Some prisoners to be released early to stop coronavirus spread in jails 'overwhelming' NHS

4 April 2020, 10:11 | Updated: 4 April 2020, 11:46

Some prisoners are to be released early to help stop the spread of coroanvirus
Some prisoners are to be released early to help stop the spread of coroanvirus. Picture: PA

By Asher McShane

Up to 4,000 prisoners who are within two months of their release date will be temporarily released from jail in the UK’s fight against coronavirus, it emerged today.

The Ministry of Justice said the action was being taken to avoid thousands of prisoners becoming infected and “overwhelming” local NHS services.

Prisoners who pass “stringent criteria for release” will be subject to strict conditions, and will be electronically monitored, including with GPS tags, to enforce the requirement to stay at home, the MoJ said.

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Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary Robert Buckland QC MP said: “This Government is committed to ensuring that justice is served to those who break the law.

“But this is an unprecedented situation because if Coronavirus takes hold in our prisons, the NHS could be overwhelmed and more lives put at risk.

“All prisoners will face a tough risk assessment and must comply with strict conditions, including an electronic tag, while they are closely monitored.

“Those that do not will be recalled to prison.”

 The MoJ added that no high-risk offenders, including those convicted of violent or sexual offences, anyone of national security concern or a danger to children will be considered for release.

No prisoners who have not served at least half their custodial term will be considered either.

Additionally, no offender convicted of COVID-19 related offences, including coughing at emergency workers or stealing personal protective equipment, will be eligible.

Prisoners with any symptoms that could be coronavirus will also not be considered for release back into the public.

The new rules apply to prisoners in England and Wales.

The MoJ also said it was trying to identify sites that could be transformed into temporary prison accommodation to ease pressure on the UK’s prison system.

So far 88 prisoners and 15 prison staff have tested positive for the disease.

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