Housing needs review for all prisoners
Prisoners are to be given a detailed in-depth housing needs assessment on their prison induction for the first time.
It is the first time the assessment will be standardised and used across both the prison and probation services.
The scheme is being developed and is due to be piloted in the south west in early 2006.
It will be run as a joint project between the Prison and Probation Services, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Local Government Association.
Frances Crook, director of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said housing needs assessments were currently carried out on an ad hoc basis in many prisons and sometimes not at all.
'Some prisons do housing assessments and some do not,' she said. 'Piloting something that is comprehensive for all prisoners is new and it is a step in the right direction - it has just taken about 100 years too long.'
She said that she hoped the assessments would take into account all the factors that can affect prisoners on their release.
'Quite often a lot of prisoners come out and say they have somewhere to go and so they don't put down as homeless,' she said.
'Actually what they often mean is that they are sleeping on friends settees or hoping that an ex-girlfriend will take them back.'
The moves come after the ODPM committee on homelessness, which presented its findings in January, said ex-offenders were being rehoused at a rate of just one per borough in the year after the Homelessness Act was updated in 2002.