Flagship laws to support ex-prisoners after release '˜barely used'

New flagship powers to stop prisoners being left out on a limb after their release from jail have barely been used since their introduction last year,
New support measures have been used only once. Picture: PANew support measures have been used only once. Picture: PA
New support measures have been used only once. Picture: PA

An inmate can now be freed up to two days earlier than planned around weekends and public holidays in order to get access to vital services.

But the The Prisoners (Control of Release) Act has been used just once since being introduced a year ago, prompting fears that convicts can be missing out in services like housing, healthcare and addiction support due to closures if they are freed around weekends.

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The Scottish Conservatives have criticised the “shocking under-use” of the new power and are calling on the government to take action, but justice secretary Michael Matheson said the law is only one of a range of measures aimed at helping prisoners reintegrate.

Tory shadow justice secretary Douglas Ross said: “This was a welcome provision which everyone agreed would not only help the chances of rehabilitation, but ultimately improve public safety too.

“So it’s extremely disappointing to learn it has only been used on a solitary occasion since its launch last year, and we need to know why.

“It’s been well-documented that releasing a prisoner on a Friday, or before a public holiday, means it can be difficult to access services. That has an obvious knock-on effect, and isn’t fair on the individual.”

Ministers say that investment in other measures means that those leaving custody are now supported in planning for their release at a much earlier stage.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The legislation is only one part of a suite of options that assist reintegration back into our communities.”