Women felt they were supported, empowered and encouraged to make turning points in their lives. Support into housing played a key part in this. Despite the fact that there are over 90 probation hostels in the country for men and therefore being accommodated in their own home town, men were severely neglected; they felt disempowered, unsupported and housed in very poor accommodation. As a result, most of the men interviewed claimed that they would rather spend their sentence in custody, than the community.
"The findings will hopefully lead to a recognition that more research has to be carried out in order to get a better picture of the levels of homelessness within the criminal justice system."
The findings were announced at the latest event to be hosted by LJMU’s Centre for the Study of Crime, Criminalisation and Social Exclusion (CCSE). The event also took the research findings further as it allowed for a discussion on recent policy and practice that aims to help reduce offending through resettlement and housing.
Participant comments included:
"Extremely good research project – first research project I have seen and been involved in were service users have actively contributed throughout."
"Found it to be very informative in terms of interagency working and how we can go about ‘joining up’ our working practices, seeing the bigger picture and the need for a more integrated approach to this subject."
"The workshop was especially useful for me - the knowledge that I gained today will be useful for setting up a course on mental health and homelessness."
Dr. Vickie Cooper would like to thank all the people who participated in the research study and to the staff who facilitated access to research participants. This research will be fed locally, to Liverpool City Council, practitioners in the field and also nationally, to lobbying groups at Howard League for Penal Reform.
For more details about the project please contact Dr. Vickie Cooper via email V.F.Cooper@ljmu.ac.uk
For further information on the work of the CCSE Centre please visit: http://www.ljmu.ac.uk/HSS/CCSEResearchCentre.htm
*The Howard League legal team provide free, independent and confidential advice, assistance and representation on a wide range of issues to young people under 21 in custody.
Pictured (l to r): Carole Beals (HMPS); Anita Dockley, Howard League for Penal Reform; Dr Vickie Cooper, LJMU; Colm Sullivan, Whitechapel Centre; Toni Baldwin, Big Issue Up North.