Scottish government proposals to stop automatically releasing prisoners two thirds of the way through their sentences could end up creating a wide range of legal issues, experts warn.
The fear is that lengthier waiting lists for rehab courses could breach the European Convention of Human Rights by denying inmates the proper time to address their behaviour before being evaluated.
There are currently over 850 prisoners waiting to be placed in rehabilitation programmes for substance abuse, anger management, etc. Only 300 are actually going through these courses, creating a backlog which experts blame on a lack of resources and insufficient class capacities.
Instead, government proposals will have prisoners evaluated by a parole board rather than being placed in these rehab programmes. Critics have said this move violates basic human rights by lowering the chances of release. Individuals who have yet to undergo these courses will be less likely to be allowed back into the public.
This could result in legal consequences by inmates saying that have been denied fair opportunity to prove they are ready to be released. They could then challenge the ruling on the grounds that it violates their rights.
In addition to this, experts have said that the proposals could lead to a rush of enrolees for these rehabilitation classes. This will place greater stress on a system which already has some heavy burdens.
Instead of doing away with the automatic release as the government has proposed, critics instead point to the lack of capacity for these classes and argue that increasing this will be a safer course of action. For instance, there are over 800 inmates in Edinburgh prison with only 43 being able to attend these programmes at any one time. As these courses result in real change, experts recommend granting more access rather than restricting it.