Up to 200 prisoners to be freed from West Midlands jails
Up to 200 prisoners will be released early from prisons in the West Midlands due to fears over the spread of coronavirus behind bars.
The Ministry of Justice said that across the UK up to 4,000 "low-risk" prisoners approaching the end of their sentences will qualify for early release.
A source in the criminal justice system said the figure is likely to include between 125 and 200 prisoners from West Midlands jails.
The scheme will see inmates with two months or less still to serve will released on temporary licence in stages.
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West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson said the selected offenders will be electronically tagged and can be recalled at the first sign of concern.
The decision by the MoJ follows calls from police chiefs and politicians to release those coming to the end of their sentences to ease the pressure on crowded prisons.
Dozens of Covid-19 cases have been confirmed at UK prisons, including the largest, HMP Oakwood near Wolverhampton.
Mr Jamieson said: “We are living through unprecedented times and we must do everything to slow the spread of Covid-19.
“I am determined to ensure that the early release programme does not put the safety of the people West Midlands at risk, therefore, this meeting is key to ensuring partners are effectively working together and have clear lines of communication.
“The early release programme will prevent thousands of prisoners and prison staff being infected whilst in prison and this will help reduce pressure on the NHS."
Superintendent Jane Bailey, deputy head of Criminal Justice Services for West Midlands Police said: “I want to reassure the community that those who are being released early will be subject of electronic monitoring.
“We are working closely with the prison service and other partners, to link prisoners released early to support and services in the community to prevent any reoffending.”
Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service said: “This announcement sets out plans to bring a cohort of people into scope for release who are within two months of their release date.
“Their release will be subject to a number of very strict criteria which will exclude many from being eligible.
“We are working closely with prison colleagues, the police and a range of partners to ensure co-ordinated arrangements are in place to manage the pre-release risk assessment processes and ensure the resettlement support is in place across our area."
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