Scotland lawmakers vote to approve early release of prisoners due to overcrowding News
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Scotland lawmakers vote to approve early release of prisoners due to overcrowding

Scotland MSPs voted in favor of releasing many prisoners early to address overcrowding in Scottish jails, in a meeting of the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday. Approximately 550 prisoners are currently eligible for early release, according to the Scottish Parliament. This will only apply to those serving sentences under four years and not to prisoners convicted of sexual or domestic abuse offenses.

The early release will be under the Early Release of Prisoners and Prescribed Victim Supporters (Scotland) Regulations 2024, which is currently in draft form. Its introductory text says that:

The Scottish Ministers are satisfied that making these Regulations is necessary and proportionate, in response to the effects that an emergency situation is having, and is likely to have, on prisons generally, for the purposes of protecting (a) the security and good order of prisons, or (b) the health, safety and welfare of prisoners, or those working, in prisons.

Angela Constance, Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Home Affairs, told Parliament last month that the “sudden increase” in prison population (standing at around 8,348 on May 16 and now at approximately 8,294, with the target operating capacity at 8,007) threatened the safety, procedure and rehabilitative effectiveness of prisons. She found that to avoid a crisis, some prisoners must be released early.

There have been similar challenges, as noted by Constance in the earlier meeting, recently in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The United Kingdom government has legislated for a presumption against short sentences, promoted community sentences, terminated many indefinite sentences and extended its early release scheme.