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Friday, June 21, 2024

Prisoner Emergency Release

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Regulations laid in Parliament.

The Scottish Parliament will be asked to approve the emergency release of some short-term prisoners to address the impacts of a rapid rise in the prison population.

The legislation was announced to Parliament earlier this month by the Justice Secretary as an emergency response.

If the regulations are agreed by Parliament, then current modelling indicates that around 550 eligible prisoners will be released in four tranches from the end of June 2024.

Public safety will remain a priority, and underpin all decisions, with safeguards built in.

There are also a number of automatic exclusions, meaning prisoners who are serving a life sentence or are on the Sex Offenders Register are not eligible for release. 

Further exclusions have been added and apply to prisoners who are subject to non-harassment orders, or who have an unspent conviction for Domestic abuse:

As an additional protection, prison governors will have the power to veto the release of any prisoner, who is eligible for release, if they deem them an immediate risk to a specific individual or group.

Recognising the importance of providing victims information about the release of the prisoner in their case, named victim support organisations will be given information about the release date of a prisoner under the emergency release process, where the victim has requested it.

Justice Secretary Angela Constance said:

“Emergency early release has become necessary to ensure the safety and wellbeing of Scottish Prison Service staff and those in their care as a result of the rapid rise in the prison population, creating an unprecedented situation.

“This rise of around 400 prisoners over the last two months is significant and could not have been anticipated, and it cannot be ignored, it is also similar to challenges faced across the UK.

“Protecting the public remains my number one priority, which is why there are significant and robust safeguards in place.

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

“I recognise concerns victims may have which is why, named victim support organisations will be given information about the release date of a prisoner under the emergency release process, where requested by the victim they are supporting, to enable a more trauma informed approach.

“This is part of a significant package of measures we are taking in both the short and long term to deal with rising prisoner numbers and I will continue to engage with Parliament, victims organisations, local authorities and other key partners as we progress these proposals.”

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