Prisoners likely to be released earlier as part of Labour plans to tackle prison overcrowding | Politics News

The government is expected to announce new plans to ease overcrowding in jails across England and Wales by the end of this week.

Sky News understands one of the core proposals being considered is a lowering of the automatic release point, from the 50% mark in an inmate’s sentence to 40% or 43%.

At the moment, prisoners serving standard determinate sentences – those with fixed end dates – are released at the halfway point.

Once released, they serve their sentence on licence – meaning they are supervised by the probation service in the community and must stick to certain conditions.

A lowering of the automatic release point could mean thousands of additional inmates being let out early.

Sexual, violent, and terror-related offenders are excluded from the proposal.

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It comes as Justice Secretary Shabana Mahmood today met with representatives from across the prison service, at the beginning of her first full week in the role.

Sky News understands Ms Mahmood was keen to emphasise her background as a barrister, experience in the sector, and the prime minister’s former job as director of public prosecutions.

She expressed a desire to better embrace technology and AI to improve the efficiency of the service in the future.

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Justice Secretary Shabana Mahmood met prison leaders. Pic: Reuters

Ms Mahmood spoke of the “immediate” problems in prisons, though sources say little detail was provided, as the government continues to weigh up its options.

It wants any prospective new measures to provide breathing room to alleviate immediate pressure, while work continues to find longer-term solutions.

Over the weekend, the justice secretary took briefings from the prison and probation service and is expected to announce her decision at the end of this week.

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Sources close to the prison service are concerned any decision needs to come into effect quickly, rather than remaining “stuck in a cycle” of emergency measures, like the End of Custody Supervised Licence scheme.

This was introduced under the Conservative government in October and allows certain prisoners to be released up to 70 days before the end of their sentence, to ease overcrowding.

Prisons in England and Wales are at 109% capacity.
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Under the Conservatives, the government started to release prisoners early due to overcrowding

Probation officers have previously told Sky News “high risk” prisoners were being let out without sufficient time for safeguarding checks.

Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer has committed to keeping the previous government’s scheme in order to free up space as his government inherits a ballooning prison population.

Sky News understands there are around 700 spaces left in male prisons across England and Wales.

Read more:
Scottish prisoners could be released years early

Labour promises thousands of new prison spaces

Pressure is expected to ease in August as the courts sit for fewer days between August and October, meaning fewer people are sent to jail.

On a neighbourhood policing visit in south London, Home Secretary Yvette Cooper today admitted there is not going to be a “quick fix” to solve overcrowding in prisons, suggesting the government is “extremely concerned” by the situation it has inherited from the Tories.

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Cooper: Labour inheriting ‘difficult legacy’

“It seems to have been a scorched earth policy in which they have failed to build the prisons that we need,” she said.

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