THE NUMBER of people sleeping rough upon release from prison has more than trebled in Wales, new figures from Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre show.

In its Prisons in Wales factfile, data from the Ministry of Justice show 332 people managed by the Welsh probation services were sleeping on the streets in 2023, compared to 107 in 2022. This is equivalent to a rise of 210%.

This report is the latest in a line of publications focusing on the Welsh criminal justice system, which began in 2018, drawing together information published by the Ministry of Justice, as well as previously unseen data which has been obtained from the Ministry of Justice via the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Further findings show that Wales has a significantly higher “in country” imprisonment rate than other parts of the UK at 177 per 100,000 of the population.

This is followed by England (146), Scotland (146) and Northern Ireland (100).

This calculation, taken from 2023 figures, is based on the number of people held in prison within that country’s borders.

Wales far exceeds the level recorded in any other country in western Europe.

In Welsh prisons, when comparing the first six months of 2023 with the first six months of 2022, the number of prisoner-on-prisoner assaults increased by 80%, with assaults on staff rising by 43%, and self-harm incidents by 23%.

Lead author Dr Robert Jones said: “These latest findings present a depressing picture of the criminal justice system in Wales. As it recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic, we see the continuation and return of a persistent set of problems.

"A lack of Wales-only justice data continues to present major obstacles to better understanding and improving the situation and demonstrates the agencies formally responsible for justice in Wales are still neglecting the chance to take Wales and the Welsh context seriously.


“Four years since we first uncovered that Wales has the highest imprisonment rate in western Europe, no attempt has been made to account for this rather startling finding.

"We are seeing an increasing number of people leaving prison as rough sleepers and while there were signs of some improvements in safety levels across Wales, the latest data for 2023 indicate a return to the problems that reached record levels prior to the pandemic.

"There are already major concerns that rising prisoner numbers will exacerbate the situation further.”

Despite a sharp increase in the number of rough sleepers in Wales, the report does note a higher proportion (53%) of those managed by Welsh probation services went into settled accommodation upon release in 2022/23, compared to those managed by probation services in England (48%).