Commenting on the announcement by the Justice Secretary that the government is considering the early release of some prisoners in response to the Covid-19 outbreak, Peter Dawson, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“The risks of infection for people who live and work in prisons are acute, as the Justice Secretary has said. So while it is obviously right that the way of life in prisons should change dramatically, just as it has in the wider community, Robert Buckland is right to be considering forms of early release. In a chronically overcrowded system, this will help keep people safe by reducing the pressure on both space and staff resources. For this to work, there will need to be support to organisations, many of them charities, that help prisoners on release. And it’s vital that while creating some headroom through releases, the flow of people into prisons is also drastically reduced. That means not sending anyone to prison for all but the most serious alleged or proved offending, and not recalling people to prison in all but the most dangerous of circumstances.

There is no time to waste—just as in the community at large, suppressing the spread of the virus in prisons means taking decisive action sooner rather than later.”