Hundreds of criminals could be released EARLY due to overcrowded jails

Hundreds more criminals could be released EARLY and given curfews and electronic tags to free up space in overcrowded prisons

  • Ministers mulling Home Detention Curfew (HDC) scheme extension
  • Currently available to lags four-and-a-half months from scheduled release
  • Legislation reportedly being drawn up to extend this by six weeks to six months 
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

Hundreds of low-risk criminals could be released early from prison under plans designed to reduce chronic overcrowding, it was reported today.

Ministers want to extend the Home Detention Curfew (HDC) scheme in England and Wales that frees inmates into the community wearing electronic tags.

It is currently available to lags who are four-and-a-half months from their scheduled release date, but legislation has been tabled to extend this by six weeks to six months, the Times reported.

The move, which is not linked to the current coronavirus outbreak, comes after serious fears were raised that prisons could run out of space by the end of 2020.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: ‘This Government has been very clear that serious offenders should stay in prison for longer and that public protection is our top priority.

‘Any effective justice system must also rehabilitate whenever possible and Home Detention Curfew allows carefully assessed offenders, who committed less serious crimes, to begin their reintegration back into the community.

Ministers want to extend the Home Detention Curfew (HDC) scheme in England and Wales that frees inmates into the community wearing electronic tags

There are currently 83,917 people in prison as of last Friday, while 2,718 were on the HDC scheme, according to the latest Home Office figures (HMP Wormwood Scrubs pictured)

‘They remain subject to strict conditions, including electronic tags, and can be returned to custody if they fail to comply with any of these.’

There are currently 83,917 people in prison as of last Friday, while 2,718 were on the HDC scheme, according to the latest Home Office figures. 

Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: ‘Prisons are under great strain, and this is an important and welcome first step to ease pressure on the system.

‘But, to keep the public safe, the government will have to reduce the number of people behind bars even further to ensure that prisons do not become breeding grounds for COVID-19.’

HDC was introduced in 1999 to provide a ‘managed transition’ from prison to community for offenders serving short custodial terms.

Prisoners jailed for at least three months and less than four years can be considered for release on HDC.

Criminals in several offence categories are either barred or ‘presumed unsuitable’, including sex offenders, terrorists and foreign national prisoners facing deportation.

Post-release, an individual on HDC is made to wear an electronic tag and must abide by a curfew until they have reached their automatic or conditional release date.

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