The number of prisoners being allowed to serve part of their sentence using an electronic tag has fallen by around 75 per cent since new restrictions were introduced.
Rules surrounding Home Detention Curfews (HDCs) were tightened last month to exclude those with a history of violence, knife crime or links to organised crime.
It followed the murder of Craig McClelland, 31, who was stabbed to death in Paisley last year by James Wright, who had been “unlawfully at large” for five months.
Wright – who had 16 previous convictions, including two for knife crimes – had breached the terms of an HDC in February 2017 just days after being released from prison.
Colin McConnell, chief executive of the Scottish Prison Service, said the number of those being released on HDC had fallen by 75 per cent since the curbs were introduced.
He told MSPs on the Scottish Parliament's justice committee that the number of HDC being approved had fallen from 25-30 a week to 7 a week.
Mr McConnell said: "In terms of the situation now, there is a considerable restriction and presumption against the grant of HDC which has resulted in approaching a 75 per cent reduction in the use of HDC.
"Where at one time we may well have somewhere between 25 and 30 grants of HDC per week, we're now down to 7."
He added: "We've moved from a presumption for to a presumption against. It should surprise us then with the restrictions we put in place...that we've seen a sea change in the level of grant of HDC."
Wendy Sinclair-Gieben, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said: "My concern is that if we become risk-averse on HDC, we will also become risk-averse on parole and people going to the open (prison) estate.
"It means the pressure on the prisons - some of which are already struggling - is going to become huge and I really worried about that ahead of time. It's a very testing time at the moment because we have that distinct evidence that the change to the HDC has had an impact."
Last month, justice secretary Humza Yousaf said the rules surrounding HDCs would be tightened after a damning report from HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) said 24 offenders had been unlawfully at large for more than four years.
HM Inspector of Constabulary Gill Imery said the processes around HDCs needed to be “significantly improved”.
Mr Yousaf said he would accept all of the report’s recommendations, including a presumption against allowing anyone convicted of violence, possession of an offensive weapon or with links to organised crime to leave prison on an HDC. He also said he would also consider making it a criminal offence for anyone to remain unlawfully at large.
Wright breached his HDC and was deemed to be unlawfully at large by the Scottish Prison Service ten days after his release from HMP Low Moss where he had been serving a 21-month prison sentence for a knife-related crime.
On 23 February last year, he removed his electronic tag and left his curfew address. Police Scotland were alerted the following day by the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) that Wright was now unlawfully at large.
However, he was still free on 23 July when he approached Mr McClelland, a father of three, in the street and asked him for a light before stabbing him twice.