Up to 4000 ‘low risk’ criminals to be released early in bid to stop coronavirus tearing through prisons

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Prisoners within two months of their release date will now be temporarily back on the streets.

A number of prison officers have taken time off to self-isolate

The Government announced the move today, and say it will help boost the NHS by avoiding thousands of prisoners getting infected.

They explained prisoners are currently sharing cells, making it an easy environment for the disease to spread.

Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary Robert Buckland QC MP said: “This Government is committed to ensuring that justice is served to those who break the law.

“But this is an unprecedented situation because if Coronavirus takes hold in our prisons, the NHS could be overwhelmed and more lives put at risk.

“All prisoners will face a tough risk assessment and must comply with strict conditions, including an electronic tag, while they are closely monitored. Those that do not will be recalled to prison.”

Convicts who pass the criteria for release will be subject to strict conditions, and electronically monitored with GPS tags to make sure they stay at home.

Any caught breaching these conditions or committing more crime will be hauled back into prison immediately.

It does not include any high-risk offenders such as those convicted of violent or sexual offences, or any considered a danger to children.

Also no offenders convicted of coronavirus related offences such as coughing at emergency workers or stealing personal protective equipment will be eligible.

It comes with 88 prisoners and 15 staff already having tested positive for the virus.

About 8,700 prison officers are currently self-isolating with symptoms or ill, while prisoners are in lockdown in their cells for up to 23 hours a day.

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