Bid to cut re-offending by ending weekend prison release

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CAMPAIGNERS have welcomed moves to allow prisoners to leave jail in the days before their sentence ends in a bid to tackle re-offending.

Prison release dates are to become more flexible under legislation being introduced by the Scottish Government.

The lives of many will be changed for the better by this

Pete White

It is hoped the move will encourage recently released offenders to access help with issues such as accommodation and addiction during the working week.

Release on a Friday, public holidays or over the weekend is thought to hamper access to support which can lead to reoffending. The change, part of the Community Justice (Scotland) Bill, is one of a series of pledges made by the Scottish Government to improve reintegration of offenders back into the community.

Justice secretary Michael Matheson said: “The reconviction rate in Scotland is now at its lowest level for 16 years and recorded crime is at a 41-year low. We have a vision of justice in Scotland where people are held to account for their offending and are then supported to be active and responsible members of society.”

A number of measures were outlined in a report by the Ministerial Group on Offender Reintegration, which was published yesterday. They include improvements in drug and alcohol services delivered in prison and during the transition from custody to the community.

Pete White, national coordinator of the charity Positive Prison? Positive Futures, said: “The lives of many, many people will be changed for the better thanks to not only the work of this group but also the building of understanding that reducing reoffending is a community-wide issue and not simply the responsibility of a single agency or government department.

“In particular we commend the group for honouring their commitment to making it possible for some prisoners to be released one or two days early to provide them with better opportunities to connect with services and support before a weekend or public holiday.”

A spokeswoman for the Howard League for Penal Reform Scotland added: “The days and weeks following release from prison are critical to ensuring successful reintegration back into the community and reducing the chances of an individual reoffending.

“We know how difficult it can be for some prisoners accessing vital services on release and we therefore welcome the change to enable flexibility in prison release dates. This shouldn’t detract from vital work preparing individuals for release whilst they are still in custody.”