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Labour’s New Early Release Initiative Aims to Tackle Prison Overcrowding Amidst Conservative Concerns

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Inmates may be released sooner under Labour's strategy to address overcrowding in prisons. The home secretary emphasized that resolving the issue of crowded prisons will not be an immediate solution and expressed serious concerns about the situation left by the previous Conservative administration.

By Mollie Malone, journalism staff

Monday, July 8, 2024, 4:

Officials are anticipated to unveil new strategies to alleviate prison overcrowding throughout England and Wales before the week concludes.

Sky News has learned that among the primary suggestions under review is a reduction in the threshold for automatic inmate release, shifting it from the halfway point of a sentence down to either 40% or 43%.

Currently, inmates with standard determinate sentences, which have specified conclusion dates, are set free when they reach the midpoint of their term.

Upon release, they continue their sentence under probation, where they are monitored by probation officers in the community and are required to adhere to specific terms.

A reduction in the threshold for automatic release might result in thousands more prisoners being released earlier than scheduled.

The proposal does not apply to individuals convicted of sexual, violent, or terror-related crimes.

Stay tuned for real-time updates

Today marks the start of Justice Secretary Shabana Mahmood's inaugural week in her position, during which she convened a meeting with various stakeholders from the prison service.

Sky News has learned that Ms. Mahmood was eager to highlight her past role as a barrister, her expertise in the field, and the prime minister's previous position as the director of public prosecutions.

She conveyed her interest in leveraging technology and artificial intelligence to enhance the service's efficiency going forward.

Ms. Mahmood discussed the urgent issues facing prisons, but according to sources, she offered few specifics, while the government is still considering various approaches.

It seeks new initiatives that offer immediate relief, allowing space to address urgent issues as efforts persist in developing sustainable long-term strategies.

This past weekend, the Secretary of Justice received updates from the prison and probation services, with plans to make her announcement by week's end.

Stay informed on the newest developments in the UK and across the globe by tuning into Sky News.

Insiders within the prison system are worried that any new policy must be implemented swiftly to avoid a continual reliance on temporary solutions, such as the End of Custody Supervised Licence program.

Implemented by the Conservative government in October, this policy permits the early release of some inmates up to 70 days prior to their sentence completion to mitigate prison overcrowding.

Probation officers have informed Sky News that prisoners deemed "high risk" are being released without adequate time allocated for necessary safeguarding evaluations.

Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer has pledged to maintain the prior administration's initiative to alleviate overcrowding, as his government faces an escalating number of inmates.

Sky News has learned that there are approximately 700 available spots remaining in men's prisons throughout England and Wales.

Further reading: Early release for Scottish inmates considered; Labour pledges increased prison capacity with new cells

Stay ahead with the latest Breaking News

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It is anticipated that there will be a reduction in pressure in August due to the fact that courts are in session for fewer days from August to October, resulting in fewer incarcerations.

During a community policing tour in south London, Home Secretary Yvette Cooper acknowledged today that resolving the issue of prison overcrowding will not be an immediate process, indicating that the current administration is "deeply troubled" by the conditions left by the previous Conservative government.

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"She suggested that they adopted a scorched earth strategy, neglecting to construct the necessary prisons," she stated.

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