Dangerous Decisions: Government’s Gamble on Early Prisoner Release

The government’s plan to allow well-behaved, low-risk offenders to leave prison early has been compromised, according to a watchdog. Reports suggest high-risk offenders have been released as part of the scheme. 

Full Prisons Prompted the Scheme

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Deputy prime minister Oliver Dowden discussed the scheme: “We want to minimise the use of this scheme, but there’s unprecedented demand in our prisons.”

Plans Met With Widespread Condemnation

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This government is used to its proposals being criticised. Still, it’s hard to find anyone outside the Tory party with anything good to say about the scheme. 

Concerns Crime Is Already Too High

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Recent news shows that crime rates in the UK are, in some cases, at their highest levels since records began. Social media comments show that the public is justifiably worried that letting criminals out early could add to the problem. 

Scheme Expected to Be Temporary

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He continued, “To manage that gap occasionally between supply and demand we need to have these temporary measures but the prime minister and the lord chancellor are committed to minimising their use and I think that’s the appropriate course.”

Shadow Secretary of State for Justice, Shabana Mahmood Furious

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“The government cannot continue to extend and expand indefinitely what is supposed to be a temporary early release scheme, with zero transparency. The Tories are treating victims and the British public with contempt. We need answers.”

Justice Secretary in the Firing Line

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The Justice Secretary, Alex Chalk, said that the scheme would only apply to “low-level offenders”, but there are reports that the pledge has already been broken. 

Report Highlights Worrying Cases

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The chief inspector of prisons, Charlie Taylor, released a report on Tuesday. It said an inmate at HMP Lewes had his release date brought forward despite “having a history of stalking, domestic abuse and being subject to a restraining order”.

Not an Isolated Case

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Another case included an inmate with substance abuse and serious mental health issues being released into homelessness. The release went ahead despite various parties calling for a reversal of the decision, citing the inmates and the public’s safety. 

Plans Getting More Lenient

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The scheme was originally intended to reduce prison sentences by up to 18 days. In March, the figure was increased to between 35 and 60 days. As of the 23rd of May, it will rise to 70 days.

Taylor Concerned for Prison Logistics

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Taylor said: “The need to release offenders early to free up space in our jails is a further sign of the pressure that our prison service is under, with local leaders having to make difficult choices as the day we run out of places draws closer.”

Critical of Government Allowing the Situation to Happen

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“The current situation was entirely predictable and is simply not sustainable, for either the prison or probation service. Although some of these issues may, I hope, reduce as the scheme embeds, more fundamentally, an urgent conversation is needed about who we send to prison, for how long, and what we want to happen during their time inside.”

The Bigger Concern Is Extension of the Scheme

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The public will be concerned that the early release date has been increased from days to months in such a short period of time. Where will the early release line be drawn?

Government Criticised for Handling of the Scheme

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Labour’s Shabana Mahmood said: ​​”The public will rightly be worried to hear of cases where violent prisoners are being released without a proper assessment of the risk they pose to the public, and specifically children.”

Accusations of a Government Cover-up

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Mahmood continued: “It’s being left to prison inspectors to tell the public the truth because this government is refusing to level with them on the scale of the prisons and probation crisis.”

Lack of Announcement Speaks Volumes

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The Prime Minister hasn’t been vocal about the scheme and has left it to ministers to explain the decision, which shows he doesn’t want to be associated with it. For a party that promises to be tough on crime, this is a very soft way to handle the issue. 

Reform and Rehabilitation Experts Angry at Plans

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Andrea Coomber, CEO of Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “It is imperative that the government publishes data on the early release scheme’s operation and makes a commitment to transparency as a matter of urgency.”

Coomber Offers Alternative Suggestion

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She said: “While action to ease pressure on jails is necessary, this temporary measure is no substitute for what is really needed: a more sensible response to crime that puts fewer people behind bars and more money into services that can help them.”

Government Defends Position on the Scheme

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A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “While we will always ensure there is enough capacity to keep dangerous offenders behind bars, this scheme allows us to ease short-term pressures on prisons by moving some lower-level offenders at the end of their custodial term on to licence.”

The Promise of Continued Supervision

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The spokesperson continued: “These offenders will continue to be supervised under strict conditions such as tagging and curfews, and the prison service can block the earlier release of any individual who poses a heightened risk.”

Eyes Will Be on Offenders

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There will be much suspicion about this scheme and plenty of attention on the released offenders. If a single one re-offends, especially seriously, it will be a huge own goal for the government in the run-up to the elections. 

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The post Dangerous Decisions: The Government’s Gamble on Early Prisoner Release first appeared on Edge Media.

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