Call to end early release after 150 freed inmates are sent back to prison
SCOTTISH ministers are facing fresh demands for an end to automatic early release from jail as figures revealed 150 prisoners were recalled to jail last year after being freed on serving two-thirds of their sentence.
The Parole Board for Scotland's annual report showed it was asked to consider the cases of 212 criminals who were freed automatically and whose behaviour was giving "rise for concern".
The board recommended that 150 of those be recalled – 25 fewer than last year – and letters were issued to 52 criminals warning them about their behaviour.
Opposition politicians seized on the figures, claiming they indicated a "soft-touch" Scotland.
Scottsih Tory community safety spokesman John Lamont said: "We do not want our convicts to be in the community, free to strike again. We must restore honesty in sentencing and put an end to soft-touch Scotland."
Meanwhile, James Kelly, for Labour, said the report should be a "wake-up call" to the Scottish Government, adding:
"The public quite rightly want to see an end to automatic early release, but the SNP will not bring that forward."
According to the report, last year, the Parole Board considered a total of 627 parole cases involving prisoners serving four years or more, of whom 227 were recommended for parole. Those given parole included 52 prisoners serving life sentences, out of 281 lifers who were considered.
The figures also show 27 prisoners released on licence while serving a life sentence were reported to the board after allegedly breaching the conditions of their release.
Of those inmates, 13 were sent back to jail pending an investigation and eight were subsequently kept behind bars. Thirteen life- licencees were also warned about their future conduct.
Nine prisoners released on parole for less serious offences were sent back to prison for breaching licence conditions and three were warned about their behaviour.
Board chairman Sandy Cameron said: "This indicates that, in the main, our decisions to grant parole are sound in that it is a small number of those cases which give cause for concern, whereas those offenders who have been causing concern in custody to the extent that they are not granted parole seem to be much more likely to give cause for concern after being returned to the community."
Justice secretary Kenny MacAskill said the government was committed to replacing the present "arbitrary" system of automatic early release with one that related to the risk posed by an individual offender.
But he added: "We support the independent prisons commission's view that there should be a period served in the community to provide for support and reintegration, thereby minimising the likelihood of reoffending.
"Under our plans, every prisoner will be subjected to restriction for the entire length of the sentence imposed by the court."
He said the figures also showed that "
offenders are typically denied release on licence at the earliest possible stage".
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