17 prisoners released early from Ford Open Prison
Figures revealed in a Parliamentary Statement on Monday (16 July) show that 17 prisoners have been released early from Ford Open Prison as part of the Government’s attempts to ease prison overcrowding.
As the prison population reached a new high in June, the Government introduced new guidelines - the End of Custody Licence - to allow prisoners serving sentences of four years or less to be released up to 18 days before the end of their sentence.
This is only one part of the Government's emergency strategy to deal with overcrowding in Britain's jails. Other measures include the early transfer of prisoners from closed to open prisons and the use of court and police cells.
Across the country more than 1,700 prisoners have been released early, including nearly 350 people serving sentences for violence. At least six of the criminals have gone on to re-offend.
It is estimated that the early release scheme will see up to 25,000 offenders walking free early from prison in the next year. The Probation Service is not required to conduct a risk assessment or an accommodation check prior to a prisoner's release.
On Wednesday David Cameron launched a fierce attack on Gordon Brown for presiding over the scheme, demanding to know if the scheme would be a temporary measure, as promised by Tony Blair.
Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert, who is also Shadow Secretary of State for Justice, said:
"It is totally unacceptable that prisoners are being released early onto our streets, especially those who have committed violent or drugs-related offences. It is particularly worrying that a fifth of those who have been released have committed crimes sufficiently serious that they were originally sentenced to longer than a year in prison.
"The public is being put at risk as a result of the Government's decision to ignore earlier projections of the future prison population and its failure to plan accordingly. What do Ministers have to say to the victims of crimes committed by offenders who should have been behind bars?"
Notes for Editors
1. The Written Ministerial Statement on the End of Custody Licence scheme, which was made on Monday (16 July), can be found at: http://pubs1.tso.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmhansrd/cm070716/wmstext/70716m0001.htm#0707161000019