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Prisoners' Release: Coronavirus

Question for Ministry of Justice

UIN 56203, tabled on 8 June 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, with reference to his Department's Guidance last updated on 4 June 2020, Coronavirus (COVID-19) and prisons, what recent steps he has taken to release prisoners held indefinitely under imprisonment for public protection sentences under the Government’s policy to release risk-assessed offenders from prison as part of the national plan to protect the NHS and save lives.

Answered on

11 June 2020

Prisoners serving IPP sentences are still detained either because they have not yet served the minimum term of imprisonment or, where they have served the minimum term, because the independent Parole Board has determined that their risk remains too high for them to be safely managed in the community. Therefore in order to protect the public form the risk of serious sexual or violent harm, we have no plans to change the law in order to effect the release of IPP prisoners other than by a direction from the Parole Board.

We are committed to providing IPP prisoners with opportunities to progress to the point at which they are safe to release. Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) has in recent years implemented a number of measures to support the progression of serving IPP prisoners.

There is clear evidence that these measures are working. IPP prisoners are being released in large numbers. As of 31 March 2020, the number of unreleased IPP prisoners who have completed their minimum tariff was 1,908. This is down from 2,198 on 31 March 2019.

The End of Custody Temporary Release scheme (ECTR), for low-risk offenders near to the end of their custodial period, excludes those whose sentence is subject to initial Parole Board release, including IPP prisoners.

Public protection is paramount. IPP prisoners are eligible for early release on compassionate grounds, either temporarily (where they are highly vulnerable to Coronavirus) or permanently (where they are suffering from a terminal condition or are physically incapacitated), though every case is subject to a full risk assessment before release is approved.

HMPPS is working closely with public health authorities to ensure that our approach to limit the spread and impact of Covid-19 in the Prison Estate, protect the health of staff and prisoners, maintain safety and order, and minimise the impact of the pandemic on the NHS is based on the best scientific advice. For those who remain in custody, HMPPS has created headroom in prisons, though new temporary buildings and the early release schemes, providing space to shield and isolate vulnerable prisoners and new entrants to custody

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