Page last updated at 16:08 GMT, Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Call to end early prison release

The Parole Board was asked to consider 212 cases

Ministers are being urged to end the automatic early release of prisoners after figures showed 150 freed inmates were sent back to prison.

The Parole Board figures showed that they had been released after serving two-thirds of their sentence.

Opposition parties said the practice of early release must stop.

The Scottish government said it was committed to replacing the present "arbitrary" system of automatic early release with one that related to risk.

The offenders recalled had re-offended or committed other breaches of their licence conditions.

Those sentenced to four years or more are automatically freed after serving two-thirds of their term.

The Parole Board was asked to consider the cases of 212 criminals who were freed automatically and whose behaviour was giving "rise for concern" and it recommended that 150 of these be recalled.

As these figures show, offenders are typically denied release on licence at the earliest possible stage
Kenny MacAskill
Justice Minister

The figures came in the board's annual report.

Tory MSP John Lamont said: "We do not want our convicts to be in the community, free to strike again. We must restore honesty in sentencing and put an end to soft-touch Scotland."

Labour's James Kelly said the report should be a "wake-up call" to the Scottish government.

"It undermines faith in the justice system when prisoners are released before the end of their sentence and go on to commit new crimes," he said.

Robert Brown from the Liberal Democrats said: "This report indicates that proper assessment and monitoring by the Parole Board is more successful than the automatic early release system."

Last year, the board also considered a total of 627 parole cases involving prisoners serving four years or more, of whom 227 were recommended for parole.

Those given parole included 52 prisoners serving life sentences, out of 281 lifers who were considered.

'Strict conditions'

A total of 12 prisoners were given parole then referred back for the Parole Board to consider returning them to jail.

Board chairman Sandy Cameron said: "This follows the pattern of previous years and indicates that, in the main, our decisions to grant parole are sound in that it is a small number of those cases which give cause for concern whereas those offenders who have been causing concern in custody, to the extent that they are not granted parole, seem to be much more likely to give cause for concern after being returned to the community."

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said: "We - and many others - support the independent prisons commission's view that there should be a period served in the community to provide for support and reintegration, thereby minimising the likelihood of reoffending.

"Under our plans, every single prisoner will be subjected to restriction for the entire length of the sentence imposed by the court."

He said the figures also showed that being eligible for parole was not the same as getting it.

"As these figures show, offenders are typically denied release on licence at the earliest possible stage," he added.

"And when life prisoners are released, it is on life licence with strict conditions."

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