pollitician : Hundreds of prisoners to be released early in Scotland

pollitician : Hundreds of prisoners to be released early in Scotland
pollitician : Hundreds of prisoners to be released early in Scotland

Wednesday 12 June 2024 10:47 PM

newsonline - Regulations to allow the emergency early release of prisoners will come into force after MSPs backed the Scottish government's plan to ease pressure on the country's jails.

Around 514 prisoners will be released in four waves, starting at the end of this month.

Only inmates serving short sentences of under four years who have 180 days or less left to serve will be considered for release.

Prisoners serving life sentences, or those who are currently behind bars for sexual, domestic abuse or terror-based offences, will automatically be excluded from the scheme.

Prison governors will also have the power to veto the release of any inmate they deem an "immediate risk" to a specific individual or group.

Timescales:
Tranche one: Those with less than 45 days left to serve will be released on 26 and 27 June.
Tranche two: Those with 45-89 days left to serve will be released on 3 and 4 July.
Tranche three: Those with 90-134 days left to serve will be released on 10 and 11 July.
Tranche four: Those with 135-180 days left to serve will be released 17 and 18 July.

Eligible prisoners whose release is not completed within the appropriate tranche will be set free as soon "as is practicable" before the process end date of 25 July.

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The move comes amid a spike in prison population numbers, which Justice Secretary Angela Constance said is putting the estate at "critical risk".

Ms Constance told Holyrood in May that the country's prison population had increased sharply by around 400 in the space of two months, and 13% since the beginning of 2023.

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On 16 May it was sitting at 8,348, one of the highest levels ever recorded in Scotland. It has since dropped to 8,294 - which is still above the target operating capacity of 8,007.

After being backed by MSPs on Wednesday, from 13 June the Scottish government will be able to bring into force section 11 of the Bail and Release from Custody (Scotland) Act 2023, which provides ministers with the power to release prisoners in emergency situations.

Angela Constance at the Scottish Parliament in in Edinburgh, after MSP John Swinney became the first candidate to declare his bid to become the new leader of the SNP and Scotland's next first minister.Picture date: Thursday May 2, 2024.
Image: Angela Constance, Scotland's justice secretary. Pic: PA

Following Scottish parliament approval, Ms Constance said: "Immediate and urgent action is needed to deal with the significant recent rise in the prison population.

"The same challenges in prisons are faced across the UK and the UK government has taken similar action in England and Wales.

"Through this emergency early release plan, backed by parliament, we are responding to this critical situation and ensuring the safety and welfare of staff and prisoners.

"Protecting the public remains my absolute priority, which is why there are significant and robust safeguards in place and only those due to be released in the next short while are eligible.

"Releases will also be completed in tranches so the necessary support can be provided to safely resettle released prisoners in their communities."

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Prisoner released early talks to Sky News

Read more:
Prisoner released early describes 'chaos' amid chronic overcrowding
Early release prison scheme causing 'high-risk offenders to be let out'

Victim Support Scotland has previously raised concerns about how victims will be notified.

Those not registered with the victim notification scheme will reportedly have to contact one of four support organisations to find out if the offender in their case is among those being released early.

Scottish Tory justice spokesperson Russell Findlay said: "Many victims of serious crimes will first hear about this on tonight's news. This will cause fear and anxiety.

"Prisoners being set free will have committed serious crimes, including violence."

Ms Constance said the Scottish government is working with victim support organisations to ensure information and help is available where needed.

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