New early release scheme for Prisoners

New early release scheme for Prisoners

Prison New early release scheme for Prisoners 2023/2024

New early release scheme for Prisoners – New proposals could see prisoners nearing the end of their sentence take another 180 days off due to changes in the HDC new rules. 

The new early release scheme for prisoners is both a reactive and a preventative measure, dealing with the immediate crisis while hopefully instigating a long-term conversation about the state of the UK’s prison system. Whether it’s the right solution remains a point of contention, but what is unequivocal is that immediate action is needed to avert a major crisis.

The United Kingdom is grappling with an unprecedented prison crisis. Latest data has revealed that the majority of prisons are perilously overpopulated. As the numbers loom, key figures in the criminal justice sector are advocating for a new early release scheme for prisoners. In this article, we delve into the situation that has led to this drastic measure, and what it might mean for the future of the UK’s penal system.

New early release scheme for Prisoners

Early Release Scheme, HDC Rule change upto 180 days out of prison

What Does the Early Release Scheme Entail?

The UK Government plans to expand the Home Detention Curfew (HDC) scheme, allowing prisoners to exit prison up to six months before their scheduled release. Effective from 6th June 2023, the scheme aims to alleviate overcrowding by freeing up between 400 and 600 prison spaces. Eligibility will be stringent, excluding individuals convicted of serious offences such as domestic abuse, terrorism, and sexual crimes.

Factual Grounds:

  1. High-Risk Overcrowding: Prisons like HMP Leeds and HMP Durham are operating at more than 170% capacity.
  2. Legal Constraints: A union of prison staff has threatened legal action if the government pushes for more prisoners in already jam-packed facilities.
  3. Lack of Available Options: Despite constructing new prisons, the shortfall in March 2025 is expected to be around 2,300 places.

The Current State of UK Prisons

Current statistics are alarming: nearly two-thirds of jails in England are officially overcrowded, leaving only 768 free spaces in the entire prison estate. Some prisons, like HMP Wandsworth, are operating at 170% occupancy. These revelations have not only stirred concern among prison governors but have also led to potential legal repercussions. The Prison Governors’ Association has warned that pressing the “nuclear button” is increasingly becoming a possibility as the prison estate runs close to maximum capacity.

High Profile Warnings

Prominent figures, such as former home secretary Jack Straw and former Tory prisons minister Rory Stewart, have sounded the alarm, suggesting that early release might be the only viable option to ease the crisis. Andrea Albutt, the President of the Prison Governor’s Association, termed it as “common sense” and warned that “we’re overcrowded to the nth degree and there is no capacity left.”

Why Is Early Release Being Considered?

The Ministry of Justice has been urged to think on its feet to find solutions. Temporary measures like using police cells have been enacted, but as experts point out, these are just sticking plasters on a gaping wound. So why is early release coming up as a prominent solution?

Get upto 180 days off the end of your sentence?

The UK Government is set to broaden the scope of the Home Detention Curfew (HDC) programme, permitting inmates to leave prison as much as six months ahead of their due release date. Coming into effect on 6th June 2023, the initiative is designed to ease overcrowding issues by liberating an estimated 400 to 600 prison spots. The criteria for eligibility will be rigorous, ruling out those found guilty of grave crimes, including domestic violence, terrorism, and sexual offences.

Critical Opinions and Long-term Solutions

There’s a duality of views on the early release scheme. While some laud it as a practical, immediate solution, others criticise it as an act of desperation due to a lack of foresight and planning. Rory Stewart insists on learning from Europe rather than the U.S., advocating for reduced prison populations by abolishing short sentences for minor offences.