The Scottish government is looking to introduce legislation to end inmates’ rights to automatic early release. Whilst broadly supported by MSPs, the plan has raised concerns that only a fraction of the prisoner population will be affected by the change; Holyrood’s Justice Committee has stated it is uncomfortable with the arrangement and is calling for input from all stakeholders.
Christine Grahame, the SNP convener of the Justice Committee, is demanding an explanation as to why some prisoners will remain outside the reach of the proposed legislation, the Courier reported. The committee wants to collect all relevant views on this key issue and is calling for input from the Scottish Prison Service, the Parole Board for Scotland, judiciary system representatives, criminal justice social workers, penal reform groups and victims’ organisations. It is also important to hear from academics working in this field and members of the public, Grahame said.
The proposed changes would cover sexual offenders with a minimum prison sentence of four years and people sentenced to at least ten years for violent crimes. Under the system introduced in 1995, prisoners handed sentences of more than four years qualify for early release after serving half to two-thirds of their time.
The proposals included in the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill would scrap the arrangement for sexual offenders serving a minimum of four years, including people incarcerated for rape, sexual assault and sexual offences against children. Automatic early release would also no longer be an option for dangerous offenders with minimum sentences of ten years, including people sentenced for culpable homicide, attempted murder, serious assault and robbery.