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Process of Being Released from Prison

This guide explains how and when prisoners get released from jail and how UK law applies to people who will be leaving prison or legal custody.

There is additional information about certain types of resettlement schemes with details on getting a temporary release on licence.

When Can a Prisoner Leave Jail in the UK?

What happens when a prisoner has met the release criteria and they are eligible to leave the prison or legal custody?

As a rule, the time when a prisoner gets released depends most on:

  • The length of their prison sentence.
  • How they behaved inside the prison.
  • Whether they spent any time on remand (waiting for a trial).

Prisoners with a Fixed Term Sentence (determinate)

Quite often, prisoners serving determinate sentences get released by automatic process. Much of the time the release happens around the middle of their sentence.

Prisoners usually leave prison on probation if their sentence is twelve (12) months or longer. There is no need for a Parole Board to get involved when this occurs.

What happens when a Parole Board reviews a case?

Some prisoners who get detained in legal custody can apply for parole. The parole process is for those with an extended sentence, or a fixed-term sentence for:

  • A prison sentence of 4 years or more.
  • A sentence for serious violent or sexual crime committed before the 4th of April 2005.

Prisoners with a Non Fixed Term (indeterminate) or Life Sentence

There is no need for prisoners with a life sentence or an indeterminate sentence to ask for parole. In these cases, the government will apply for parole on their behalf.

How to get Temporary Release from Prison

Those who get detained in legal custody can leave prison for short periods at the end of their sentence. Leaving prison towards the end can happen no matter whatever type or length of sentence.

Note: Prisons do not release prisoners if they could be a risk to the members of the public or they may commit further crimes.

Prison Resettlement Day Releases

A prison resettlement day release allows prisoners to leave custody during the daytime. This means they could go on a training course to help them look for work after they get released.

Prison Resettlement Overnight Release

A prison resettlement overnight release allows them to spend a night out of jail. As a rule they must stay at the place where they will live after leaving prison.

Childcare Resettlement Licence

The childcare resettlement licence is a special release concession for some prisoners. It allows them to spend some private time with their child or children.

But, prisoners can only apply for this if they will be the only carer for the child after their prison sentence.

Getting Help Before Leaving Prison

In the United Kingdom, all prisoners get help to prepare for life after leaving prison. They will get advice during the last twelve weeks of their prison sentence.

Thus, the advice and support will help them to:

  1. Find somewhere to live.
  2. Search for a permanent job (and secure it).
  3. Learn how to take care of their finances.

Some prisoners will also get additional specialist support if they have:

  • Been working in the sex industry.
  • Abused chemical substances (e.g. alcohol, drugs).
  • Been a victim of domestic violence.

One of the general rules of leaving prison in the United Kingdom allows released prisoners to spend the last few months of their sentence at a prison close to where they plan on living.

Extra Support after Leaving Prison UK

As a rule, entitlement to welfare benefits will cease for people imprisoned or detained in legal custody. You can ask by letter for any due arrears to get paid to someone else for you. You can
also choose to have money paid into your own account.

But, persons leaving prison may qualify for financial support which includes:

Some organisations provide support for families’ of prisoners and for people leaving prison. They include Nacro and
the Prison Reform Trust.

National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders
Telephone: 0300 123 1889
16-17 Devonshire Square

Related Help Guides

Note: Having been approved for early release on electronic tag, the video documents how life changes for people who are ‘fresh out of prison’.

Prisoner Release Process Explained for United Kingdom