New rules for Cat D prisoners in 2023
New rules for Cat D prisoners in 2023, New Measures to Alleviate Overcrowding in England and Wales Prisons
In a bold move to address the overcrowding crisis in prisons, the justice secretary has announced a plan to release thousands of prisoners in England and Wales up to 18 days early. This decision comes in the wake of recent figures revealing that the incarcerated population has reached a record high of 88,225.
The justice secretary has also indicated that efforts will be made to repatriate more foreign prisoners and explore options for renting prison spaces abroad for UK offenders. The early release initiative is set to apply to those serving sentences of less than four years.
This plan, which was formulated by ministers last week, is scheduled to be implemented for prisoners whose conditional release dates fall between 16 October and 12 December 2023. However, this proposal has raised concerns regarding the resettlement planning for inmates, particularly those who require coordination with multiple agencies to secure accommodation and employment upon release.
The domestic abuse commissioner for England and Wales has voiced apprehensions about the safety of victims, especially since many short-sentence prisoners are incarcerated for domestic abuse and stalking offences. The Ministry of Justice has been urged to ensure that victim safety is a priority in the execution of this plan.
The justice secretary has clarified that this early release will not apply to individuals serving life sentences, extended determinate sentences, or those convicted of serious violence, terrorism, or sex offences. Releases will be conditional, including electronic tagging and mandatory appointments, with any breach potentially leading to a recall to custody for the remainder of the sentence.
This strategy bears resemblance to a three-year scheme implemented by the last Labour government, which released 50,000 offenders 18 days before their sentence’s halfway point. Although the Labour scheme faced criticism for being lenient on criminals, the current crisis has necessitated the reconsideration of such measures.
Experts from the Prison Reform Trust and the Howard League for Penal Reform have acknowledged the dire situation of the prison system, recognizing the early release scheme as a necessary response to the imminent risk of overcrowding.
In addition to the early release plan, the justice secretary has stated that rapists will serve their full sentences, and there will be a reduction in the number of “low-level offenders” sent to prison. The government is also exploring options to transfer more prisoners to their home countries and send UK prisoners abroad.
Community services, such as neighborhood clean-up, are being considered as alternatives to short prison sentences as part of the government’s strategy to manage the growing prison population.
These changes were expedited following reports that a senior judge had requested judges to delay sentencing for those on bail. However, the justice secretary has refuted these claims, emphasizing that serious and dangerous offenders will continue to receive lengthy sentences.
The shadow justice secretary has criticized the justice secretary for not offering an apology for the current state of the justice system, highlighting the importance of acknowledging mistakes as a crucial step towards rehabilitation.
As the government rolls out these new measures, the focus remains on balancing the need to alleviate overcrowding with ensuring the safety of victims and the public.