Plans to give more prisoners early release

MORE prisoners are to be released early with a curfew order and an electronic tag in a bid to ease the pressure on Scotland's jails.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill today announced plans to extend Home Detention Curfews (HDCs) as part of a package of measures he said would allow prisons to concentrate on serious offenders.

Under the proposals, low-risk prisoners who now qualify to be released with a tag four-and-a-half months early would be allowed out up to six months early.

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Sex offenders are specifically excluded from the scheme and all prisoners considered for release would still have to be assessed by the parole board.

But the Government says extending HDCs by six weeks will free up 140 prison places.

Mr MacAskill said: "We have inherited a prison population which is operating at record levels, around 1000 beyond design capacity and rising. Only last week our chief inspector of prisons spoke of the catalogue of problems caused by overcrowding.

"I am not prepared to stand by and let our prisons implode."

Tory justice spokesman Bill Aitken said: "Early release is bad enough, now we are getting early release-plus."