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Some criminals will be released from jail early in a bid to tackle the ongoing overcrowding crisis in Britain’s prisons.
Justice Secretary Alex Chalk has said that while inmates serving life sentences will not be released early, those convicted of less serious crimes could be put to work in the community instead of behind bars.
Mr Chalk also revealed the Government is planning on sending foreign prisoners home sooner, while those in prison with now-abolished Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) sentences will have their cases reviewed.
Speaking in the House of Commons on Monday, Mr Chalk said the government will take ‘decisive action’ to address indefinite prison sentences, which he which he described as a ‘stain on our justice system’.
His comments come as capacity in the prison estate has come under serious pressure, with concerns in recent days that a lack of space could see sentencing delayed in some cases.
Justice Secretary Alex Chalk revealed some criminals will be freed from prison early. Pictured: Mr Chalk in the House of Commons in September
His comments come amid an overcrowding crisis in Britain’s prisons with fears there is not enough room for incoming inmates. Pictured: A security camera at the fence of HMP Pentonville in north London
Mr Chalk told MPs that ministers would use powers which would ‘allow the Prison Service to move some less serious offenders out of prison onto licence up to 18 days before their automatic release date’.
He added: ‘Let me be clear, this will not apply to anyone serving a life sentence, anyone serving an extended determinate sentence, anyone serving a sentence for an offence of particular concern, anyone convicted of a serious violence offence, anyone convicted of terrorism, anyone convicted of a sex offence.
‘This power will only be used for a limited period and only in targeted areas.’
He added that releases would only be made under certain conditions, including electronic tagging and attending appointments, and that a breach could lead to ‘recall to custody for the entire second half of the sentence’.
But Mr Chalk said the change would not apply to all ‘so-called lower-level offenders who are a blight on our communities’, adding: ‘For some offenders, the proper sanction is, I am afraid, the clang of the prison gate.’
Justice Secretary Alex Chalk also told the Commons: ‘We will also remove foreign offenders who should not be in the United Kingdom, taking up space in our prisons at vast expense to the taxpayer.
‘There are over 10,000 foreign nationals in our prisons. It cannot be right that some of them are sat in prison when they could otherwise be removed from our country.’
He added: ‘We will bring forward legislation to enable prisoners to be held in prisons overseas, an approach taken by Belgium, Norway and Denmark in recent years.’
On plans to build more prison places, he announced up to £400 million for more prison places and that 35,000 cells will be refurbished across the estate to bring them up to modern standards.
Mr Chalk said prisoners serving life sentences would not be released early under the plans. Pictured: The Justice Secretary at the Conservative Annual Conference on October 3
Shadow Justice Secretary Shabana Mahmood said the plans were a ‘damning indictment of this Government’s collective failure’. Pictured: Ms Mahmood at the Labour Party Conference on October 10
Responding to his statement, shadow justice secretary Shabana Mahmood said: ‘Not one word of apology to the British public for failing in the first duty of Government, and that is to keep our citizens safe.
‘As everybody knows, the first stage of rehabilitation is to acknowledge your mistakes and make a sincere apology to those affected and let down by your actions or in his case inaction and his failure to do so today is utterly inexcusable.
‘It is a damning indictment of this Government’s collective failure. Our prisons are completely full. We have been sounding the alarm for many years now, as overcrowding has skyrocketed.’
Mr Chalk also confirmed plans that would see rapists forced to serve their full sentence in prison, and outlined plans to ‘curtail’ imprisonment for public protection (IPP) sentences, which have led to indeterminate, lengthy sentences for prisoners deemed a risk to the public.
IPP sentences were introduced in 2005 to prevent serious offenders who did not warrant a life sentence being released when they still posed a danger to the public.
Despite being scrapped in 2012, nearly 3,000 criminals remain behind bars after being given such a sentence.
Mr Chalk told MPs: ‘We will take decisive action to address sentences of imprisonment for public protection.
‘We have put a stop to these discredited sentences a decade ago, but it is true that there remain around 3,000 IPP prisoners in custody despite their original tariff expiring years ago.
‘IPPs are a stain on our justice system, so I am looking at options to curtail the licence period to restore greater proportionality to IPP sentences in line with recommendation eight of the Justice Select Committee’s report, and I will come back to the House in due course.
‘This will not compromise public safety. Those found by the parole board to pose a risk to the public will not be released.’
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