Ann Widdecombe lashes out in opposition to early launch of prisoners | Politics | News | EUROtoday

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The former prisons minister lashed out after it was revealed the early launch scheme might be prolonged from 35 days to 70 days.

She mentioned ministers needs to be trying to discover emergency lodging to deal with inmates “at all costs”.

Ms Widdecombe mentioned she used a jail ship, Norwegian oil rig cabins and even thought-about a vacation camp to deal with convicts when confronted with an analogous state of affairs in her former function.

“Simply sending out a message that says ‘our prisons are full’ and we’re therefore not keeping people in for the duration of their sentences, or we’re not sending people there at all, is an incentive to crime,” she informed Talk Radio.

Asked if she authorised of extending the early launch scheme, the Reform UK member mentioned: “No, I don’t. I was faced with exactly this situation when I was prisons minister and I didn’t start releasing people or telling judges not to send them to prison.

“What we did was to set up all manner of emergency accommodation – I brought in a prison ship from the United States. Labour derided it as the hulks but they then kept it for nine years. From Norwegian oil rigs we took portacabins, put them down in the lower security prisons for extra accommodation.

“Even, at one point, we were proposing to take over a holiday camp that just needed a secure perimeter around it.

“But it was a question of find emergency accommodation at all costs and focus on that.”

She added: “People want to be protected from crime and one of the ways you do that is to take frequent or serious offenders off the streets.

“If the message goes out that the sentence given is not necessarily the sentence you’ll serve then that is not an incentive.”

She mentioned the previous couple of months of a sentence is “important” for prisoners who’ve been inside for a number of years.

“Right at the end, if the system is working, you should be undergoing preparation for your release. That would be cut out and you’d suddenly find yourself on the street,” she warned.

The extension of the early launch scheme will begin on May 23 in response to an e-mail to jail and probation employees obtained by The Times.

Chief inspector of prisons Charlie Taylor informed Times Radio: “What we’re seeing at the moment is an estate that is creaking at every level under enormous pressure from the sheer churn and numbers of people within the system.”

He mentioned prisoners wanted help “to begin to be rehabilitated” however “if they are simply left languishing in a cell, exposed to all kinds of drugs, further criminality, then the danger is actually they come out worse than they went in”.

That would end in “more victims of crime, more violence, more communities in mayhem”.

Mr Taylor mentioned 24,000 extra locations have been required by 2028 “and that just simply isn’t realistic in terms of building”.

Justice Secretary Alex Chalk introduced in October that the Government would use the powers it has to permit the Prison Service to let some prisoners out of jail as much as 18 days early to ease overcrowding.

In March, he prolonged the so-called finish of custody supervised licence scheme “to around 35-60 days”, as Ministry of Justice (MoJ) statistics confirmed that prisons in England and Wales have been nonetheless nearing capability.

The Government insisted the measure can be short-term and solely apply to “low-level offenders”..

The MoJ mentioned that offenders freed early have been beneath strict supervision.

A MoJ spokesperson mentioned: “We will always ensure there is enough capacity to keep dangerous offenders behind bars.

“We are carrying out the biggest prison expansion programme in a hundred years, opening up 20,000 modern places, and ramping up work to remove foreign national offenders.

“To ease the short-term pressures on prisons, in March we announced an increase in the number of days governors could, under existing powers, move some offenders at the end of their prison term on to licence.

“These offenders will continue to be supervised under strict conditions such as tagging and curfews.”