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To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, how much the 2,000 electronic tags cost for the End of Custody Temporary Release scheme.
In March, prisons were facing a significant challenge to minimise the impact of COVID-19 due to offenders living in close proximity and typically sharing cells. Without action, Public Health England (PHE) expected the infection curve would occur faster in prisons than in the general population and subsequently create earlier demand for hospital intervention. PHE advised that action was necessary to avoid thousands of prisoners, including children in custody, becoming infected and overwhelming local NHS services. Given the unpredictable nature of the situation, a range of measures were introduced to provide a variety of tools that could be used to a greater or lesser extent depending on how the outbreak developed.
The early release schemes were one element of that approach to containing the spread of the virus in prisons. We have also worked to reduce numbers on remand, created extra cells, limited prisoner movements and jails have implemented ‘compartmentalisation’, meaning staff have isolated those prisoners with symptoms, shielded the vulnerable and quarantined new arrivals. These measures have helped to contain the spread of the virus and limit deaths significantly, compared to initial estimates.
In considering early releases, the priority of HM Prison and Probation Service has been to put the safety of the public first which is why offenders must meet strict eligibility criteria and pass a risk assessment to be released early.
Our upper estimate for the number of prisoners eligible was 4,000, based solely on the sentences that prisoners were serving. Electronic monitoring is a fundamental part of the scheme which helps us to ensure public safety so it is essential that we had tags available for every prisoner released early. This is why we acquired 2,000 electronic monitoring tags at a cost of £3,775,000.
Releases under the scheme continue and we are considering alternative uses for tags elsewhere in the criminal justice system in support of our ambition to make full use of the benefits of electronic monitoring technology.