Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Government would be given powers to release prisoners through consultation proposals

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It is time to evaluate the use of prisons in Scotland, says a Scottish Government consultation document.

In a twelve-week consultation on civil liability reform in Scotland, Ministers sought public opinion to increase the chances of offenders being rehabilitated and reintegrated.

The consultation contains a number of proposals that could be included in future legislation – to be presented to Holyrood in the first year of the parliamentary term – including an explicit request for a court to consider electronic surveillance before refusing bail, thereby the power of Scottish ministers will be increased to release “groups of inmates in exceptional circumstances” and improve patency standards for offenders leaving prison.

The report, which also included more than 30 questions for respondents, said: “We believe the time has come to rethink the role that prisons and the use of prison sentences should play in a modern and progressive Scotland.

“A justice system that addresses the reasons for crime better and offers more opportunities for rehabilitation benefits all of us and will lead to fewer victims in the future.”

Justice Secretary Keith Brown said: “Our overall goal for the justice system in Scotland is to improve public safety, support victims and reduce victimization rates.

“The proposals in this consultation support this goal. We cannot just continue to use prison sentences to address major societal harm. In fact, in some cases, such use can make the harm worse.

“This consultation raises important questions about how custody should be applied in Scotland now and in the future, with an emphasis on reducing crime and recidivism and keeping people safe.”

Scottish Ministers are currently not empowered to release certain groups of prisoners if it is found that they cannot be housed in the prison facility, as is the case in other parts of the UK.

During the pandemic, that power was built into emergency legislation to protect against prison breakouts.

However, the report indicates that the power would not be available for any reason other than Covid-19.

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