Number of prisoners let out overnight soars

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The Independent Online

The number of prisoners who are allowed out of prison overnight has trebled as the Government tries to ease overcrowding in jails, the Conservatives said today.

Ministry of Justice figures obtained by the Tories show that the number of people granted a Resettlement Overnight Release (ROR) licence has gone from 3,813 in 2006 to 11,559 in 2008.

Prisoners nearing the end of their sentence can apply for a number of ROR licences, which allow them to spend up to four nights away from their cells before release.

The Conservatives claim that because prisoners not in jail overnight are not counted in the prison population figures, the shortage of cells is being underestimated. Shadow justice secretary Dominic Grieve said: “While there is a case for allowing some prisoners to stay home overnight as they approach release, overnight release should never be used simply because of a lack of prison cells.”

A Prison Service spokesman said: “ROR exists to rehabilitate offenders and make communities safer, not to relieve population pressures. We are dealing with those pressures by putting in more prison places, with nearly 25,000 created since 1997.”