The Herald

Macaskill calls for prisoner releases to halt spread

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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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