Ma­caskill calls for pris­oner re­leases to halt spread

The Herald - - Coron­avirus Cri­sis -

FOR­MER jus­tice sec­re­tary Kenny Ma­caskill has called for the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment to set up a pris­oner re­lease pro­gramme to tackle the coron­avirus.

Mr Ma­caskill said the state has a duty of care to in­mates in its pris­ons, which are “geared to­ward hot­hous­ing the virus, rather than shield­ing the pris­oner from in­fec­tion”.

Last week, MSPS passed the Gov­ern­ment’s emer­gency Coron­avirus (Scot­land) Bill, which put in place pro­vi­sions to al­low in­mates to be re­leased should the prison es­tate be­come over­whelmed.

Un­der the new law, only those con­victed of sex­ual or ter­ror of­fences or some­one who poses a threat to an iden­ti­fied per­son will be ex­empt from re­lease.

Fur­ther leg­is­la­tion will have to be passed in Holy­rood be­fore the re­lease of some pris­on­ers would be made le­gal.

Cur­rent Jus­tice Sec­re­tary Humza Yousaf also gave MSPS an as­sur­ance be­fore the law passed that public safety would be a key con­sid­er­a­tion in any scheme.

Mr Ma­caskill, writ­ing in the Scots­man, said: “The state, hav­ing taken away their free­dom, has a duty of care to­wards them. Yet harm is now faced by all those in­car­cer­ated.

“The whole at­mos­phere of a prison, after all, is more geared to­wards hot­hous­ing the virus, rather than shield­ing the pris­oner from in­fec­tion.”

Mr Ma­caskill said “a pris­oner re­lease scheme is needed” but clar­i­fied it “can’t be for ev­ery­one”.

He added: “There are some too dan­ger­ous to let out and oth­ers where the sen­tence is too long.

“But there are many who aren’t and are near­ing the end of their sen­tence or even on re­mand await­ing trial.

“It needs to be looked at on an in­di­vid­ual ba­sis and there’s a duty to en­sure they’ve got some­where to go.

“But they can be let out on li­cence and re­main at home.”

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