Early prisoner release to be extended to 70 days – report

A scheme designed to ease overcrowding in jails is being extended again, according to The Times.

Some prisoners could be freed up to 70 days early, it has been reported
Some prisoners could be freed up to 70 days early, it has been reported (Victoria Jones/PA)

Some prisoners could have up to 70 days shaved off their jail time as ministers reportedly extended an early release scheme in a bid to ease overcrowding in prisons.

The Times reported that it had seen an email to probation and prison staff saying that the scheme will be extended from 35 days to 70 days from May 23.

The email said that despite measures introduced less than two months ago to free up space, prisons face “significant challenges” and “pressures continue in the male estate” in England and Wales, according to the newspaper.

Justice Secretary Alex Chalk announced in October that the Government would use the powers it has to allow the Prison Service to let some prisoners out of jail up to 18 days early to ease overcrowding.

In March, he extended the so-called end of custody supervised licence scheme “to around 35-60 days”, as Ministry of Justice (MoJ) statistics showed that prisons in England and Wales were still nearing capacity.

The Government insisted the measure would be temporary and only apply to “low-level offenders”.

Ministers reportedly quietly authorised the latest change without any formal announcement.

Labour’s shadow justice secretary Shabana Mahmood said: “The Tories have once again used a cloak of secrecy to hide their early release of violent criminals.

“This is a national scandal, the public has a right to know the truth.

“Rishi Sunak must come clean with the public today.”

Justice Secretary Alex Chalk
Justice Secretary Alex Chalk (Yui Mok/PA)

Mr Chalk was previously criticised for making the March announcement via a written ministerial statement to Parliament after 8pm, before attending the Commons in person the following day to update MPs.

The MoJ insisted that offenders freed early were under strict supervision.

An MoJ spokesperson said: “We will always ensure there is enough capacity to keep dangerous offenders behind bars.

“We are carrying out the biggest prison expansion programme in a hundred years, opening up 20,000 modern places, and ramping up work to remove foreign national offenders.

“To ease the short-term pressures on prisons, in March we announced an increase in the number of days governors could, under existing powers, move some offenders at the end of their prison term on to licence.

“These offenders will continue to be supervised under strict conditions such as tagging and curfews.”