The Prison Service recognises that it is important for both prisoners and their families that close links are maintained between them.The level of abuse of Prison Service schemes is small and to restrict temporary release would have a serious detrimental effect on the resettlement of prisoners the majority of whom abide by temporary release conditions.
This is emphasised in Prison Rules which state that ‘special attention shall be paid to the maintenance of relationships between a prisoner and his family’. The Service helps prisoners maintain links with their families in a number of ways, including providing visiting facilities above statutory requirements and also through various home leave schemes and the prisoners’ telephone system.
The range of temporary release schemes has been developed to provide both determinate and life sentence prisoners with structured and planned releases towards the end of their sentences. The schemes also allow the Prison Service to respond swiftly and sympathetically to bereavement and very serious illness and to long-term infirmity or disability which prevent prisoners’ close relatives from visiting.
Home and resettlement leave assists prisoners to re-integrate back into the community and helps maintain family links. For schemes operated by the Prison Service (prisoners on remand must apply to the Courts for temporary release), the overriding consideration is the risk of re-offending and harm to the public, balanced against the prisoners’ human rights. Temporary release is a privilege which is subject to a satisfactory risk assessment being completed.
A new home leave scheme was introduced on 1 March 2004 for prisoners sentenced on or after this date. The revised scheme restricts eligibility to within the last 12 months of sentence with reduced quotas for both home and resettlement leave irrespective of the length of sentence. The prisoner must demonstrate to a prison multi-disciplinary Home Leave Board that leave will be used constructively in each application made.
The Service had planned to introduce transitional arrangements moving prisoners already in the system onto the new system but this was successfully challenged by a number of prisoners at the High Court.
When a prisoner is posted unlawfully at large after failing to return by the appointed time the police are notified and their details are posted on the Prison Service web site.