40,000 convicts out early to ease overcrowding

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The Independent Online

More than 40,000 convicts have been released early since June last year to ease the prisons overcrowding crisis.

Under the End of Custody Licence (ECL) scheme, prisoners can be let out 18 days before they finish half their sentence. The scheme was intended for short-sentence convicts imprisoned for less serious offences, and should exclude those jailed for murder, manslaughter and other violent crimes. But three violent criminals were released by accident last month, the Ministry of Justice said. They have since returned to prison. Since the start of the scheme in June last year, nearly 1,500 of the 42,181 prisoners let out have been called back to prison after they breached the terms of their release. But 125 remain on the run. Felons have committed more than 600 crimes during their 18-day early release, the figures show. In October, 2,775 prisoners were released early. One in five was serving a sentence of longer than a year. Ministers have said they will look to end ECL when prison space allows.