PRISONERS are to be released on home visits to celebrate the start of the new year.
The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) will release nine prisoners for a week-long period over the new year break – including the night of new year’s eve.
Home visits over the Christmas period are a well known practice in the criminal justice system, and are generally used to acclimatise prisoners to outside life before their final release.
But plans to release prisoners over the new year have been slated – with critics questioning the decision to release inmates on the one night of the year most notorious for drunken debauchery and rowdy misbehavior.
The Scottish Conservatives have called the news “scandalous”, saying it proves the SNP have a “soft touch to justice in Scotland.”
The scheduled visits were revealed after a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the Scottish Prison Service.
The FOI revealed that 184 prisoners across all of Scotland’s jails will be allowed out to visit their relatives over the Christmas period.
But nine prisoners will also be let out off prison grounds for home visits during the new year.
The prisoners are set to be released from HMP Castle Huntly – Scotland’s only “open” prison.
The SPS says that the focus of the prison is on “careful preparation for release.”
The conditions of temporary release include monitoring and good behaviour. Specific conditions for each prisoner can also be applied.
But a report in September revealed that criminals released on community payback orders, drug treatment orders, parole and non-parole licences committed 14 murders and a total of 111 serious incidents between June 2013 and January 2015.
In September, serial knife attacker Darren Campbell failed to return to Castle Huntly open prison after he missed his bus following a four day home visit.
And in March last year Julie Bruce, who was just 13 when her dad was tortured to death by Terence Haddow and Gordon Sturgeon, was horrified to learn Haddow would be allowed home visits just a mile from where she lived in Edinburgh.
Now some are fearing that plans to release prisoners for new year’s eve – when revelers hit the town for an all night party – could be a recipe for disaster.
Scottish Conservative MSP Alex Johnstone said: “Criminals are sent to prison for punishment and to pay their debts back to society and as such, privileges should be earned.
“The news that prisoners will be sent home to enjoy new year’s eve, is quite simply scandalous considering the occasion is often drunken and disorderly in some circles.
“Once again, nobody is thinking about the victims of crime and this is yet another example of the SNP’s soft touch approach to justice in Scotland.”
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Prison Service said: “A rigorous risk assessment is undertaken prior to any offender being granted unescorted leave.
“The majority of these take place without incident and the numbers of absconds are at historic low levels. Those on home leave are released on license conditions.
“Where an individual fails to return from unescorted leave, or breaches their license conditions, the Scottish Prison Service and Police Scotland work closely to ensure that the individual is located and returned to custody.”