MORE than half the inmates at the Scottish prison Castle Huntly will be freed for Christmas - despite two escapes in the last two months.
The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) has revealed that over the festive period, 162 convicts from the 285-capacity facility, in Tayside - Scotland’s only open prison - will be free for at least four nights each.
The prison has a number of low-risk prisoners who are prepared for going back into society and they try to get them back into their families again for a normal relationship.Carse of Gowrie councillor Douglas Pover
On December 7, Police Scotland announced convicted armed robber William Carlin had been found after absconding from the prison a month earlier.
Murderer James Casey, 50, is currently on the run after failing to return to Castle Huntly following a period of day release on December 10.
But the SPS insisted “rigorous risk assessment” took place before deciding which prisoners could be given leave over the Christmas period.
A spokeswoman said: “A rigorous risk assessment is undertaken prior to any offender being granted unescorted leave. The majority of these take place without incident.
“The numbers of absconds are at historic low levels. Where an individual fails to return from unescorted leave, the Scottish Prison Service and Police Scotland work closely to ensure that the individual is located and returned to custody.”
A total of 145 of those who are being freed will be released for seven days, followed by another seven around the new year.
Carse of Gowrie councillor Douglas Pover, who used to sit on the Open Estate Prison Visiting Committee, insisted locals were safe despite mass releases of inmates over the festive period.
He said: “At the end of the leave, some of them don’t want to come back under prison rules again, which you can understand, but most of them will return apart from one or two, so it’s a very small percentage who abscond.
“I’m quite sure the local community is safe. If they abscond, they will be charged by police and they go back to closed conditions where they’ll probably get time added to their sentence. They have been deemed as low risk to be allowed out and the consequences of absconding mean they will probably never been allowed back in Castle Huntly again.
“The prison has a number of low-risk prisoners who are prepared for going back into society and they try to get them back into their families again for a normal relationship. Many will have just a few years left on their sentence, but the prison service is very careful with who it lets out.”