Call for low-risk prisoners to be freed

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Thousands of low-risk prisoners including young offenders should be released from custody to ease the chronic overcrowding in jails, a committee of MPs will say today.

Warning that cramming too many inmates into prison could lead to unrest and more suicides, the Public Accounts Committee is calling for radical solutions to reduce the jail population. It currently stands at 77,595, and is heading towards a record 80,000.

The committee will say that the Home Office should "think long and hard about practical alternatives" to jail for children, remand prisoners and those with mental health problems.

Almost 2,800 under-18s are in custody, and about 13,000 adults are on remand. MPs suggest they could be released on electronic tags to free up space for more serious offenders. Edward Leigh, the committee's chairman, said last night: "Where overcrowding is at its most acute [it] may lead to higher suicide rates."

The committee was scathing about the "astonishing" blunder which enabled 1,019 foreign prisoners to be released with being considered for deportation. Mr Leigh said: "It is now of the highest importance that the Home Office knows exactly what foreign criminals it has under lock and key."