Keir Starmer Could Let Out 40,000 Prisoners Early to Ease Overcrowding

In a move aimed at tackling prison overcrowding, Keir Starmer is set to sanction emergency measures that will release criminals from prison before they’ve served half their sentences. The Times has the story.

There are fewer than 700 spaces left in men’s jails in England and Wales, the Times has been told, before a critical week in the prisons overcrowding crisis.

A Ministry of Justice (MoJ) source said “the immediate crisis is quite severe” after the General Election stalled its ability to free up more space over the past six weeks.

Shabana Mahmood, the new Justice Secretary, has been presented with a list of immediate and medium-term options to ease pressure on prisons and to ensure the most dangerous criminals are locked up. …

At the top of the list of options presented to Mahmood over the weekend is lowering the automatic release point for prisoners to less than 50% through their sentence. Multiple Government sources said that this measure is almost certain to be taken by the end of this week, following authorisation from the Prime Minister.

At present offenders serving standard determinate sentences are released at the halfway point, with exclusions for prisoners jailed for sexual, violent or terror-related offences. They serve the rest of their sentence on licence, meaning they can be recalled to prison within that period.

Under the emergency measure, the automatic release point would be reduced to as low as 40% for offenders serving sentences of less than four years, according to sources familiar with the plans. It would be the first time in British history that prisoners are automatically released less than halfway through their sentence. …

An estimated 40,000 inmates would benefit, according to analysis of MoJ figures. …

Mahmood is also understood to have been presented with more drastic civil contingency measures that could be enacted if other options fail to alleviate the crisis.

This includes a proposal that would cancel the sentence of low-level offenders immediately on release, meaning they could not be recalled to prison for breaching licence conditions.

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