Freedom Amidst Crisis: Experiences of UK Inmate Re-entry during the Covid-19 Pandemic, and Implications for Support Networks and Services

Helen Kosc, University of Oxford

This paper has been selected by the Criminology and Law Research Cluster for their 2022 Best Student Paper Award.

The Covid-19 pandemic urgently calls for scholars to revisit and re-evaluate the policies and practices that surround re-entry in the times of global crises. Whilst there is unanimous support – among policymakers and scholars alike – for the wide adoption of decarceration efforts and early release of inmates to help stop the spread of Covid-19 in prisons, there is currently no research being done on whether there is sufficient infrastructure in place to support those being released during these challenging times. This research set out to investigate to what extent support networks and resources have been available to those recently released from prison in the United Kingdom, during the pandemic. Qualitative interviews conducted with staff of support organizations offered unique insight into the difficulties caused by the pandemic for facilitating support services and, consequently, for those who rely on them. I spoke to 12 staff across 5 organizations, who spoke of the most pressing structural limitations imposed on their services by the pandemic, and the implications this had for those who relied on their service. This thesis offers original and exploratory insights into an understudied but critical field. Two critical conclusions that emerge from this study are 1) the urgent need to re-evaluate the consequences of mass decarceration efforts when insufficient support structure is in place upon release; and 2) the impressive determination and adaptability of the staff and the potential advantages of a client-centred service model during times of challenge.

This paper will be presented at the following session: