CONCERNS have been raised over support for prisoners if they are released early due to the coronavirus crisis.

There are plans in new emergency legislation that would allow for some prisoners nearing the end of their sentence to be released if the prison service comes under pressure from the spread of the virus.

Many men and women on release need help with housing, benefits and addictions as they adapt to life in the community again.

With social services also under increased pressure, reassurances have been sought that there will be support available.

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Natalie MacLean, community director of Faces and Voices of Recovery, which also manages a recovery cafe service in prisons, said it was a difficult decision for the Justice Secretary, Humza Yousaf, and that he deserves credit for taking it – but warned there are problems people will face.

She said: “You don’t go through your pre-release until six weeks prior to liberation so no fundamental supports will be put in place for those most vulnerable.

“Benefits payments are taking up to 11 weeks and some people can’t even get through to the benefits numbers to apply.

“Where would they be housed? What layers of support would be put in place for those with poor mental health and addiction


“For those going back to families and multiple levels of support I don’t see an issue and think it minimises the risk of

Covid-19 spread.”

Bob Doris, Maryhill and Springburn SNP MSP, asked the Justice Secretary about help with housing, mental health and addictions.

Yousaf said it was “an exceptionally important issue” and that plans were being made.

He said: “We hope that if we must increase the number of prisoners whom we release through home detention curfew or via emergency release, we’ll set them up well on the outside, so that they don’t go back into the prison system.”

Community Justice organisation Sacro said: “The first 72 hours following release is critical for most people and the importance of engaging with agencies offering housing, health, benefits and addiction support cannot be overstated. The importance of collaboration and understanding is key and we are working closely with partners and local authorities to make sure we provide the best supports possible.

“There are victims of crime who need support at this time too and our dedicated services are working closely with partners to ensure they receive the support required.”

Glasgow City Council said plans were being put in place, should prisoners be released


A spokeswoman for Glasgow Health & Social Care Partnership said: “Planning arrangements are under way with all partners concerned and support for people with addiction and housing needs will be considered a priority, ensuring their transition into the community is supported wherever possible.”


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