Selected low-risk offenders, within weeks of their release dates, will be electronically tagged and temporarily released on licence in stages.  

Offenders can be recalled at the first sign of concern.  

 Violent and sexual offenders and those of security concern will not be considered.

This action being taken is necessary to avoid thousands of prisoners becoming infected, overwhelming local NHS services. This is due to the close proximity between prisoners, who often share cells.

Prisoners who pass the stringent criteria for release will be subject to strict conditions and will be electronically monitored, including with GPS tags, to enforce the requirement to stay at home.

They can be immediately recalled to prison for breaching these conditions or committing further offences. The releases will be phased over time but can start from next week.

No high-risk offenders, including those convicted of violent or sexual offences, anyone of national security concern or a danger to children, will be considered for release, nor any prisoners who have not served at least half their custodial term. Additionally, no offender convicted of COVID-19 related offences, including coughing at emergency workers or stealing personal protective equipment, will be eligible.

No prisoner would be released if they have symptoms of coronavirus or without housing and health support being in place.

In addition, the Ministry of Justice is working to identify publicly owned sites that could be used to house temporary prison accommodation to ease pressure on the permanent estate, further separate prisoners and reduce the spread of the virus.

For those who will remain in prison, the MOJ are already taking the following action: 

  • Shielding vulnerable prisoners through social distancing measures
  • Re-deploying staff, where appropriate, from headquarters into operational roles
  • Working with the judiciary to expedite sentencing hearings for those on remand to reduce the numbers being held in custody.

Prisons are moving towards single-cell accommodation as much as possible across the estate – to limit the spread of infection and the number of deaths. 

Statutory Instruments to allow these releases to take place will be laid on Monday. 

Additionally, the Justice Secretary Robert Buckland granted temporary release of pregnant women in custody, while movements between jails have been limited in all but exceptional cases.

All actions have been informed by the advice of experts from Public Health England and will be kept under constant review.

If you require any advice on the above please contact our prison law team at the office or email: where we will be pleased to assist you.