In a recent review on the impact of Release on Temporary Licence (ROTL) on prisoner reoffending, Hillier and Mews (2018) [read the full report here] found that prisoners frequently allocated onto temporary release in the period leading up to release from prison were significantly less likely to reoffend.
At 3 Pillars we have seen the value of ROTL first hand, providing prisoners with opportunities to spend time outside of the prison, enabling them to prepare for their life after prison upon completion of their sentence. This can include activities which contribute to their resettlement, such as seeking employment, finding stable accommodation, or building family ties. The positive association found by Hillier and Mews suggests that the greater the accessibility and availability of ROTL placements and/or activities, the greater the chance ex-prisoners have of effectively reintegrating and contributing to society.
However, not all prisoners are eligible for ROTL, and not all licences are the same. There are four main types of ROTL, including:
Hillier and Mews’ analysis of the different types of ROTL and the characteristics of those given ROTL in their analysis provides an insight into its application. They found that in the six months prior to release, Resettlement Day Release was by far the most common (94%), followed by Overnight Release (4%), Special Purpose (2%) and Childcare Resettlement (<1%). ROTL is frequently used in England and Wales, and it was an integral part of Education and Employment Strategy launched in May by the Justice Secretary (MoJ, 2018) [read the strategy here]. Generally, the total number of ROTL failures remains relatively rare, there are only 75 per 100,000 ROTL incidences. Failure incidents typically include activities such as returning late, failing to return, alleged offending or other breaches of licence conditions. Whilst there might be ROTL failures, Hillier and Mews’ research strongly indicates that ROTL can reduce reoffending by enhancing training, employment and family ties ready for release. Prisoners also donate a large proportion of their income to a victims fund. Getting prisoners into work could be the key to breaking the cycle of crime and increasing ROTL in the six months prior to release has significant reductions in offending. All types of ROTL were associated with positive outcomes in reoffending. Each additional Resettlement Day Release was associated with some 0.5% reduced odds of reoffending over one year and; each additional Resettlement Overnight Release was associated with 5% reduced odds of reoffending over one year. However, the job of delivering this does not stop at the prison gate. For ROTL to occur, ex-prisoners will need coherent supervision that will address the multitude of problems they may face in their lives; there will also need to be a renewed focus on encouraging employers in all sectors to identify appropriate ROTL placements for prisoners. If we hope to provide prisoners with the best chance of resettlement into the community, it should be imperative for prisons to consider providing suitable prisoners with this opportunity, as much as possible.