4 April 2020
Early Prisoner Release: Union welcomes news but raises concern over staff pressure.
Napo welcomes the news that the Secretary of State for Justice has decided to release up to 4000 prisoners early. Along with other stakeholders Napo has called for urgent action to reduce the prison population in light of the COVID 19 crisis. Napo were concerned that an already over populated prison estate could become a a hot bed for the virus putting thousands of lives, with staff and prisoners at risk. This move will ease some of the pressure on prison space and remove those that pose a minimum risk to the public from the risk of contracting C19.
However, the union has raised real concerns with the Minister that the impact of this move could have a detrimental effect on staff in the probation service who are already working under immense pressure
Ian Lawrence General Secretary said: "This is welcome news. However, our members in both the National Probation Service and the 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies are already over stretched with dangerously high workloads. Probation providers must work to ensure this new cohort can be supervised safely and not cause additional operational pressure and stress to the workforce."
Earlier this week it had been confirmed that pregnant prisoners and those in Mother & Baby units would be released early on the grounds of health risks. It js understood that the additional prisoners will come from the male estate.
Ian Lawrence went on to say: "The management of the releases is vital to ensure that probation providers can cope with this sudden increase in community cases. Face to face supervision of the majority of clients has been suspended in light of C19 with telephone contact being the main means of contact. It is vital that accommodation and benefits are made available immediately to ensure that they can resettle into the community."
The majority of the early release prisoners will be supervised by the private sector. Her Majesty's Inspectorate for Probation has previously heavily criticised the majority of Community Rehabilitation Companies for having dangerously high workloads and staff shortages. This additional work could lead to further pressures for staff and result in a further deterioration in the quality of supervision and public protection.