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PCC seeks assurance on early prison releases in Cleveland


PCC Barry Coppinger is working remotely to engage with criminal justice partners across Cleveland

Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger is working with partners in the local criminal justice system to ensure the early release of prisoners in Cleveland is carried out safely and risks to the community are minimised.

On Friday 17 April 2020, the Ministry of Justice suspended their plans for the phased early release of up to 4,000 low-risk prisoners nationally, after an administrative error resulted in six offenders being released incorrectly in other parts of the country.

The scheme will see detainees with two months or less to serve released in stages and on temporary licence.

COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in more than half the prisons in England and Wales. A total of 294 prisoners tested positive for COVID-19 across 66 prisons.

The most recent figures also show COVID-19 has affected 231 prison staff across 55 prison sites.

In an effort to minimise the spread of infection amongst the prison population and avoid placing overwhelming pressure on local NHS services, it is expected the early release scheme will restart this week.

On Tuesday (21 April), Mr Coppinger hosted the second fortnightly meeting of the Local Criminal Justice Partnership - made up of representatives from the police, prison service, probation service, CPS, courts, local authorities, health and victim services.

Agencies were asked to provide assurances that errors that had occurred in other parts of the country had not affected Cleveland and for those prisoners released under the scheme, adequate rehabilitation and resettlement support service were available in the community.

In line with his overall responsibility for victim services in Cleveland, Mr Coppinger also sought assurance that victims and witnesses could access the necessary support as offenders return to communities.

PCC Barry Coppinger said: “All of us have a part to play in slowing the spread of Covid-19 and the early prisoner release scheme is designed to do just that.

“During these unprecedented times, it is a key priority for all criminal justice agencies that the people of Cleveland remain safe and are not put at risk by early releases, and errors that have occurred in other parts of the country are not repeated here.

“I am pleased to hear that the Ministry of Justice have strengthened the administrative processes for the early release scheme to prevent this happening again, and our  existing partnership arrangements are in place to support prisoner leavers with welfare, accommodation and substance misuse issues.

“I will continue to bring partners together on a fortnightly basis to receive updates on their areas of work and use the opportunity to address any emerging issues and priorities.

“Under very difficult circumstances, all of these agencies are working extremely hard to keep the communities of Cleveland safe during Covid-19”


Posted on Thursday 23rd April 2020
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