HMCIPS Statement on Early Release of Prisoners

Tuesday, 21 April 2020

Firstly, I would like to commend the professionalism and commitment of all staff working in Scotland’s prisons in these exceptionally difficult circumstances.

I welcome the recent announcement from the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, that he intends to use the powers for emergency release to consider releasing those prisoners sentenced to a short period of imprisonment that are nearing the end of their sentence.  This follows the approach of the rest of the UK and many other countries.

These powers are necessary to protect the health of prison staff, NHS and local authority staff working in prisons, and prisoners, to ensure the continued safe and effective operation of prisons.

Applying these powers will help to reduce the prison population to manageable proportions and therefore reduce the risk of cross contamination to the NHS, SPS, and local authority staff.  The consequent transmission to families and the community will also be reduced.

Those who live and work in prison are a particularly vulnerable population.  Although there has been a reduction in the prison population in recent weeks, staff working in prisons are still having to deal with a high number of prisoners routinely accommodated in double cells.  Social distancing or self-isolation is impossible in these circumstances and the risks around virus transmission are inevitably higher.

Wendy Sinclair-Gieben

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland