Monday 30 March 2020
Speaking on the Department of Justice temporary early release scheme announced today, Justice Committee member Rachel Woods MLA said:
“The temporary early release of some prisoners is a pragmatic response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The decision has been made in the best interests of the prison population and our prison staff.
“I am mindful of the distress and concern that this development may cause to some victims of crime, however reasonable the intention.
“There couldbe around 200 people subject to early release and they will be subject to various restrictions including curfews and alcohol bans.
“I welcome that the early releases will not apply to those who are serving sentences for homicide, manslaughter, domestic violence and cruelty, or actions perpetrated on the grounds of race, religion or sexualorientation.
“I am, however, concerned about the pressure that enforcing these curfews and release clauses will put on the Probation Service and Police Service during already challenging times.
“Furthermore, there are question marks around whether, given the lack of stalking legislation in Northern Ireland, harassment offences will be considered domestic abuse and form an exclusion to early release.
“I would also have concerns for some of those who will find themselves out of prison before they had anticipated and have written to the Minister for clarity on how these people will be supported in the community.
“It is important that the Department of Justice monitors the outcome of the first tranche of early release before more prisoners are released.”
Sinead McIvor - 07701 302 498