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Prisoners could be let out 10 weeks EARLY as government extends scheme

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PRISONERS could be let out 10 weeks early as the Government has quietly extended its Early Release Scheme.

Prison governors have been informed that they can now let out burglars, shoplifters, and other “low level” offenders 70 days before the end of their sentences – up from the 60 day limit the Justice Secretary announced earlier this year.

Prisoners were previously eligible for release 60 days early

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Prisoners were previously eligible for release 60 days early

The End of Custody Supervised Licence Scheme (ECSL) was set up in October in a bid to tackle severe overcrowding in the country’s prisons.

The changes will come into force on May 23 after forecasts done internally by the prison service estimated that spaces will run out in June without more prisoners released. 

Serious violent offenders, terrorists, those convicted of sexual offences, and those serving life sentences are excluded from the plan.

The Ministry of Justice has not revealed how many people have been released under the scheme so far.

At the end of last week prisons were at 98.4 per cent capacity with just 1,390 spots available for criminals being handed custodial sentences.

A total of 87,505 were being held in the prison estate including 83,859 men and 3,646 women.

When the Justice Secretary announced the scheme in October, the prison population was at a record 88,225.

In a written statement to the House of Commons in March, the Justice Secretary Alex Chalk extended the scheme to up to 60 days to ease pressures on overcrowding.

He said: “We will also extend the existing end of custody supervised licence measure to around 35-60 days.

“We will enable this to happen, for a time limited period, and work with the police, prisons and probation leaders to make further adjustments as required.

“This will only be for certain low level offenders. Where necessary, electronic monitoring will be applied, enhancing public protection. Ministers will continue to keep use of this measure under review.”

At the time of the announcement in March, the Government said they would work with prisons and probation leaders to make further adjustments as required.

Shabana Mahmood, the shadow justice secretary, said: “The Tories have once again used a cloak of secrecy to hide their early release of violent criminals. It’s completely unacceptable and the public has a right to know the truth.

“After 14 years of Conservative chaos and the utter mismanagement of the prison estate, the government cannot keep extending the early release of prisoners without facing public scrutiny.

“The Conservatives’ cover-up of this early release scheme is unprecedented. They are still refusing to answer how many prisoners have been released early, which prisons are using the scheme, and which types of offenders are being put back on our streets.

“This is a national scandal, and Rishi Sunak must come clean with the public today.”

A Ministry of Justice 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.”

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