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Release the harmless to save lives!

(Posted on 24/03/20)

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Writing yesterday in the Guardian, Eric Allison called on the government to release elderly prisoners from custody in order to protect staff and inmates from the spread of COVID-19.

An increase in prisoners being sent home with a tag has already been announced but, last week, the Prisoners’ Advice Service asked the Ministry of Justice to follow Iraq’s lead by releasing groups of prisoners in order to reduce deaths from coronavirus.

More than 1,700 prisoners, mostly men, are aged 70 and over, some of them still serving IPP sentences post-tariff, and releasing them “will undoubtedly save lives," according to Mr Allison, "not just of prisoners but also of prison officers and other staff, especially in jails where there are wings full of elderly inmates. 

“Make no mistake, this virus will take hold,” the former prisoner warns, “Nowhere more so than in our antiquated local jails, such as Strangeways, where two or more prisoners are crammed into cells Victorian prison planners designed for one.”

Prof Richard Coker of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine predicts that as many as 60% of prisoners could become infected with coronavirus. The least endangered prisoners are those in high security prisons, which are not overcrowded and where all inmates have single cells.